When I was in Iceland, I learned how to be Canadian. Okay, maybe not how to be Canadian, but how to sound Canadian. The majority of this year’s Snorris were Canadian, so those of us from the stars and stripes got a crash course in Canadianisms. Some of my favorites:
- keener – Canadian term for a teacher’s pet, an overly eager goody-two-shoes, etc. Confession: I was called a keener on multiple occasions.
- pictogram – a pictorial sign or symbol, like this:
The Americans agreed that we know these are technically called pictograms, but we would never use that term in casual conversation. Ironically, it seems many people have discovered my blog by searching for ‘pictogram.’ You win, Canadians.
- ketchup chips – These might be available in the States now, but I think they originated in Canada. I seem to remember eating them on the ferries as a child, though, so they must be imported…
- garburator – a garbage disposal (either a literal one or a person who acts like a garbage disposal…). The American consensus was that we would either call it a garbage disposal or an in-sink-erator (which is actually a brand name).
- zed – Some Canadians use this term for the last letter of the alphabet, but others are rebels and just call it plain old zee.
- washroom – If you want to sound Canadian when you go overseas, always ask, ‘where is the washroom?’ Never utter the b-word.
- Smarties – The Canadian equivalent of M and M’s. Most of the Canadians insist that they are far superior to M and M’s. I tried some (they’re imported to Iceland) and they’re good, but I can’t say I found them terribly magical.
- Kinder Eggs – Americans, remember Nestlé Wonder Balls? That’s basically what these are, but they are egg-shaped, with milk chocolate on the outside, white chocolate on the inside, and a nifty little prizey in the middle. They’re made in Germany and are sold all over the world, it would seem, but they are illegal in the States. The Canadians mentioned this to us and we scoffed, thinking it couldn’t be true, but while we were in Iceland, an American couple crossing the border in Washington was fined for trying to bring 6 Kinder Eggs back into the States.
- toonie – a $2 coin. Canadians have these, but they no longer have pennies. Well, that’s not entirely accurate; they just passed a law to stop the production of pennies, but of course pennies will continue to be in circulation for quite some time.
- toque – A snugly-fitting, warm, often knitted hat. When the Americans expressed skepticism of this term, Kayli was incredulous. ‘What else would you call it?’ she asked. ‘A soft warm fuzzy hat?’ We decided we would probably just call it a hat, or perhaps a beanie. This led to arguments about hats versus caps, and it spiraled downhill from there.
- Tim Bits – A doughnut-like confection from Tim Horton’s. Anywhere but Canada, this would just sound dirty.
- Man Tracker – Kind of like the Bear Grylls of Canada, but instead of being a survivalist, he is, as his name suggests, a man tracker.
Of course, if you truly want to sound Canadian, you can’t just talk about Canadian things. You must pronounce things Canadian-ly. The stereotype popular in the States is that Canadians say ‘aboot’ instead of about, but this is not true. They definitely do strange things with their vowels; my best explanation is that they elongate and round their vowels, especially o’s. ‘About’ ends up more like a cross between ‘aboat’ and ‘about.’ We all decided that Jolene had the most quintessentially Canadian accent of everyone. When she says ‘house,’ it sounds more like ‘heh-ouse.’
My fellow Americans and I may not sound Canadian, but at least some of us had semi-Canadian childhoods. The night we stayed in Hvolsvöllur, we sat out on the porch in the light of the midnight sun, discussing Americanisms vs. Canadianisms and reminiscing about childhood on both sides of the border. Turns out Amöndu and I, being so close to Canadia, enjoyed a lot of Canadian entertainment as children, such as the show Skinnamarink TV (Sharon, Lois, and Bram!) and the catchy tunes of Raffi (baby beluga in the deep blue sea, swim so wild and you swim so free).
Well, maybe I’ll go watch an episode of Man Tracker, knit a toque, or scheme about how I can smuggle some Kinder Eggs across the border…