canadianwords2

20 Canadian slang words you should memorize

HOW’S SHE BOOTIN’ER?

Uh what?

This is Canadian slang for “How are you doing?” After a few visits to Whistler, we realized we needed to brush up on our Canadian before we hit the slopes next February for TEDActive 2014. So, we compiled this handy guide of the most useful slang words you need to know to pass yourself off as one of the locals. And as a bonus, we’ve added a sample sentence you’ll most likely be overheard saying.

1. Eh?: Add at the end of your sentence as a friendly short-cut for “don’t you agree?”

Session 5 of TEDActive was mind-blowing, awesome, crazy cool, phenomenal, eh?

2. Double-double: Coffee with two creams and two sugars. A triple-triple is cream and sugar times three. Made popular by famous Canadian staple, Tim Hortons.

I stayed up till 3am at the Welcome Home Party; I desperately need a double-double.

3. Pop: If you’re craving a Coke, don’t say “soda” or you’ll find yourself with a glass of carbonated water. “Pop” refers to the bubbly soft drinks you love.

I could use a cool refreshing pop right now — Sprite, Diet Coke or Pepsi — anything that will rev me up during the breaks.

4. Loonie (Toonie): 

loonie

A loon on the Canadian dollar coin led to it being nicknamed the “loonie.” The toonie or twoonie is the tongue-in-cheek nickname for the two dollar coin.

Do you happen to have a toonie on you? I forgot my wallet and I want to buy a postcard.

5. Queue: A line of people.

The queue for coffee goes out the door! Good thing I’m surrounded by cool TEDActivators to talk to.

6. PoutineTHIS.

foodpoutinecloseup

An amazing Canadian dish of fries + gravy + curd cheese. 

That Translator’s workshop made me so hungry. I need to eat a big plate of poutine to recharge and get ready for more brainstorms.

7. Washroom: bathroom, loo, potty

Is there a washroom on the first floor of the Fairmont?

8. Housecoat: bathrobe

Don’t forget to wear your housecoats for PJ Morning for tomorrow’s 8:30 session.

9. Zed: the last letter of the alphabet (Z) 

The program is organized in alphabetical order of speaker last names, it goes from A to Zed. 

10. Serviette: napkin

Do you have any serviettes? I spilled a coffee as I jumped to my feet to give a standing ovation.

11. ToquePronounced “took” is a knitted winter cap or beanie. See our list of reasons why Whistler is awesome.

12. Back-bacon

peameal

Or “peameal bacon” is cured bacon rolled in cornmeal. Yummy.

Good thing I woke up early for breakfast. This back-bacon is life-changing. 

13. Van: Short for “Vancouver.” Locals use it to refer to different areas: East Van, West Van, North Van.

Are you hanging out in Van after the conference is over?

14. Chinook: an warm wind that blows from west to east during late winter to early spring.

A chinook blew through and melted all of the snow. 

15. Hydro: electricity

Watch out for the hydro pole when you’re on your scooter.

16. Whale’s Tail: Fried dough pastry. Also known as elephant ears or beaver tails.

Snacks at TEDActive are healthy and delicious … but I’m craving a whale’s tail.

17. Giv’n her: an act carried out to it’s fullest potential. Short for “Given her hell.”

We’re gonna giv’n her at TEDActive this year!

18. Kerfuffle: awkward or stressful situation, commotion.

If you’re ever in a kerfuffle, go talk to Rives or Kelly. They’ll be sure to help you out!

19. Knapsack: Backpack or bookbag.

Did you check out the TED Gift Bag? It’s a knapsack that glows in the dark and has a hundred pockets.

20. Decal:  Is pronounced “deck-ul.”

I love the deck-uls (not dee-kals) adorning the walls of the Theater.

