Canadian slang that will make you love Canada even more
Threatening to move to Canada is every American’s favorite reaction to something upsetting or unjust. For example: “If the coffee line is three miles long again, I’m moving to Canada.” Or “If Netflix takes down Mean Girls, I’m moving to Canada.” Or even “If my milk goes bad a day before the expiration date, I’m moving to Canada.” But why? Why are we so obsessed with our cheery, hockey-loving neighbors? Part of it stems from, I’m sure, their natural ability to look on the bright side even when they’re stuck under 20 feet of snow, but the other part I think comes from their fun vernacular. Believe it or not, there’s more to the Canadian vocabulary than “eh.”
1) Double double: coffee order involving extra cream and extra sugar
Stand in line long enough at Dunkin’ Donuts and you will eventually hear some late-for-work customer mutter “small ice, extra extra” at the cashier. This is an indication that said person wants a small ice coffee with extra cream and extra sugar, and also that they probably hate the taste of coffee. In Canada, this situation would look a little different. The customer would look the Tim Horton’s cashier in the eyes and politely ask for a “double double” (instead of an “extra extra”).
2) Gonger/Gong Show: a disastrous or chaotic event
In the 1970s and ’80s, NBC aired a popular talent show called The Gong Show that rewarded participants for doing outrageous things. Like most American reality shows, there were three celebrity judges who would provide positive feedback to the performer or boot them off stage if their act was unimpressive. Unlike most American reality shows, the judges used a giant gong to stop any performances that were too ridiculous, which later became known as “getting gonged.” Since then, the terms “gonger” or “gong show” have become synonymous with an event that is out of control.
3) Skookum: impressive or exceptional
Unfortunately, skookum is not a play on the pet name snookums, but that won’t stop me from complimenting my future spouse with phrases like, “That was skookum, snookums.” (People in Skookumchuck, Canada would probably get the biggest laugh out of that kind of pestering.) From what I’ve read, this phrase is used mostly in the British Columbia area, so don’t expect all Canadians to know what you’re talking about when you call their maple syrup skookum.
4) Heifer dust: non-dairy creamer
According to Urban Dictionary, “a heifer is a cow that has not had a calf yet so it cannot produce liquid milk but it will produce milk one day.” With this in mind, it makes sense that heifer dust refers to the kind of non-dairy creamer that comes in powder form. It’s not as interesting as fairy dust, for sure, but it will make your coffee taste a little better, which is magical in itself.
5) Freezies: frozen popsicles that come in plastic tubes
What most Americans know as Flavor Pops or Freeze Pops, Canadians know as Freezies. These little sticks of goodness come in all different colors, which is good for anyone who wants to dye their lips blue or green for a few hours. No matter what they’re called, we can all agree on one thing: the juice at the bottom is the best part of this chilly snack.
6) Toque: a knit hat
In the U.S., when you’re cold or feeling hipster-y you put on a beanie. In Canada, you put on a toque. It comes from the French word of the same name meaning “cap.” Some people will contest the spelling (“it’s TUQUE not TOQUE”) while others will claim that the word is hardly ever used.
7) Bunnyhug: a sweatshirt with a hood
It took me a few minutes to figure this one out but once I did, I could not stop thinking about it. Picture a bunny with two big floppy ears. Now pretend those two ears are one giant ear. Now imagine that bunny coming up and hugging you from behind. Now picture yourself sans-bunny wearing a sweatshirt with a hood. They’re pretty much the same thing.
8) Runners: gym shoes
I can only assume that this phrase is not popular in America because it doesn’t properly reflect our exercise habits. If it did, we’d be grabbing our “Walkers” or “Meanderers” when we stepped out the door in the morning.
9) Parkade: a multi-level parking garage
There are so many better uses for this word. A park-themed arcade, sponsored by Leslie Knope. An arcade organized in a park so kids can be outside and play video games. An ark that you can park and play in.
10) Pencil Crayon: a colored pencil
This is one instance where the Canadian version actually makes less sense than the America version. Because why would you call a pencil that is colored a “pencil crayon” and confuse thousands of children out there who once considered those two things separate. We don’t go around calling cereal bowls “Bowl Spoons” or calling Christmas trees “Tree Bushes.”
To be clear, these words aren’t used in every part of Canada. Just like “jimmies” will not register as “chocolate sprinkles” in every U.S. state, many of these words will only be understood by Canadians in certain areas. Feel free to point out the details or suggest new slang words that I missed!
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