How to Speak Canayjun

I often get ribbed when I visit “the States” because of how I apparently pronounce the word about, and because I actually do say eh, instead of huh.

But I’m always surprised at the number of words and expressions that I thought were universal English, that Americans simply never use. So, to help out my “south of the border” readers, here is a little quiz to test how well you can fathom Canadian vernacular. (I’d be interested in knowing how well UK readers do on this quiz, since some of these words and expressions originated there.)

No cheating by Googling before you guess. Asking any nearby Canadians is OK. Answers in the comments thread.

Here we go:

PART 1: What’s that Canadian on about?

What do the following words and expressions refer to, in terms Americans would understand? (1 point for each correct answer)

  1. blinds
  2. boxing day
  3. brown bread
  4. a Caesar (not as in salad)
  5. candy floss
  6. a chesterfield
  7. a civic holiday
  8. a flat (of a consumer product)
  9. give me a shout
  10. a Gravol
  11. had the biscuit
  12. a keener
  13. a kerfuffle
  14. kraft dinner
  15. Nanaimo bar
  16. a “regular” coffee
  17. a Robertson screw
  18. Smarties
  19. a snowbird

PART 2: What’s that in Canadian?

Canadians might use the following terms and expressions, and they would certainly know what they mean. But they would be likely to use a distinctly Canadian word or expression instead. What is it? (1 point for each correct answer)

  1. the restaurant check
  2. a candy bar
  3. a convenience store
  4. to fake or feint (by zagging when they zig, to get past someone in your way)
  5. gutters (that collect rainwater from the roof)
  6. rubber bands
  7. garbage disposal (unit in a sink)
  8. taking a vacation
  9. powdered (confectioners’) sugar
  10. a long line (waiting)
  11. a parking garage
  12. next-to-last (penultimate)
  13. napkin
  14. snowmobile
  15. faucet
  16. dish towel
  17. restroom
  18. non-dairy creamer (for coffee)

PART 3: What’s that Manitoban on about? Prairie terms.

This part is probably harder, since these are terms that you would likely only hear people from the Canadian prairie provinces use. Translate into ‘Murrican. (2 points for each correct answer)

  1. bumper-shining
  2. bush party
  3. cabin
  4. dainties
  5. frost shields
  6. going to a social
  7. Hallowe’en apples! (shouted)
  8. jam buster
  9. K-Tel brush
  10. pickerel
  11. “square tires”
  12. tanglefoot

BONUS QUESTION: The greatest Canadian.

A recent CBC series reaffirmed that the gentleman pictured above is still considered by Canadians to be our greatest public figure. What’s his name (1 point) and why is he so revered (1 point)?

Maximum score is 63 points. If you scored more than 30 points, congratulations — you are now an honorary Canuck. Skookum! Lord tunder’n Jesus, eh? Collect your prize in Timbits and Canadian Tire money on the way out.

(Thanks to for many of the above expressions)

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4 Responses to How to Speak Canayjun

  1. Dave Pollard says:

    Answers to the above quiz:

    PART 1

    1. Shades. Also called “Venetian blinds” by Canadians, whether the slats are vertical or horizontal.
    2. December 26th, the day for after-Christmas sales, often the biggest retail shopping day of the year. Used to be about re-using the gift boxes. A Britishism.
    3. Whole wheat or multigrain bread; often any unbleached bread.
    4. Bloody Mary cocktail with Clamato (clam & tomato) juice instead of just tomato juice.
    5. Cotton candy. Listen to Neil Young’s Sugar Mountain for context.
    6. A sofa or couch. Britishism.
    7. A statutory (legal and bank) holiday in a province that has no particular name for it. In many provinces, this was the name for the holiday on the first Monday in August until it was renamed Terry Fox day.
    8. A cardboard tray normally holding 12 or 24 cans of beer, pet food or other consumer products.
    9. Call me on the phone.
    10. Dramamine. Canadian brand of motion sickness medicine dimenhydrinate.
    11. Reached the end of its useful life. Apparently relates to having been given last rites.
    12. Someone who’s either extremely enthusiastic to the point of being annoying, or else a brown-noser.
    13. An upset, commotion or uproar.
    14. Mac & cheese in a box. It actually says “Kraft Dinner” on the package. A staple of many Canadian bachelors. Also abbreviated to KD.
    15. A layered chocolate, custard and graham cracker sliced dessert, named after the city in BC where it was invented. Also available, strangely, in New Zealand.
    16. Coffee with “one cream and one sugar”. Ask for “regular” in the US and you’ll get it black (they’ll assume you mean “not decaf”).
    17. A screw with a square hole in the head, screwed in with a Robertson screwdriver. Only in Canada.
    18. A uniquely Canadian confection a bit like chocolate M&Ms. Many Canadians can sing the “Do you eat the red ones last?” jingle, which is strangely sung in the commercials by a guy with a British accent. In the US the brand name “Smarties” is owned by the makers of an inedible candy seemingly made from sugar mixed with chalk.
    19. A usually older/retired Canadian that spends up to half the year in the winter in the southern US, returning home just soon enough to stay qualified for Canadian health care coverage.

