I grew up in Canada, but spent quite a number of years living in the US. Having lived in Vancouver, Montreal, Boston, New York and Toronto, I’ve learned an important life lesson: To avoid unnecessary embarrassment, one must always be aware of the distinction between Canadian and American English!
One of the first incidents I can remember was when I told my American roommate to ‘throw the leftover food down the garburator.’ She looked at me like I was crazy and in fact, it was because that word really only exists in Canada (and for those of you who don’t know, a garburator is that garbage disposal thingy in the sink!). Since then, I’ve had to curb my desire to say ‘runners’ when speaking about the footwear Americans seem to like to call sneakers or trainers. And then there’s the whole bank machine or rather, the ATM fiasco. I’ll never forget being questioned in New York City for my ‘suspicious’ behaviour when I plopped my phone bill stub into the machine expecting it to get paid. How was I to know that the banks don’t pay your bills for you? Then there was the time I put on my knapsack (a.k.a. backpack) and my friends snickered, or the time I wanted a physio appointment and the receptionist at the physical therapist’s office thought I had some kind of speech impediment. It always struck me as funny when I’d hear Americans on game shows say they were going to put their winnings toward their kid’s college fund. Colleges in Canada are very affordable because they usually offer 1 or 2 year certificate programs. I truly understood the meaning of ‘saving for college’ when I applied for New York University and realized that they had not mistakenly added an extra zero to the tuition price!
All in all, the differences between American and Canadian English don’t really bother me...it’s just a matter of being conscious not to say washroom when you need to go to the bathroom or adding an extra ‘u ‘when in Canada for words like colour, favourite and labour. The one thing that really gets to me though, is the way Canadians pronounce the last letter of the alphabet. We say ‘zed’ instead of ‘zee’. This is particularly bothersome now that I have a baby. When singing the alphabet song, it just sounds way too ridiculous to sing Q, R, S, T, U, Vee; W, X, Y and Zed.” To keep the integrity of the rhyme could we not just adopt the American pronunciation for that one song?
Thanks for joining us today, Michelle! The next time any of us goes to Canada, we better brush up on our Canadian English!