Six Canadian English words or expressions, eh?

The Canadian Beaver beer commercial, a favourite of mine

As many readers of this blog know, I am an expat Canadian living in Spain. This past Christmas I was back in Canada for a couple of weeks with my family and friends. I found myself smiling at words or expressions that I had always thought were just “English” but I realise now are particularly Canadian. I thought I’d share six of my favourites with you. I’m sure there is a potential exercise here for students, somehow. But it doesn’t have to be practical, you can simply read this and consider yourselves better educated. 😉

1. Canuck – The Canadian informal word for a Canadian, as in “He’s okay, he’s a fellow Canuck.”. There is also a hockey team called The Vancouver Canucks.

2. goal suck – Another hockey term (you can tell I was back in Canada in winter time). I heard my nephew use this expression. A goal suck is a player who hovers around the opposing team’s net in hockey, waiting for the puck to come close so he or she can score. You can’t really have a goal suck in football (European football) because offside rules prohibit it. What a great expression though: goal suck.

3. homo milk – Now this probably would raise eyebrows if you asked for it at a British supermarket, but homo milk is short for homogenized milk, which contains 3.25% milk fat. It is called whole milk in the USA, I am not sure if there is an English equivalent.

4. loonie and toonie – Two informal words for Canadian coins. The loonie is the one dollar coin, which earns its name from the image of the loon on it (a loon is a kind of bird). A toonie is the more recent two dollar coin, named that way because it sounds like loonie. Yes, Canada is full of loonies and toonies.

5. T dot, Hogtown, Big Smoke, TO – Three names for my hometown of Toronto, the biggest city in Canada. I always called it TO (Tee-Oh) and sometimes the Big Smoke. Hogtown is more derogative I believe. T Dot is a newer version, which I think sounds a bit like a corporate slogan to appeal to youth but that could just be me.

6. twofer, two-four – Ah, this word kind of defines my university days. A twofer is short for twenty-four, the number of cans of beer in a case which was a staple of parties. Pick up a twofour and a two big pizzas and you’re set for the evening. I didn’t see one twofour (also called a flat in Western Canada) this last visit, maybe because all my university friends have grown up and we don’t guzzle so much beer (ahem these friends are NOT English teachers, which also explains it). Plus Canada has discovered wine and organic, small brewery beer in the past twenty years which does not sell in the big cases and feels more refined. There is nothing refined about bringing a twofour to a dinner party.

So there you have it. If you are not Canadian, consider yourself educated. If you are Canadian, maybe this was boring. Either way, if you know other Canadian English phrases or expressions, why not add them below as a comment?

*note: I include eh? at the end of the title of this post as it is another common Canadian expression, a bit like a Canadian question tag. Like the Canadian version of ‘innit’.

Published in: on January 18, 2010 at 9:54 am  Comments (33)  

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33 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Fellow Canuck here, also from beautiful TO! 🙂

    One more for your list: tuque (or is it toque? Not sure how to spell it). We’d never survive winter without one, eh?

    A. 🙂

    • I always thought it was toque, but pronounced “tuke”. You’re right what would winters be without them.

      • Fellow Canuk here! I am actually from the province of Quebec, and my first language is french. It is spelt “Tuque” and pronounced “tuke”. 😛 Man, I sure love our Canada, eh?

  2. In the UK (in football) a goal suck is known as a goal hanger – it tends to be more used at school, where the offside rule is less strictly enforced :-). In professional football, they tend to be referred to as poachers or sniffers, though as you say the offside rule makes it quite difficult to be only hanging round the goal (though to my mind it does in ice hockey too – I live in an ice hockey town here and go often and so now have grasped the rules, and presumably you could only be a goal suck once the puck has passed the line)

    That was an overly long comment wasn’t it, eh?

    My favourite Canadianism is the pronunciation of “out” as “oat”. Do you have some kind of Canuck expression in which you cram in as many “out” syllables as possible? Something like “Cloat him aboat the head with a troat until you knock him oat”?

    • LOL. No, I don’t know of a phrase with lots of the oats in it. Except the famous “oat and aboat” but I don’t think I still pronounce it that way! Love the equivalent expressions poacher, or sniffer. But it doesn’t quite capture the derision of “goal suck”.

  3. Timbits! How could I forget timbits!?! Those delicious bite-size donut balls you get from Tim Hortons.

    • Mmmm…. what an ingenious idea, the timbit. It is supposed to be the “hole” of the donut, what was there before the hole was made. My kids tasted timbits this Christmas.

  4. What a great post!
    Years ago I brought back from Canada a Canadian English Dictionary.There were so many words in there unique to Canada!
    A word I remember people saying is “chesterfield” for “couch”.
    This Molson video is also about Canada: It’s funny!
    Great idea, Lindsay!
    (Another Torontonian in the house!)

    • Thanks fellow Canuck! I was debating using that video but opted for the beaver one instead. It is funny, especially the chesterfield bit – guess you have to be Canadian to get that…

  5. Great post, Lindsay! I’ve travelled a bit in Canada and always thought it was a really cool place, especially the “T dot” (as Kardinal Offishall would say).

    I must say, due perhaps to overexposure to Bob and Doug MacKenzie at an impressionable adolescent age, to my American ears the most Canadian sounding expression I can think of is, “Take off, hoser!”

    Also, about the Molson ad, two questions: the two guys at the bar, are they supposed to be Americans? And is that what you guys really think of us?

