Saturday, January 29, 2011

Funny U.S. vs. Canadian words

These are a collection I've found so far.  A good many of them are food-related, because I discovered them at the grocery store, where I almost died from the sticker shock of the prices as well.  First are the American words, followed by Canadian counterparts.

Bathroom/restroom = washroom.  I think I'm the only American who calls it a restroom anyway....

British spellings. The Canadians use the "ou" vs. "o," "re" vs. "er," and to pay someone, they write a cheque.  Examples: flavour, harbour, colour, neighbour, fibre, litre.

Coffee creamer = coffee whitener.  Huh.  Glad I wandered around and found it on my own instead of asking, b/c creamer is not a familiar term here!

Crunchier M&Ms = Smarties.  Gone are the chalky, fruity-tasting Smarties of America (sniff.... I liked those little guys), only to be replaced with flatter, crunchier M&Ms, as far as I can tell.

Electric (in an apartment) = hydro.  One of the most fantastically progressive things about Canada - use of hydroelectric power!

Kraft Mac'n'cheese (blue box) = Kraft Dinner.  So in the Barenaked Ladies' "If I had a million dollars, we wouldn't have to eat Kraft dinner... but we would!" they're talking about boxed mac'n'cheese.

True story.
Shopping cart = buggy.  You have to pay to get them out of their corral, too, so as to discourage theft.  Often it's either a quarter or a loonie, and you get it back after you're done using the cart.

Studio apartment = bachelor.  Because bachelors can only take care of an apartment if its confined to a single room?

Tim Horton's lingo.  There is code for ordering at a Timmy's.  2 creams/2 sugars is called a double-double, 3 is a triple-triple, and so forth.  But me, who just wants 1 cream/sugar?  This is not a single-single.  It is a regular.  And a frappuccino is called an ice cap (cute, eh?).

Zee = zed.  Still gets me every time because I expect "zed" to be with a British accent.


  1. interestingly, a shopping cart is also called a "buggy" in parts of the south, too. i had several long conversations with vandy folks about that back in the day. wonder how it skipped over most of the US and ended up in canada!

  2. That's so interesting! Were they from the super deep south or Florida? I have never heard that term before, either in Georgia or Tennessee!

  3. To be fair, a lot of the 'differences' inwords you're describing are regional. People say 'bathroom'/'washroom'/'restroom' interchangeably in different parts of the country. And I'm from the East Coast, where we say 'Shopping Cart'.

    Also, the only other language that says 'Zee' AFAIK is Portuguese. English (Brit/Canadian/Australian, etc.), French, German, etc. all say 'Zed'.

    I've noticed a lot of American weirdities as well. For instance, here in the DC area, people refer to utensils and cutlery as 'Silverware'. Why? It's not made of silver! We say 'Silverware' for silver utensils. I actually had a woman at a McDonald's tell me that the 'Plastic Silverware' was 'over there'... Weird, to me!

  4. @looniechemist and @carlo ... yes, Zed is used in many parts, I use restroom and they understand. I don't drink coffee, so I don't worry when I go to Timmy's ... but thanks for clarifying what a double-double is. I had no clue. I use shopping cart or cart and silverware and cutlery .... since I'm from all over the place I just use whatever comes to mind first. But sometimes it's funny when you say something and are met with blank stares or WTH is that? Haha. And you're using "eh" already :-). Nice.

  5. @Carlo: I know these things are regional, but it's all new to me. What really throws me off is the fact that Canadians largely sound like Americans, and then they whip out some crazy word, and I get totally confused! I expect at least some sort of non-American accent to go along with different terms (i.e. I expect Brits to say zed). I actually do use the term "silverware," and if it's the good stuff that's actually silver that is used only on Christmas, that's just "silver." My guess is that it perhaps just refers to the color?

    @28: I was taught Timmy's lingo back in November right before my defense, with the advice "it will come in handy." And I am really starting to LOVE eh. My stepdad says it all the time, so I grew up with it (he's from IL, not Canada oddly). Maybe I'll join him!

  6. The word "trash", while universally understood in Canada, is rarely used by Canadians; "garbage" is much more common.

    To continue and probably repeat the regional thing: Some of your words are more-or-less specific to Toronto or Ontario; I always get a bit confused when I visit relatives in that area because to me the word "hydro" means "something to do with water", not "electricity". Ontario's electricity is largely generated by hydroelectric dams, but there are significant contributions from natural gas, coal, oil, nuclear, and very recently some wind, as well. Out here in the west (Saskatchewan), it's "electricity" or "power", e.g. "I had to pay my power bill today". Disclaimer: My cousin is an aide to a provincial minister in Ontario, and has spent the past year or so working on the electricity (i.e. Ontario Hydro, Crown Corporation) part of the provincial budget. She can talk endlessly about the costs (generation, transmission, etc) of electricity in Ontario.

