Can you Can-speak?

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“Do you have a toonie on you? I need to order a double-double.“

Did that sentence make sense to you? If not, you need to become more familiar with can-speak. Canadian-speak (can-speak for short) or Canadianisms are words or phrases that are in English but may mean something else when used in the Canadian context. The following are just some examples (together with their meanings) that you may have heard used in everyday conversations around Manitoba:

Bachelor apartment – This is equivalent to the term “studio-type” apartment or a studio flat in the UK. This is an apartment consisting of a single large room serving as a bedroom, living room, and a kitchen and has a separate bathroom.
BeaverTail – a flat, flaky, fried pastry in the shape of a beaver’s tail. It can have a variety of toppings such as fruit, chocolate or maple syrup, and powdered sugar.
Brown bread – whole wheat bread. When ordering at Tim’s, they may ask you: “do you want white or brown bread for your toast?”
Canuck – nickname for a Canadian (just like a “Yankee” is an American).
Chesterfield – a couch or sofa.
Chinook – a warm wind that blows east over the Canadian Rockies.
Double-double – coffee with two creams and two sugars (especially when you order this at Tim’s).
Eavestroughs – gutters or the channels attached to the underside of the roof that collects rainwater.
Garburator – a mechanical device that processes the garbage in your kitchen sink’s drain.
Homo milk – whole milk or homogenized milk.
Hoser – an unsophisticated person.
Hydro – means electricity or power (so when they say the “hydro bill,” it’s not your water bill but your electricity bill). Short for hydroelectricity.
Icing sugar – powdered sugar.
Keener – a brown-noser. Someone who curries favor with the boss or people of authority.
Loonie – Canadian one-dollar coin (because of the image of a bird called “Loon” which you can see on one side of the coin).
Mountie – a member of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.
Nanaimo bars – dessert composed of multi-layered brownies and icing, topped with chocolate.
Pencil crayons – colored pencils.
Pop – soda or soft drinks (e.g. Coca-cola, Pepsi, etc.).
Post-secondary education – tertiary education. It can mean going to college, university, or vocational training. In Canada, the terms “college” and “university” are not interchangeable. Universities focus on academic or professional, four-year courses. Colleges are geared toward career training and the trades that take less than four years.
Pylon – orange traffic cones.
Runners – sneakers, rubber or running shoes.
Serviette – paper napkins.
Social – unique to Manitoba, this is a fundraising party (you have to buy a ticket and spend some money at the party) usually for a wedding, but it can also be for a charity or a community organization.
Timmy’s or Tim’s – refers to Canada’s most famous coffee shop, Tim Horton’s. By the way, Tim Horton was a famous hockey player.
Toonie – Canadian two-dollar coin (it follows since a dollar is called a “loonie”).
Tourtiere – French-Canadian meat pie.
Tuque and Toque – whichever spelling is used, it means a hat. According to the CBC Style Guide, the “tuque” is the knitted cap worn in winter, while a “toque” is the term to use for some other types of headwear, such as those worn by chefs, or the old conical and plumed hats from previous centuries. But you will see the wide use of the spelling “toque” or “tuque” to refer to the knitted winter hat or a beanie.
Two-four – a case of 24 beers.
Washroom – the comfort room, toilet or bathroom as they call it in Canada.
Whitener – non-dairy creamer for coffee or tea.

As you live longer in Manitoba and converse with more Canadians, you will come across more of these Canadianisms. Perhaps you can write them down and share with us the strangest ones on your list!

Sources: Can-speak: your guide to speaking Canadian by Lisa Evans at Canadian Immigrant Magazine; Canadianisms; 25 of the Most Canadian words and phrases, Huffington Post Canada.

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