Bamburgh Castle. Northumberland

When we moved to Canada we had to learn the language, well at least new ways to use words we already knew.

This presented a few problems when I was trying to lipread. Normally I try to anticipate what the speaker is going to say and it’s taken me a while to get the hang of what was/is being said to me. Some of the phrases that Canadians seem to say a fair amount are:

  • Is that so?             
  • You don’t say?
  • How are you?                      The rhythm of this is different to English English. The emphasis  in Canadian English is on the “are” and the sentence goes up both in volume and pitch at the end.
  • How are you today?           The first time I heard this I was baffled.  Had they met me yesterday? Perhaps on another day when I wasn’t well and now they were asking if I was better now?
  • Cold enough for ya?            Canadians say this all the time in the winter. No matter how cold there will always be someone in shorts
  • Mmmm hmmmm               Used to agree emphatically, or agree sympathetically 

Some words that sound the same when pronounced by a Canadian but not to an Briton. For example.

  • Don, Dawn, darn
  • Cot and caught
  • Warder and water

 Some things just conjure up odd images. As Canadian Marnie explains here about car parks in Britain.  To me a roadside sign saying “Sod” is rather rude and makes me smile, especially so any signs that advertise sod farms, or sodding specialists.

When we were first here we went out for a meal and then asked for the menu for puddings. The server told us that they didn’t do puddings and we thought that this was a little strange. It was a while before we realised that pudding is a gooey thing like an mousse or instant whip dessert. What we should have asked for was the dessert menu.

At work I’ve confused patients by asking them to take their trousers off but leave their pants on.

“Impact”. In Britain we use that word with a preposition –to impact on, the impact of. Here things just impact you, which to me sounds like a collision or constipation.

Here’s a word list with translation. A fair few are familiar from TV as they are the same in American English so I have left the most well known ones out.

         Canadian                              British

  • Eavestrough                      Gutter
  • Yard                                   Garden
  • Garden                               Flower bed or vegetable garden
  • ???                                      Yard – an enclosed paved or concreted area.
  • Tub                                     Bath
  • Laundry                             Washing
  • Dish soap                            Washing up liquid
  • Pants                                  Trousers
  • Vest                                    Waistcoat/body warmer
  • Underpants/panties         Pants/knickers
  • Undershirt                         Vest
  • Sweater                              Jumper/pullover
  • Jumper                              Pinafore dress
  • Sweater vest                     Tank top
  • Tank top                            Sleeveless T shirt
  • Pantyhose                         Tights
  • Sweater                             Jumper/pullover
  • Jumper                              Pinafore dress
  • Sweater vest                     Tank top
  • Tank top                            Sleeveless T shirt
  • Toque                                Woolly hat
  • Homo milk                        Homogenised milk
  • 2% milk                             Semi skimmed milk
  • 1% milk                             Skimmed milk
  • Hydro                                Electricity supply
  • Loonie                               A dollar coin
  • Pop                                    A fizzy drink, Coke, Pepsi etc. (This is pop in  northern England)
  • Washroom                       Loo/toilet/lavatory
  • Down South                     USA
  • Awesome                         Quite nice
  • Sure                                  Thank you very much
  • Stretcher                         Trolley (hospital)
  • Cart                                  Trolley (supermarket)
  • As in horse and cart       Cart – a 2 wheeled, animal pulled vehicle
  • Fanny                               Bum
  • Er, similar too but not as bad as the C word.       Fanny
  • Sod                                   Turf or mild swear word
  • Fag                                   Cigarette or hard work
  • Asking for a cigarette    Bumming a fag
  • Clod of earth                   Sod
  • Stove                               Cooker or heating stove
  • Cooker                             Cook
  • Broil                                 Grill
  • Grill                                  BBQ
  • Receptacle                       Container
  • Outlet/Receptacle         Socket – electrical

 Dunstanburgh Castle. Northumberland


9 responses »

  1. Enjoyable post!

    Although I grew up in North Dakota and visited Manitoba occasionally, I don’t remember that many differences in language. There were a few though. We mostly joked about Canadian’s use of “Eh.”

    I have always enjoyed the British use of the English language and think some of their words for things are a lot more fun than the American version, such as “Loo” for bathroom or toilet.

    Accents and word usage can be quite confusing for lipreading as well as hearing. The toughest one for me both hearing and lipreading is the Boston accent. It comes across like another language for me and I have never mastered it. My favorite is the British accent. I also enjoy listening to the Texas drawl.

    I have never thought much about this before, but there sure are a lot of versions of the English language!

    • I read that the Midwest accent and a Canadian accent are very close so maybe that’s why. It is hard to tell the difference between most American and a Canadian accents, the difference is in the vowel sounds. I think I notice it more because it interests me, as well as being a necessity for me to concentrate on the sounds. When we were in Boston recently we didn’t have a problem with the local accent, and when we told people we were from Canada they happily accepted our accents as Canadian.

      oops, sorry but I do have to giggle when I hear the phrase British accent. Apart from English, Welsh, Scottish and Northern Irish accents there are so many regional accents within each country that it baffles me how they could be grouped together.

      Thanks for commenting!

  2. Having lived in Canada all my life, I haven’t noticed that Canadians say darn the same as Don or Dawn or warder and water or even cot and caught.

    I tend to say warder as war-der and water as wa-ter; cot as ka-t and caught as kaw-t; darn as dar-n and Don/Dawn as don.

    How do you say Dawn and Don?

    • Hi Jonathan, you sound offended I hope not.

      How do I say Dawn and Don? That’s hard to explain in writing as whatever I type you will read in the way that you are used to reading those letters. I will write with an English accent and you will read with a Canadian one. Dawn is maybe dorn, and Don to me has a much shorted vowel sound.

      My new ears currently hear that most Canadian pronounce the letter t as a d, hence water as warder. An R appears after the a in water too. A Canadian friend called Wanda says that English people say her name as Wonder.

      It all depends on where you start from. Either way it’s hard to lipread in a different accent as I am sure you appreciate

  3. I visited Canada and California for the first time last summer. I could not understand a word said in CA. It was so weird. However, Canadians were much easier to understand and much more ‘British’. I just fell in love with Canada and hope to go back one day. By the way, it was Vancouver and Whistler that I visited. Any recommendations for other scenic places to visit in Canada?

    • I’ve only ever been to Ontario – apart from day trips to Quebec. The difference that I have found is that North Americans don’t mind repeating themselves over and over until you can understand. I think British people get embarrased more easily and don’t like to draw attention to themselves.
      As for places to visit in Canada, well it’s a huge place. The second largest country in the world after Russia and it has many places.

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