+ a bonus word

21. Canuck: A nickname for Canadian

The writer of this blog post is not a Canuck. But she loved learning these new words :)

29 thoughts on “20 Canadian slang words you should memorize”

  1. I’m from a small town in Ontario but have family all over Canada. I’ve heard and used every one of these except a whales tail(its a beaver tail) and Van (I’ve never been to Vancouver so that makes sense). I’m not that old so they aren’t going out of fashion everywhere. It was always knapsack, housecoat, pop, and serviette in my household. It was also bunnyhug because my dad’s from saskatchewan. Sure, I know what you’re talking about if you said “I got a napkin out of my bookbag to wipe the soda off of my bathrobe”, but i’d never say that. some of these i didn’t even know were exclusive to canada.

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  2. Yup a bunny Hug is a hoodie but we also used to call it a Kangaroo Jacket. I grew up in Saskatchewan. Drop that one on my kids once in a while and they look at me like I am mental. Couple of others that I would say would be:
    Two-Four – 24 pack of beer
    Pil – Type of beer in Sask
    Smokes – Cigarettes
    Oh Fer Sure – answer to almost anything you agree with

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  3. A number of these are generational or regional. The impact of “American” usage tend to overwhelm us, but new expressions are entering the language. I would consider ‘given ‘er’ a recent/ generational term. I actually have only run across it on the internet or a few television shows. The dropped h in the expression points to our end expression of eh. It is really hey with a dropped h, eh. :D

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  4. As someone who was born in the Lower Mainland (Richmond) but grew up in the Interior (Castlegar) with a British father and American mother, and then moved to Vancouver for university for three years, most of these words I’m familiar with but can’t help but add my two cents to this discussion. I now live in England so it is amusing to me when people expect me to say “oot and aboot” and ask me if we refer to each other as Canucks. Um, no? And then they tell me I sound like an American….

    1. Eh – sometimes – I think it is more of an East Coast thing although my sister and father use it.
    2. Double Double – yup
    3. Pop – yup
    4. Loonie – yup
    5. Queue – Nooo this is definitely British. I grew up saying “line up.”
    6. Poutine – yup – it’s the best!
    7. Washroom – yes or bathroom if at home
    8. Housecoat – not really…you can say bathrobe
    9. Zed – yes
    10. Serviette – my grandparents use this word, but they are European. I’ve always said napkin.
    11. Toque –yess, but only because all my friends use it. My parents still say “hat.”
    12. Back Bacon. – only on pizza’s at Panago or Canadian2for1. Bacon is bacon.
    13. Van – we call it “VanCity”
    14. Chinook – sometimes…. I’ve never used this word
    15. Hydro – yes – B.C. uses hydro power, but also can refer to hydroponics
    16. Whales tail – ??? this might be a Vancouver thing but I’ve always called it a horse blanket or elephant ears or beavers tail.
    17. Giv’n her.- definitely
    18. Kerfuffle – yes, even my mother uses this term!
    19. Knapsack – most people say backpack
    20. Decal – never even heard of this word
    21. Canuck – never heard of this saying aha except for the hockey team and when I moved to England.

    Hopes this clears up a few things!

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  5. Most of the expressions listed are accurate and recognizably Canadian, but a few small corrections are in order. ‘Queue’ is a word understood by most English-speaking Canadians born before 1975, and particularly by the many British emigrés who live in Canada, but it’s very rarely used. The more commonly used word is ‘line-up’, as in, “The line-up is over there.”

    ‘Serviette’, meaning ‘napkin’ is also well understood, but rapidly falling into obsolescence. In those parts of Canada that are closest to the US border, ‘napkin’ seems to be the preferred term. I know I use ‘napkin’ all the time, even though I’ve lived in Canada all my life. To my ears, ‘serviette’ sounds a bit affected.

    ‘Van’ is indeed short for ‘Vancouver’, but I’ve never heard anyone say, “We’re going to Van tomorrow.” The more common usage of ‘Van’ is in referring to a suburb of Vancouver, i.e. ‘East Van’, ‘West Van’.

    ‘Toque’ is not pronounced ‘took’, but as ‘toook’ – the ‘o’ is a long ‘o’.

    In Ontario, ‘hydro’ refers to the electricity supply (because the power is hydroelectric – i.e. generated from fast-flowing rivers that are diverted into a turbine). In British Columbia, ‘hydro’ refers to really potent marijuana (because it’s grown hydroponically).

