A highly amusing item appeared this week:
Spread across a vast landmass, Canada’s roughly 30 million anglophones speak something called Canadian English. The stereotype often goes that Canadian English is a lot like American English in terms of both vocabulary and pronunciation, with significant influence from the British Isles, resulting in words like zed and spellings like colour and centre. A subtle Canadian accent that affects the vowels in words like about and write, and a collection of characteristic Canadian vocabulary like chesterfield, toque, poutine and bunnyhug, add to its uniqueness.
It is a survey of “Canadianisms” and regional differences. Being a lifelong British Columbian (until 2001), these are mostly true for me (exception: supper, the British influence in my home which called lunch “dinner”). Pop, toque, chesterfield and pencil crayons were as ingrained to me as saying “zed”, and it shocked me that neither the English speaking world nor the US (O_-) says them. (My home and others’ homes never had garbage disposals, so I never heard “garburator”.)
But if one word surprises me as being only Canadian, it’s runners, as opposed to “sneakers” or “trainers” as others call them. We run in the shoes, we don’t sneak, although people in sports might train in them. I never understood why it was only in Canada.
One very noticeable thing about the maps are the two small pockets of resistance: the southwest British Columbia (Vancouver and Victoria) and “Upper/Lower Canada” of Ontario and Quebec. Ontario and Quebec are the oldest legal regions of Canada, so it doesn’t surprise they retain a separate identity. But to those outside of Canada, the Lower Mainland has an odd history akin to that of Boston and New England, but even more pronounced (pun definitely intended).
The University of Victoria linguistics professor is on a mission to uncover just how much Victoria lives up to its reputation for being “More British than the British,” at least when it comes to the way we speak.
From 1850 through 1920, 30 per cent of Victorians immigrated from the British Isles.
D’Arcy is currently combing through audio records at the Royal B.C. and the UVic archives in search of key words and phrases that distinguish British and North American speech in Victoria. Subtleties include the word “news.” Brits pronounce it as “nyooz,” whereas North Americans say “nooz.”
And a 2015 interview with Professor Alexandra D’Arcy, author of the study:
This week’s interview involves a discussion of the English of the West Coast—and in particular that of Victoria, British Colombia. We often have a hard time distinguishing people from most parts of Canada (Quebec and the East Coast aside), and from Ontario to BC, the accents may appear on the surface to be roughly the same.
However, Professor Alexandra D’Arcy studies Victoria English, and she has found that the similarities we see today weren’t so similar in the past. She studies the language diachronically, which means over a period of time—in her case a long period of time.
While discussing the item with a friend, I pointed her to a classic Canadian TV ad (re: the pronunciation of caramel).