    PART 2

    1. the “bill”, as in “Waiter, may I have the bill please?”
    2. chocolate bar; called that even if it contains no chocolate.
    3. corner store; it need not be located on a corner.
    4. deke, as in “I deked out the defence and scored!”
    5. eavestroughs
    6. elastic bands, or just “elastics”
    7. garburator
    8. going on holiday
    9. icing sugar
    10. lineup
    11. parkade
    12. second-last
    13. serviette (paper or cloth)
    14. ski-doo
    15. tap
    16. tea towel
    17. washroom
    18. whitener

    PART 3

    1. Hitching a ride behind a car in winter (on prairie roads that are never plowed bare, so they’re always a bit slippery) by grabbing on to the rear bumper and sliding.
    2. A party in a rural forested area, unsupervised and usually featuring a large bonfire, at which lots of possibly illegal substances may be consumed.
    3. A vacation cottage, but humbler; may not have indoor plumbing.
    4. Baked goods supplied to a party or social event.
    5. Plastic sheets that adhered to the inside of side windows and prevented them from fogging up in very cold weather when the heater was turned on. Still used in helicopters. Stronger heating/AC systems have rendered them obsolete. I used to tell puzzled Americans (1970s) that they were bullet-proof. And that the plug coming out of the radiator (to plug in the block heater) was because it was an electric car.
    6. A dance or social drinking occasion used as a fundraiser for a wedding or charity, usually held at the Legion hall or community centre.
    7. What prairie kids used to shout instead of “trick or treat!” Origin unknown, and it ceased when the movie ET came out and the whole world switched to American Hallowe’en customs.
    8. A jelly-filled doughnut covered in (see above) icing sugar.
    9. A Velcro lint brush. Velcro is a Canadian invention, ya know.
    10. What prairie fishers call, mostly incorrectly, walleye pike, one of the most common and popular edible fish in prairie lakes.
    11. The winter phenomenon on prairie roads that are never plowed bare, that provides the auditory and sensory illusion (constant bumpiness) that the tires are square.
    12. The gooey natural substance that is spread on paper bands wrapped around the bark of almost all urban trees on the prairies in years with high caterpillar infestation. Without this protection whole neighbourhoods can be quickly and completely denuded of leaves by larvae that build huge webs and excrete so much waste that an ice scraper is needed to clear windshields of cars parked below even for just a few hours.

    PART 4

    1. Tommy Douglas
    2. Premier of the first socialist government in North America, whose model universal healthcare program in Saskatchewan became the model for the Canada-wide universal healthcare program introduced shortly thereafter. He was a Baptist minister, and reversed course on his youthful enthusiasm for eugenics, ideological pacifism, and anti-homosexual views, later in his life. In addition to pioneering universal healthcare, he also pioneered universal public auto insurance, publicly-owned utilities, public “crown corporations” competing with oligarchic private enterprises in several industries, a unionized public service, and the first bill of rights in the country, on which Canada’s national Charter of Rights and Freedoms is significantly based.

  2. Chris Corrigan says:

    My vote for a Canadian Shibboleth (with a nod to Ontario vernacular) is to ask folks to translate this phrase

    After a two four of fifty I need a two twenty two and a double double.

    Even many Canadians only get two of the four references.

  3. Dave Pollard says:

    222s — wow, I’d forgotten

    gone the way of milk of magnesia? (the 1950s cure-all for all stomach ailments)

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