Wednesday, July 3, 2013

You Can Tell A Canadian A Smile Away, Eh?

And proud to be one, too!!

Yep, I’m Canadian and take pride in that fact but like so many of my fellow Canadians, I don’t spend a lot of time letting others know that, until now. It is always a good idea to write about stuff you know and I do have a pretty good idea of what makes one a true Canadian. I have travelled to a lot of Canadian and US geography (and some in other parts of the world) so that helps you to recognize the difference.

This all got triggered by a friend’s post on Facebook which is a place that seems to generate a lot of good writing ideas for me. It revolved around a quotation from a successful morning radio personality on CBC who is not familiar to me, Jian Ghomeshi (ZHEE-on go-MESH-ee). I’m not a morning person, seldom listen to the radio now and would not turn the station to CBC in the first place so I understand why the name only has a vague ring to me.

But Jian is typical of a lot of Canadians. He is from Iranian descent, born in London (England not Ontario) and was raised in Canada in a suburb of Toronto. Jian’s quotation was a series of words in one’s vocabulary whose use would truly identify one as a Canadian, such as loonie, toque and double-double.

I’ll get into a lot of those words and their meanings but let me start with a story that sets this up a little bit better for all of us to understand. Years ago I travelled into a lot of different cities in the USA for purposes of visiting professional hockey teams at their training camps (that included the now defunct World Hockey Association). So you got sort of a world wind tour of regional differences in
various parts of the US. For example, Bostonians drive a “caw”, southern belles say “huh” instead of what did you say, and store clerks in Houston ask you if you want a sack with that. The sack was a brown paper bag that was offered when we did a road trip and bought a few “brown pops” (beer) to tide us over for the duration of the drive which was a tour from Houston to Galveston that Bobby Kincaid (trainer for the Houston Aeros) was providing for my benefit.

So every region has some of its own particular sounds or phrasing or just plain use of a word that is not common in your vocabulary. So let’s backtrack all the way to the title and examine that in more detail.

You Can Tell A Canadian A Smile Away, Eh?

Canadians are just plain friendly, often helpful and an easy going lot so smiling comes pretty natural for most with the possible exception of Don Cherry
Ron & Don, as inseparable as Abbott & Costello
who is getting awful grumpy in his old age. Maybe that has a lot to do with the fact that he spent a lot of time away from home working in the USA and not always in major centres (note the spelling of centre).

And why do we end a lot of sentences with the exclamation “eh” (pronounced a like the “a” in amen). Think of it in this manner. Replace the eh in the title with your name and imagine that I was have a conversation with you about Canadians but I didn’t know or forgot your name so I would just say “…a smile away, eh” instead of “…a smile away, Bill” (assuming your name is Bill). Canadians are also polite so we wouldn’t want to offend anyone and that is why we have such a small army. We aren’t going to get into any real fights with anyone and we are more likely to try and help you out then fight with you.

As an example, a Canadian is more likely to carry on a conversation with a person who has called you with a wrong number. I know this to be a fact because I did it recently. I kept getting a wrong number call from one guy until I decided to find out what he was doing wrong. So I asked him what number he was trying to call instead of responding with “WTF is wrong with you man!!”, which clearly wouldn’t have fixed anything. Well it turns out the first 3 digits of my phone number are the same as the area code for Winnipeg and I determined that he was dialling the number incorrectly by starting with the area code for London, Ontario and then dialling the area code for Winnipeg followed by his friends numbers (clearly too many numbers). So I calmly explained to him what he was doing wrong and how he could correct it. There was a pause followed by a “sorry” and a “no problem” from me and a bunch of “take care’s” and “have a nice day” on both sides. Never heard from him again (I wonder if he told his friend what he did wrong).

Canada has a lot of cities that got their names from cities in Europe. I happen to live in London, on The Thames River no less, which is near Stratford, Paris and a city that used to be called Berlin but is now Kitchener. Well even though the area was settled with a lot of people with German descent no one wanted to offend anyone else so they renamed Berlin to Kitchener to honour a local war hero of the same name.

Cutting to the chase (about time)

As you may have surmised by now, Canadians are also not ones to cut to the chase unless they are on a personal mission that might include a trip to The Beer Store (formerly Brewers Retail) for a two-four of brown pops. (In Ontario Beer is sold for consumption outside of bars in the Beer Store
and the most common package is 24 bottles which are most often brown in colour. At one time all the bottles were of a standard size and shape and returns to the Brewers Retail were recycled). There are regional differences on how beer gets sold to the public. The Beer Store here happens to be in Ontario. Other provinces have different approaches to the sale of beer and liquor.

Canadians are also known to cut to the chase in their daily ritual in the Drive-Thru of their local Tims where they could be ordering timbits and a double-double. Tims is a food retailing icon in Canada that is signed as Tim Horton’s (named after the founder a former Toronto Maple Leafs hockey star). It started out as a basic doughnut and coffee shop and has evolved into a fast food outlet that offers a wider range of products than just those.

