________________ CM . . . . Volume XII Number 8 . . . . December 9, 2005


Weird Canadian Words: How to Speak Canadian. (Great Canadian Stories).

Edrick Thay.
Edmonton, AB: Folklore Publishing, 2004.
143 pp., pbk., $9.95.
ISBN 1-894864-32-8.

Subject Headings:
Canadianisms (English).
English language-Etymology.

Grades 7 and up / Ages 12 and up.

Review by Dave Jenkinson.

*** /4



A euphemism for a hockey puck, biscuit and its cousin, the wafer, came into popular use during the 1940's. Sportswriters worried that they might be using the word puck a little too often and began creating their own words for the rubber disk. Biscuit caught on and is still used today.


The next time someone compliments you on your fine “Molson Muscle,” should you feel flattered? The answer is likely “No.” According to Weird Canadian Words, the term is a way of describing a pot belly, beer belly or spare tire that has possibly been achieved through consuming too many cans or bottles of Molson Canadian.

     Because of its short length, Weird Canadian Words is obviously not a comprehensive dictionary of Canadianisms, but the volume’s contents might sufficiently pique the curiosity of young readers that they will seek out one or more of the five titles listed in the concluding “Notes on Sources” and perhaps even go on to longer reference works. Arranged alphabetically from “Acadia and Acadian” to “Zipper,” the book contains 185 entries which range in length from a few lines to about a page. Each entry typically explains the meaning of the word plus its origins. The letter “S” gets the most entries, 25, while “J,” “N,” “Q,” “V,” “X,” “Y” & “Z” have but one each, and the letter “U” has no entries at all.

     Some of the words or terms, such as “Bloody Caesar,” “Canadarm,” “Imax,” “Pablum,” “Trivial Pursuit” and “Wonderbra,” are simply the names of Canadian inventions. Others, including “Grey Cup,” “The Brier” or the “Memorial Cup,” are the names of Canadian sporting events. Canadians’ favourite winter game, hockey, is responsible for terms like “The Butterfly” and “Five-hole.” The names of foods, such as the “Nainaimo Bar,” “Peameal Bacon,” “Poutine” and “Beavertails,” account for some other words. Pieces of clothing, like “Stanfield’s” and “Tuque.” are connected to Canada. Ways of describing Canadian weather phenomena are found in such terms as “Alberta Clipper” and “Chinook.’ English corruptions of First Nations words led to words such as “Anorak,” “Cheechako” and “Pemmican” while English misspellings of French words resulted in such words as “Gopher” and “Lateer.” Newfoundland has contributed words like “Bangbelly,”and “Coady.”

     As someone who has lived in Winnipeg for five decades, I was amazed to discover that I had never heard or used a word attributed to my home city.


Just so there’s no confusion, when a person from Winnipeg calls something minty, he isn’t saying that it smells like peppermint or that it’s fragrant. Minty is a catch-all expression in Winnipeg. It means cool or fantastic or, in some cases, it just means something is mint, as in mint condition. The origins of the term are unknown, though perhaps it relates to the Royal Canadian mint being headquartered there.

     A fun bit of recreational reading that need not be read cover to cover.


Dave Jenkinson teaches courses in children’s and YA literature at the Faculty of Education, the University of Manitoba.


To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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