    The correct way to spell the expression ‘Giv’n her’ is ‘GIvn’ ‘er’, as in, “There we were, on Highway 401, just givn’ ‘er.” A related expression is ‘give ‘er’, which is exhortatory in nature, as in, “Give ‘er! Put the pedal down to the floor!” Both expressions probably have their roots in the old British expression “Give her hell”, when exhorting someone to really go for or do something really enthusiastically. A lot of Canadian slang is British in origin.

    ‘Knapsack’ is an expression I haven’t heard since the 1970s. I live in southern Ontario, and we tend to use the American ‘backpack’, and more rarely, ‘book bag’. But if anyone uses the word, it’s readily understood.

    ‘Kerfuffle’ – no correction needed, but there’s a really great expression made popular by all the Scots who practically founded Canada and have been coming here since, well, time immemorial.

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    1. Thanks for these clarifications, I was a little confused by some of them. One point I would make, for clarity, instead of “toook” (which is unclear at least to me) you could write “toke”.

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      1. It’s actually pronounced two-ke. The first part is pronounce exactly like the number two and the ending is just a ‘k’ sound. On- syllable word.

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      2. I have corrections of my own. Toque is not a long “o”, bit is more like “tuke” as in it rhymes with “fluke”. I grew up in British Columbia and we definitely refer to electricity as “hydro” (since we don’t have any other type of electricity!). Marijuana has several nicknames, but I’ve never heard of “hydro” being one of them; perhaps that’s only used in Ontario? Like most countries, Canada definitely has it’s regional slang.

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  6. 1. Eh – sometimes
    2. Double Double – yup
    3. Pop – yup
    4. Loonie – yup
    5. Queue – Nooo this is british
    6. Poutine – yup
    7. Washroom – yes
    8. Housecoat – mhmm
    9. Zed – yes
    10. Serviette – some people use it
    11. Toque –yess
    12. Back Bacon. – no not often
    13. Van – we call it “VanCity”
    14. Chinook – yup
    15. Hydro – yes
    16. Whales tale – ???
    17. Giv’n her.- some people would i guess
    18. Kerfuffle – no
    19. Knapsack – most people say backpack
    20. Decal – yup
    21. Canuck – never heard of this saying aha except for the hockey team

    from a CowTown resident(:

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  7. Born and raised in Canada and have to agree with most of the words here. Some of them must be east coast slang because I haven’t heard of them. Heres my experience with these words;

    1. Eh – yup
    2. Double Double – yup
    3. Pop – yup
    4. Loonie – yup
    5. Queue – Nope. Never use it. Sounds British to me.
    6. Poutine – yup. Also known as heart-attack in a bowl. So good
    7. Washroom – yup
    8. Housecoat – yup
    9. Zed – yup
    10. Serviette – nope. We use napkin in our house
    11. Toque – yup. Us est coasters don’t need them much though
    12. Back Bacon. – not really. Just “bacon” will do
    13. Van – yes and no. For us in the valley it is often referred to as “the City”
    14. Chinook – yup
    15. Hydro – yup
    16. Whales tale – never heard of it.
    17. Giv’n her. I wouldn’t know if spelling is correct but we definitely use this. From a pronunciation I would say “giv’n er” . The example used doesn’t sound right though. Generally used more for physical or exciting activities. “giv’n er thru the mud on his quad…”
    18. Kerfuffle – yes. Although I thought this came from my dutch heritage. I guess not.
    19. Knapsack – yup, or backpack is fine. Dunno what a bookbag is.
    20. Decal – yup
    21. Canuck – yup AKA Nucklehead :)

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  8. Even as a Canadian, some of these terms I’m rather unfamiliar with, particularly “queue”, “serviette”, “kerfuffle,” and “hydro.” I live way on the east coast in Nova Scotia, we kind of have a language of our own here of sorts.