    • Hi Nicky, thanks for dropping by. Yes, unfortunately they are supposed to be Americans. Now I don’t think of Americans like that. Some of my best friends, in fact are American :-)! Canadians sometimes feel good about themselves if they make fun of Americans. Terribly unfair of course. But then again you have South Park…

      • No worries, I fully support the right of Canadians to make as many jokes about Americans as they wish, fair’s fair! Plus, I don’t know how we’ll ever repair the damage “Terence and Phillip” did to Can.-US relations…

  6. And you know you’ve been away far too long when you tell people you’re from “To-ron-to” instead of “Tronno”.


    • LOL! That happens to me all the time now too! To-ron-to. Love it.

  7. I too would suggest for further Canadian EFL education studying the lectures of brothers “Prof.s” Bob and Doug Mackenzie from SCTV, there are some lessons on Youtube (though I myself have never called anyone a hoser). As a patriotic act I wore the official red Olympic mittens today to school together with two of my daughters(haven’t worn mittens in about… 30 years) tried not to think of the poem “Three little kittens…”

    • Yes, Bob and Doug would be a must I think. I hardly ever said hoser in the past, but I admit that it is the most Canadian of terms.

      I have my Olympic keychain which I picked up at the airport on the way home…

      • I do, however, remember saying ‘take off’ quite a bit.

        My big sis has just posted us an Olympic care package containing official mitts and Canadian Olympic Team trapper hats. We’ll be the talk of Oxford.

  8. Oh, “hoser” has to be on the list too!

    I”m always sniffing out who is the “real” Canadian and I’ve come up with a test. If you can answer this no brainer, you can keep yer passport.

    It’s 2:00 am and you come out of the hotel. Was raining all day and now it’s 40 below. The doors, the keyholes, everything on your truck is all frozen up. The hotel is now closed. You don’t know what to do. What do you do?


    • Hmmm, David I can think of several possibilities.

      1) find the subway vent (if we’re in Toronto) and curl up there
      2) go to Tim Hortons, there’s bound to be one near there – failing that a 7-11 or Mac’s
      3) use the small can of lock de-icer that I carry in my pocket just for such emergencies.

      I’ll stop at three. Do I get to keep my passport?

  9. Being a former Torontonian I always smile when people in the smaller towns and cities around Ontario know where you’re going when you tell them that you’re going to THE CITY. – oh, and don’t forget butter tarts!

  10. A proud Canuck myself, now living in Oxford UK. I played ice hockey for the best part of 20 years and have never heard the term ‘goal suck’. We call this person a ‘floater’.

    A floater is most likely to get caught offside for their selfish behaviour.

    Another great ice hockey term is ‘deek’ and in ‘did you see there Centre deek the goalie’. Is means ‘move around’.

    The coolest position in ice hockey is that of the ‘goon’. The tough guy who only steps onto the ice to pick a fist fight with someone.

    • Thanks for coming by, Shane. Curious about goal suck and floater, maybe it’s more regional than I thought. But I have heard deek, or deke as you mention. Another great hockey word.

  11. You got twofer wrong.

  12. Hello from T5 at Heathrow, where Dede is about to catch a plane to Montreal. What I like about Canada is the names you give to people from different villages, towns or provinces. On the north shore of PEI, we refer to people from North Rustico as Crickers, & folk from Nova Scotia as Blue Nosers. Any more I can add to my list?

    • I love the fact you’re answering this from the airport! I had heard about Blue Nosers, but not the others. Of course you’ve heard of Newfie I imagine, someone from Newfoundland. Alas the poor Newfoundlanders are the target of many jokes – Newfie jokes.
      Anyone else got other Canadian local names to add here?

      • Habitant is someone from Quebec.

  13. Oh, I love this post. I wanna go to Tronno and meet some Canucks now. Also loved the video and Vicki’s link. So a Chesterfield is any couch, not just one with a low straight back?
    I have a question, and please forgive me if this sounds really dumb.
    When I moved to the US, I was a wary about saying ‘American’ when I wasn’t referring to the whole continent. (But what about South America? I reasoned) So for a while I experimented with ‘North America’ in situations where I could refer to both the US and Canada. But it didn’t work. My US friends explained: ‘No, when you say ‘North American’ we think you mean Canadian.’ But if I say ‘North American’ to a Canuck, does it mean from the US or Canada or just Canada?

    • Hi Vicki, thanks for dropping by. Re: your question. For me, a North American means from USA or Canada. An American means (usually for me) someone from USA. Anyone other Canucks beg to differ?

  14. Great post!
    I recently moved back to the Toronto area and learned about the new term “T Dot”. Since we’re on the topic of Timbits I thought you might also include “double double”: two creamers and two packs of sugar in your “Timmies” coffee. (I think some people use this phrase at any coffee shop!)

  15. Not a Canadian expression, but something that sets us apart from the rest of the world…drinking milk from a bag. In fact, just discovered that everyone else on the face of the planet thinks we are weird! Go figure!

  16. Haha two-four is a good one — a case of beer as well as May 24 (two-four) weekend celebrating Queen Victoria’s birthday. Thankfully the government has the sense to allow a long weekend in May rather than following the actual day! Don’t forget poutine too, although a Quebecois word, every Canadian ought to know that one!

    • YES! POUTINE!!! Cheese, Gravy and Fries. But it has to be St-Albert cheese, thick beef gravy and home-made, not frozen, french fries. Living in quebec myself…it is one thing you learn to make well. And might I add it is quite good with a beer at a hockey game, wearin a tuque!

  17. I’m in the same boat. There is a growing list of words I always thought were global but get me nowhere when I travel. Simple words like garburator, stagette, and runners were all shockers when I learned other countries don’t use them. I wrote a list here: so check it out if you’re interested.

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