An Aussie's guide to speaking Canadian
“The one stream of poetry that is continually flowing is slang.” Every country has it and it’s almost always guaranteed to be completely unique to that place. Canadians are an ever-so-friendly and talkative bunch, but if you’re like me you may find some phrases a tad confusing. But now that I’ve lived here awhile, I can help! Study/memorize/get a tattoo of the following must-know Canadian words and lingo.
Timmy’s: Tim Horton’s
Named after the famous hockey player, Tim Horton’s is the golden arches of Canada (though they also have the golden arches here). Canadians bow down to this nationwide coffee chain. Don’t expect anything fancy like the extra hot, double soy mocha with no foam that you order at home in your super luxe indie coffee shop that charges you $8.00 a pop, this place lives on cheap drip coffee. Timmy’s, as it is affectionately known, is everywhere. Even if you try to escape it and all its deliciousness, a giant swath of red and brown storefront will find you on nearly every corner. My partner and I have tried many times to escape the temptation by taking different routes throughout our days, however we almost always find ourselves eight people deep in the line, stuck on the age-old conundrum: bagel or donut?!
For those of you playing along at home, take note that none of Timmy’s staff, and I mean not a single one, will understand your accent. Feel free to put on a Canadian accent when you ask for your ‘double double’ (drip coffee with two sugars and two cream), it saves time and eliminates the ever so awkward exchange of having to frantically break into charade to explain that you are just about dying for a cuppa!
Two-Four: Slab of Beer
This one is a must-know if you are Aussie. If you go into the beer store (I want to say bottlo so bad, but I am trying to fit in here, okay!) and ask for a slab, they will most likely send you to the nearest Home Depot for a literal slab of concrete. (Home Depot is Canada’s version of Bunnings. Note: There is no Sausage Sizzle so it will never replace Bunnings’ place in my heart.)
I actually felt quite smart as I knew this phrase before arriving in Canada. Upon planning our trip, my partner and I were both very excited and were both eagerly trying to learn all things Canadian to not just fit in over here, but also to outsmart each other on our Canadian knowledge. One day he came home and said he had just bought a two-four. Of course I had no idea what this was, which he both enjoyed and used as bait to claim that he knew more about our soon-to-be home than I did. My competitive nature instantly took over and it took me approximately 2.4 seconds to Google this and get my Canadian must-know knowledge back on par with him.
To complicate this one, while a two-four is 24 cans of beer, a two-six is a 26 oz bottle of liquor (aka a twenty-sixer in some provinces). Straightforward, right?
Coming to Canada, I was under the misconception that the loo would be called a restroom as it is in the USA, so that’s how I mistakenly referred to it for approximately the first three months. If you ask me, it doesn’t make a great deal of sense, as we don’t wash whilst in there, but hey whatever floats Canadians’ boats is fine with me.
When I finally got the hang of calling the toilet a washroom, my partner and I ventured across the border to the USA and I was under strict instruction to revert back to saying restroom. Sounds great in theory, but literally as soon as we crossed the border and I entered a gas station (aka servo), I asked where the washroom was... I think my partner almost broke up with me on the spot after spending the better part of three hours repetitively explaining this to me on the journey from Toronto.
This is another absolute must know! Unlike an Australian winter, where the mercury rarely drops below zero, winter in Canada requires a toque (pronounced touk) if you wish to venture outside. Learning to knit your own toque is also a great hobby to take up if, like me, you’re looking for things to do to stay occupied when it’s too cold to go outside. Perhaps unlike me, don’t take the ‘wing it’ approach and instead attend a class and learn how to correctly knit your toque. My two failed attempts are now taking up space in our ‘junk’ cupboard. I have promised my partner that one day I will get back to it and correctly study those YouTube tutorials that I insisted I didn’t need and merely skimmed through…
Loonie/Toonie: $1 and $2 coins
Gone are the days when we could just call money by its actual name. In Canada, $2 coins are known as toonies and $1 coins as loonies. I am told by my Canadian pals that the coins are named this way because there is a loon (a very Canadian bird) on the $1 coin, therefore add a T for the $2 coin and it’s a toonie. Makes perfect sense, right? Also note that Canadian coin size is the complete opposite to Aus. Who would have thought that making the highest value coin the biggest actually made sense? Tip to all travellers: remove other currencies from your wallet when you arrive to a) lower the chances of a severe brain explosion when attempting to pay for anything, b) avoid becoming the ever-so-annoying slow person holding up the queue (aka line up) and c) put a stop the oh-so-deadly glance from cashiers when you “accidentally” put Australian coins in their tip jar!
Now that we have covered the absolute must-know words, we come to another important topic in today’s lesson: pronunciation. I love the Canadians, but boy oh boy do they make me feel like a real bogan Aussie who can correctly pronounce diddly squat!
Canadians pronounce all words and letters correctly and will not understand you if you do not. The one main pronunciation woe that I have realized we Aussies have is pronouncing tu as chu and our Ts as Ds. Picture me, fresh into the country, starving for a proper feed.
Me: “Hi, can I please have a chuna sandwich and a wahda?”
Worker: “Sorry?” (Canadian for excuse me, and also everything else)
Me: “A chuna sandwich and a wahda please... oh and can I please have no budda?”
**Pure confusion from all staff and fellow hungry customers that I am now making quite hangry**
This back-and-forth exchange goes on and on until I opt for the trusty point to the menu board and hope for the best.
For those of you who may not be Aussie, the mess of words above should read as: tuna, water and butter. I’m sure all Aussies reading this silently spoke these words in their heads and realise how bad our pronunciation is, am I right? Correct pronunciation: Canada 1, Australia 0.
Canadians say the full words for EVERYTHING! No servo, rego, bottlo, arvo, smoko or convo and certainly no sangas, maccas or slackers. I think that we Aussies are pretty darn smart when it comes to shortening things; I mean, if you’re on a tight schedule, like most people these days, it makes sense to hurry it all up. I have tried this ‘hurry it up’ technique numerous times and it has failed miserably every time. It usually ends up taking more time having to explain what I am actually saying.
As a result of these lessons, I now pronounce my t’s correctly and say the full words when chatting, however sometimes I like to really throw a spanner in the works with something like, “Enjoy your chuna sandwich, on this choosdee arvo, sir,” just for a laugh.
All in all, I have learned a lot from these crazy Canadians. I’ll take my Timmy’s, washrooms and two-fours everyday just to be living in this great country. I make no promises, but I will always try to get my pronunciation spot-on as well. After all, you can take the girl of the Australia, but never the Australia of the girl, right?