A timbit is a small round doughnut ball a little bit smaller than a golf ball and is usually sold in a little carrying box of assorted flavours (so you can offer them to your friends and you wouldn’t want to offend them by not having their favourite flavour so you get the assorted pack and you let the store person pick them for you). A double-double is Canada’s best coffee (sales pretty much confirm that it is certainly Canada’s favourite) but the coffee in this case has two creams and two sugars so the short form speeds the ordering process for all parties.

You probably will get a loonie or toonie back in your change if you pay in cash. The loonie is a one dollar coin that has the image of a loon on it which is a bird found on many Canadian lakes. The toonie is a two dollar coin that gets its name because of the denomination of the coin. The coins last much longer than the paper bills they replaced. The penny is no longer in circulation in Canada. What could you buy for a penny nowadays anyway?

Regional Differences

Canada is a very large country that has its smallish population (around 35 million) spread from coast to coast. Canada is about 2 ½ times the size of the continental USA and has tracked at little over 10% the population of our neighbours to the south (note the spelling of neighbours).

So just like the USA, there are some interesting regional words or phrases that you will hear if you have the pleasure of travelling our beautiful country. The exception might be eastern Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba that are quite similar to Montana and North Dakota because they happen to be directly due north of these two states.

If you have ever met someone from Newfoundland, you will have met someone you will never forget. They are truly wonderful people with some strange phrases indeed such as “Lord Tunderin’ Jesus Bye” which is really just Newfie (the language spoken by a person from Newfoundland) for WTF.

Moving further west in the Maritime's you will hear a similar language and might here the phrase “did you see Ferguson kick the b’Jesus out of Shack on the hockey game Saturday night (historical reference here for sure) where b’Jesus is a local word that could be replaced with the more commonly known “crap”.

And you can move further into the belle province of Quebec (where they actually do speak another language other than English—a sort ofFrench that people from France don't understand). Most can speak both but will only do so if they like you. Residents of this province are known to start their day with a little known delicacy called “A Pepsi en da Joe Louie”
(a soft drink called Pepsi which is referred to as pop in other parts of the country and the Joe Louie is a sort of cream filled chocolate iced chocolate cake treat branded as a Joe Louis and marketed by Vachon Inc.). Quebecois like their sugar so if you happen to be selling food or beverages into that province you might consider adding some more sugar to improve sales.

If you are lucky enough to visit Montreal you might lunch on a Montreal bagel with Montreal smoked meat with an order of Poutine. All of these are available in some form or another in other parts of the country but they are only marginally successful copies of the real thing. The bagels seem fresher, the smoked meat is just the right blend of smoke, spices and slightly fatty meat and then there is Poutine.
It is a rather messy-to-eat dish that is French fries smothered in gravy and cheese curds. You show that you are indeed a culinary master if you eat the dish without a fork. The restaurants for dinner are spectacular and if you use a few French words and tip respectfully you will be treated like royalty and served a meal fit for a king as well.

And we travel further west again into Ontario where you will reach Toronto which is easily the business centre of Canada since just about every manufacturer in the world has an office in or near this thriving cultural melting pot. Every culture in the world also has a presence here which is part of the reason why Toronto is becoming a lot more like New York since it has lost any of its individuality that it might have had in the past. But it is still a nice place with lots to do and plenty of great places to eat or drink.

And going further west we might hear the following words which I consider the most annoying of the Canadian language—Hurry Hard which is sounded much more like “HURRRREEEE HAWDDDD!!!!” 
It’s a phrase that is uttered in a very loud voice to your playing partners (who happen to be on the other side of the playing surface right now so apparently they can’t hear too well) in a game called curling which is a sort of shuffleboard on ice played with rocks and brooms that aren’t brooms anymore (they look more like a smaller version of your kitchen mop now). The game is actually played in all the provinces and territories that make up Canada but the prairies takes a special honour in that there isn’t much else you can do there in the winter other than maybe play hockey.

That all changes when you get to western Alberta and British Columbia where you will find world-class skiing facilities all over the place. Lake Louise and Whistler-Blackcomb are easily the two that should be on the top of your list to visit if you ski and summer activities are also well worth looking into. It starts to have a little bit of California feel because you will hear the word “dude” a lot at these facilities from individuals that will be donning a “toque”
in colder weather. This piece of headgear is also worn in other parts of the country in winter and by individuals that want to be rappers and cooler “dudes” in the summer months. The toque is really a sort of wool sock that is worn on the head of the wearer to keep the brain from freezing. Sometimes it fails which results in the wearer uttering the word “dude” more than one should.

In the USA the toque is incorrectly referred to as a beanie. The beanie is that sort of skull cap thing with a propeller on top that you saw kids wear in the 1950’s.

Thanks for visiting

The one thing you will notice consistently on your trip across this beautiful country is that Canadians do smile a lot and they most definitely say “eh” a lot.

Have a nice day, eh.

One of the curious things I find about bitsbyBozoplay is that no one leaves comments like they do in my Hubpages stuff but maybe they are all Canadians and don't want to bother me. The truth is a lot of my readership is Canadian because the new look for Blogger has a terrific stats section that lets you look at what is happening with your blog right down to the day if you so choose. The redirector from Russia hasn't been on as much so I think Google is working on a way to stop them. Those are the things you just don't click on if you don't know where they come from. They are Internet parasites that are promoting their individual scam.

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