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  9. Very interesting list. There’s definitely some new ones there for me as well. We need to keep in mind how large Canada is. I was born and raised in Alberta and we don’t speak exactly like people from Newfoundland or British Columbia or Saskatchewan. Each province has their own slang, and the country has some common slang. I’m sure people in Louisiana don’t have the same slang as people from Boston. I’m not sure why some Americans don’t consider that when they sum up ‘all’ Canadians. We are culturally diverse from one end to the other, just like the USA, because we have everything here from rainforest to desert to arctic (yes, Canada has a real rainforest). We have nearly every culture in the world living here and it’s made for some pretty diverse customs and terms within our own country. Unfortunately, that means a list like this one may help you in Whistler, but it won’t help you if you’re visiting Newfoundland or Manitoba. If you are not from Canada and plan on travelling here, just ask someone if you don’t understand something said. One way Canadians are the same coast to coast is they’re helpful :)

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    1. You’re right, Canada is culturally diverse from province to province, but the differences are often small and subtle, and relative to the US, where regional differences are so prominent, Canada appears to be relatively homogenous.

      The province of Quebec considers itself to be a distinct society within Canada, but if you really want to see a truly distinct society, visit Newfoundland or the Cape Breton region of Nova Scotia
      sometime. People living in both those areas tend to be more than a bit rustic, and they’re almost like American hillbillies, minus all the negative stereotypes.

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      1. Nope. Nova Scotia has earned the name ‘Mississippi of the North’. They have a museum that shows how Nova Scotians continued to enslave and then brutalized the people that escaped American slave trade through the underground railroad not to mention the verifiable documentation.

        Also, the recent 21 and 20 century racial hate crime atrocities are continuing this proud Nova Scotian tradition, however, unlike Mississippi, Nova Scotians deny this well founded heritage and of course let the world know with bull-crap language, bald faced lies and that giant, empty, meaningless, sociopathic and uniquely Nova Scotian smile. The facts do not lie about aggressive institutional Nova Scotian racism, but do not take a Nova Scotians word for it.

        PS: No insult to American Hillbillies.

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      2. English-speakers in Quebec, known as Anglophones, have their own versions of slang which incorporates French terms. Hence a CEGEP (See-jep), the intermediate level of schooling between high school and university, comes from College d’Ensigmment Generale Et Professional. The SAQ (pronounced “sack”) is where you buy you hard liquor and quality wines. The “Dep” (short for dépanneur) is a convenience store where you buy your beer and cheaper wines. The “Habs” (short for “habitants” the name of the original French settlers 300+ years ago) is, as everyone who comes to Canada should know is the familiar nickname for Le Club de Hockey Canadien, the greatest name in the sport.

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  10. Haha :) I’m born and raised in Canada and I’ve never heard of some of these things lol :)its weird to know that we have a certain style of speaking lol :)

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  11. Canadians don’t speak all that differently from Americans, save the “zed” and some who say “eh”. We have bathrooms, bathrobes, soda, and lines of people. Not sure who speaks this way, but I’ve lived here all my life and this is all news to me…

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    1. Sure we have bathrooms in Canada, but the point of this article was to point out how Canadians differ in their usage of certain words. I mean, would you ever ask, “Where’s the bathroom?” or would you say “Where’s the washroom” instead? Would you say, “I’m going to drink a bottle of soda,” or “I’m going to drink a bottle of pop?” Where I come from, ‘soda’ refers to soda water, while ‘pop’ means a soft drink like Pepsi or Coke.

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      1. “I mean, would you ever ask, “Where’s the bathroom?” or would you say “Where’s the washroom” instead?”
        Generally I say bathroom but washroom and restroom are also used, most people I know say bathroom.

        “Would you say, “I’m going to drink a bottle of soda,” or “I’m going to drink a bottle of pop?””

        I usually just say coke for everything. IE I’d like a coke please and I fill it with whatever I want when I get my cup.

        Or I use soda
        IE
        Orange soda, grape soda.

        I rarely use pop but soda and pop are interchangeable depending on what I’m ordering. If I was in Newfoundland I’d order a pineapple pop.

        But generally when I walk into a restaurant I’ll say.

        Large soda, or coca cola please.

        Just my ramblings from Vancity.

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