Thursday, June 26, 2008

How To Talk About Hanging Out On The Couch

I recently got the DVD of the Red Books play about Ellen White. It's a great play, and I highly recommend it...except for one part that made me cringe. It wasn't the part where the angry man uses Ellen White's quotes to put the kibosh on her fun, nor the scene where scholars are shooting each other with books. No; it was the part where an actor attempted to mimic a Canadian accent.

As a person who has a very sensitive ear for accents, I believe that if you can't do an accent right, you shouldn't do it at all. And having spent some time in Canada, I know what the Canadian accent sounds like. So, America, when you get the urge to do a Canadian accent, take the following advice in the spirit in which it was offered, and stop embarrassing yourself before an audience of 33.3 million Canadians.

First, you need to know that the accent you are trying to imitate is the Central and Western English Canadian accent, which is different than the Francophone, Maritime, and Newfoundland English Canadian accents. Second, although most Canadians hardly ever use the word "eh", it is most often used to soften the impact of a statement that could otherwise be offensive (pronounced oh'-fen-siv) by turning it into a question. And if you use it like that, you won't sound like a total idiot, eh?

Finally, there is the issue of [deep breath] "aboot". This is where most Americans have a grossly distorted notion of the phenomenon known to linguists as Canadian Raising. What that means, in technical terms, is when Canadians pronounce "out" they use a diphthong, a combination of two vowel sounds; whereas when Americans say "aboot", they use only one vowel sound.

So, to do a Canadian "out" correctly you need to make one vowel sound for the "o", slide into another for the "u", finish with a hard "t" (not a "d"). The easiest way to learn it is to start by saying "oat", next quickly flick the pitch of your voice up so that the "oh" sound becomes an "oo" sound at the end. Now make it sound smooth and natural (don't over-doooo it), and soon you'll be able to talk about hanging out on the couch with Bob and Doug like a real Canadian!

If you want, you can also sprinkle in a little Canadian vocabulary, and you're on your way to devastating your neighbours to the north with your wit and humour.
  • Toque (pronounced 'took)=knit winter cap
  • Boost=jump start
  • Chesterfield=couch, sofa
  • Cutlery=sliverware
  • Runners=running shoes, sneekers
  • Washroom=bathroom
  • Gasbar=gas station
  • The Great One=Wayne Gretzky


  1. Hey, Dave...I got a kick out of reading your list of "Canadian" terminology, which is so true. And being an American myself, those words are still so very foreign to me. My aunt and mom came to visit 2 weeks ago, and my aunt made a very interesting observation. She noted that a lot of the terms Canadians use are very similar to that of the British (ie. holidays, bugger, etc). Have a superb Sabbath. We are having communion tomorrow, and then on Sunday, Derek Valentine and Fabiola are getting married. Did you know that she was baptized along with Shirley Gorham about a month ago?