    And they're "shopping carts" everywhere I've been, though I wasn't really paying attention the last time I used one in Ontario. "Buggy" sounds very odd to my ear, too.

    The Tim Horton's thing still gets me, and I've been drinking their coffee almost every day for years. I guess it's because I always drink my coffee unpolluted (i.e. black, no sugar), but that term doesn't work anywhere.

  7. Canadians also know that when you eat your Smarties, you must eat the red ones last.

  8. These aren't really true you know.. i'm Canadian and I call a shopping cart a shopping cart, I call my electricity bill a power bill and I call it coffee creamer. And honestly I thought that everyone called macaroni and cheese KD.. I didn't know that Americans called it something different.. But I heard that in America dipping sauce isn't ketchup, it's mayonnaise or thousand island dressing? I thought that that was pretty different..

    1. Hell Yeah I'm Canadian too!!!

  9. 1 refutation can make these observations "not true"? Sure, not everyone calls everything the same thing, but a lot of these are more prevalent in Canada, or, at least, Ontario, where I live. Because Toronto goes off hydroelectric power, electric is called hydro here. Coffee whitener is what is on the package. And Kraft Dinner as Kraft Dinner is definitely not sold, nor is the term used, in the United States.

  10. My boyfriend is American, and I'm Canadian, so every once in a while a word will come up that the other has never heard before.
    Canadians also use the terms bathroom and restroom, but washroom is the most common, especially for public toilets.
    I've never heard of a shopping cart being called a buggy.
    I've noticed we pronounce a lot of words differently. I pronounce wagon as "way-gun" and he says "wag-in." Depending on the person's preferences and where they are from, words such as pecan, crayon, coupon, mayonnaise, caught, envelope, and syrup are pronounced very differently.
    A few other things I've noticed are he says "soda" while I say "pop", and for him, gym shoes are just "shoes," but for me they are "runners."

  11. I am Canadian and just started going to college in the states. My roomate can never remember what my "Canadian words" mean, so I now keep a list posted to the wall. Here is what I have so far:

    - Pencil crayon = coloured pencil
    - Cutlery = silverware
    - Barbeque = grill (both noun and verb)
    - Pop = soda
    - Washroom = bathroom
    - Chocolate bar = candy bar
    - Knapsack = backpack
    - Bill = check (at restaurant)
    - Lunch=Dinner (apparenlty a mid-west thing. I call the last meal of the day dinner, but my friends get confused because they think I am talking about lunch)
    - Brown bread = wheat bread
    - Parkade =parking garage
    - Tea = hot tea
    - Iced tea = tea
    - Runners = tennis shoes
    - Marks = grades
    - To phone = to call (as in, I am going to phone my sister today)

    My roomate also makes fun of me for the way I pronounce things, like the word "been." I say it as though it rhymes with "seen," but she says it more like "bin."

  12. It might please you to know that while Smarties are the Canadian equivalent to M&M's, we do still have the chalky candies known in America as Smarties. In Canada they're called Rockets, and are equally popular as halloween candy.

  13. All you Americans are special

  14. Canadian border patrolMarch 8, 2013 at 3:54 AM

    Yes they are!!!!!!!

  15. I had no idea that "Kraft Dinner" was exclusively Canadian. lol Great list!

    Many of these terms (at least here in Vancouver) are used interchangeably. I'm just wondering if Americans also use some Canadian vocab or do all Americans have no idea what I'm talking about when I say "ROOT" instead of "RAUT" for route or "pencil crayon"?

    By the way, I have yet to come across a Canadian who says "aboot" (Not even in the Maritimes) so I have no idea why that's such a popular "Canadian term".

  16. Well, in Minnesota you play "Duck Duck Grey-Duck" instead of "Duck Duck Goose". What a world!!

  17. I've actually never heard the term "buggy" in Canada. I've always said and heard "cart" or "shopping card". --From Toronto

  18. I recently moved to Canada (Ontario). I've definitely heard most of the Canadianisms listed above. There's also
    Grades = marks
    8th grade = grade 8
    Beanie = toque
    Zip code = postal code
    Check = cheque
    Checking account = chequing account
    Soda = pop (I haven't heard a single person call it soda here)
    Colored pencils = pencil crayons
    Shopping cart = buggy (some people call it that, but not everyone)
    Community college = college
    4 year college = university (e.g when I was in university ...)
    Freshman = first year
    Sophomore = second year

    Schedule = sedule
    Out = oat

    Canadians say eh a lot and use Celsius
    Thanksgiving happens on a Monday in October