A Canadian Christmas

Once upon a time, I was like most Americans in believing that Canadians were whiter, more northern and slightly more redneck versions of us. All I officially learned in school was that we fought Canada, indirectly, in the War of 1812, which my history teachers seemed to think we won although ask a Canadian and he/she will gleefully regale you with the bum kicking they gave us.  Everything else I knew, I learned from Bob and Doug McKenzie.

“Did you even know what a toque was?” Rob asked.

“No,” I said, “and I didn’t know what back bacon was either.  I thought it might be bacon from the back of the pig somewhere and, therefore, not really all that desirable a foodstuff.”

“Americans call it ‘Canadian’ bacon,” he says that with the disdain he reserves for the habit my countrymen have of laying broad claim to the term “American”.

When I was in high school, some of my classmates fixated a bit on Bob and Doug and the whole “Great White North” thing, peppering their speech with “take off”, “hoser”, “g’day” and “eh”.  I found the whole thing only mildly amusing because the parody seemed a bit far-fetched in an “Ernest Goes to Quebec” sort of way, and not really in keeping with the only other bit of Canadian culture knowledge I had, which was a book I read as a grade schooler that was set in Toronto. The author, it turns out, is a well-known Canadian writer and as a 9-year-old, I found her description of the city on the lake compelling enough to make me want to go there someday, which is something I’ve still not done.

“Do you know what a two-four is?” Rob asked me.

One of the lines in the song refers to a 6 packs of two-four.  Like most non-Ontarians, I had no idea.

“It’s a 24 case of beer,” he said. “When we bought beer, we’d ask for two-fours.”

“Well,” because now I was confused, “you were only 15 when you left Ontario. What would you know about a two-four?”

Chagrined, he admitted that perhaps his personal knowledge dated back a bit earlier than most.

It’s funny to me that Canadian English can vary as much as it does. At the grocery earlier this week, I was in the butter and cheese aisle where you can also find bacon and breakfast sausage and in less than five minutes no fewer than 3 different women queried the woman stocking the shelves as to the location of back bacon.

My most recent run in with language peculiarities was actually on Facebook. My friend Jade updated her status with a request for the number of a good plumber. When asked why she needed one, she replied that her garborator had vomited all over her basement. When I told Rob that she was having issues with something called a “garborator”, he replied,

“Well you had one of those in your old house.”

“I did?”

“Sure, in the kitchen sink. You scraped food into it to be chopped before rinsing it away.”

“You mean a garbage disposal?”

“Yeah, a garborator. You call them garbage disposals?”

“Uh huh because if you look at the name written on it,” I explained, “that’s what it says.”

You say garborator; I say garbage disposal. You say toque; I say winter hat. You say back bacon: well, okay, so do I … now. But we all still, mostly, say “Merry Christmas” unless we are really Brit-fluenced and then we say “Happy Christmas”.

So  merry eve and tomorrow morn to all and to all a good day.

3 responses to “A Canadian Christmas

  1. As a child, I learned to love Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia through the Anne of Green Gables books. Oddly, I don’t remember any vernacular differences between what was written and the way I heard other people speak.

    It wasn’t until I read E. Annie Proulx’s The Shipping News in the mid-90’s where I got a real taste for Canadian language – although, I’m sure, that is also VERY specific to Newfoundland.

    Also, I’d forgotten about the word “hoser” as spoken by Bob and Doug. I really hope I don’t reincorporate that back into my own vernacular *laughing*.

  2. Yes, we talk funny 🙂

    I’m from Nova Scotia. There we buy pints of rum. Here in Ontario, it’s a mickey. A mickey where I come from is an airplane bottle. We buy 40 ouncers … here they buy 40 pounders. We buy quarts of rum … here they buy 26ers.

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