Do We Talk Funny? How We Speak in Canada vs. the US & UK

Canadian flag superimposed on map of Canada

To round out the week of fluff posts, I have a non-list post for you. I read a lot of blogs written by Americans, Brits, and assorted other folks from around the world. We don’t all write (or talk) the same way. These kinds of things interest me, so I thought I’d do a post about how we speak in Canada compared to how people speak in the US and US.

Much of the info in this post comes from Wikipedia.


Canadians do the cot-caught merger, i.e. we pronounce both words the same way. We also pronounce horse and hoarse the same way. The “Canadian shift” is a lowering of the position of the tongue in how we say certain vowel sounds, as in the words trap, dress, and kit.

We also do “Canadian raising,” which Wikipedia says “changes the pronunciation of diphthongs with open-vowel starting points.” I don’t actually know what that means, but this audio includes “about” (with Canadian raising), “a boot” (how Americans think Canadians say about) and “a boat” (which is presumably closer to how Americans say about).


Perhaps because we have French-speaking areas, it seems like we’re more likely than Americans to pronounce French-derived words similar to their original French pronunciation. For example, I think most people here would say niche as neesh rather than nitch. However, we say the word lieutenant with the weird British pronunciation leff-tenant.

I learned recently from my friend Bill at Higher Times Mental Health that Americans tend to pronounce the surname Gagner phonetically (how ugly!), whereas we would say it the French way, gahn-YAY (I don’t actually know how to properly write words phonetically, so I’m really pulling that spelling out of my ass).

That brings me to another name that Americans pronounce strangely. Brett Favre used to be the quarterback of the Green Bay Packers (an American football team). Everyone pronounced his name Farve (reversing the v and the r). The French pronunciation would be FAHV-ruh, with my”ruh” meant to represent the French rolled r sound. I suppose at least farve is closer to that than FAH-vuhr, FAY-vuhr, or some other such form of mangling.


We use a hybrid of British and American spellings. Since the internet came along, a lot of the writing I’m exposed to is American, so sometimes I don’t feel confident as to the preferred Canadian spelling for a given word.

For French-derived word endings, we use the British -our and -re instead of the American. We also go with the Brits by usually doubling consonants when adding a suffix, as in journalled or counsellor rather than journaled or counselor (funny, my browser spell-checker thinks I should write journaled but counsellor). On the other hand, we use American -ize endings instead of British -ise (e.g. realize rather than realise).


We use metric, except when we don’t. We talk about temperate outside in Celsius, but oven temperature in Fahrenheit. Distance is in kilometres (although people older than my parents probably still think in terms of miles), but a person’s height and weight are in feet/inches and pounds. I buy a 4-litre jug of milk, but in my printer, I use 8.5″x11″ paper.

I’m not sure if other Canadians are as confused as I am, but it seems like it’s hard to know for sure what a numerically written date means. The Government of Canada recommends YYYY-MM-DD, but DD/MM/YY and MM/DD/YY also get used. If I saw the date 01/07/08, I would have no idea what it was referring to.


There are some words that we’ve either made up or that we use more often than in other countries. Some of these I didn’t even realize were Canadianisms.

Some examples:

  • bachelor apartment: also known as a studio apartment in the US (and I don’t know what it’s called in the UK), this is an apartment that doesn’t have a bedroom separate from the main living area
  • chesterfield: this is originally British, but apparently it’s mostly used in Canada now, although the only person I’ve ever heard talk about chesterfields is my grandma
  • eavestrough: rain gutter
  • fire hall: the place where the firefighters work from
  • garburator: also known as a garbage disposal in the US, and I don’t think they exist in the UK, these are attached under the sink and grind up food scraps
  • ginch/gonch/gitch/gotch (all pronounced with a hard g): male underwear; the preferred term of choice varies regionally
  • housecoat: also known as a bathrobe; to me, housecoat sounds more old-fashioned, and I wouldn’t think of a terry-cloth robe as a housecoat
  • parkade: a structure in which people can park cars
  • pop: soda in the US, fizzy drink in the UK
  • pencil crayon: coloured pencil
  • riding: an electoral district
  • stagette: a bachelorette party (US) or hen (UK); the male equivalent would be a stag
  • toque: a winter hat, usually with a pop-pom; Americans would probably call this a beanie, but I don’t think it’s the same shape
  • washroom: I think we use washroom the way Americans use restroom. This may also go by public toilet or public lavatory. I might use the term washroom if I was visiting someone’s house and needed to ask where the toilet was, but I would use bathroom to refer to the toilet room in my own home.

Apologizing for everything

We also say sorry a lot, but it’s a politeness thing rather than an actual apology. If you bumped into me, I would say “sorry.” If I bumped into a table, “sorry” would come flying out of my mouth despite that fact that there’s no reason to apologize to a table. I would also so sorry if someone else made a mistake. For example, if a barista handed me my coffee order and I realized it was the wrong drink, I would say “sorry, but I actually ordered _____”.


Then there’s hockey-speak, like drop the gloves (get ready to fight), deke (fake an opponent out and then dodge around them), and stickhandle (skillfully manoeuvre).


  • Cheezies: cheese puff snack things that are so, so different from Cheetos (and so much better)
  • Double-double: a coffee order at Tim Hortons meaning 2 cream, 2 sugar; my hometown didn’t have a Timmies, so I didn’t learn what this meant until I was an adult
  • Freezie: a stick of frozen water, sugar, usually fruity flavour, and food colouring – when I was a kid, the nearby corner store always had scissors on hand to cut upon kids’ Freezies for them (blue freezie for me, please and thank you)
  • Kraft Dinner (KD): mac and cheese that comes in a box with dried macaroni and orange fake cheese powder, also known as Kraft Macaroni & Cheese in the US

Whether you are or aren’t Canadian, were you familiar with any of these? Any fun quicks of your local lingo you’d like to add?

87 thoughts on “Do We Talk Funny? How We Speak in Canada vs. the US & UK”

  1. In some parts of the US South, we think sweet tea is the default for iced tea; elsewhere it’s often available as an option. But to us it makes sense to sweeten your own and let us non-sweeteners drink, too

    Our state borders Canada so that we have some similarities in pronunciation. We recognize similar accents in northern Minnesota , North Dakota and Manitoba and western Ontario.

    We say pop here. Hockey is part of our dominant culture. And we grew up loving Bob & Doug. We said hoser a lot. In fact our high school touch football team had everyone’s jersey name as Hoser.

    1. Hoser is such a great word!

      I’d be down with sweeten-your-own if there’s liquid sugar to sweeten with, but trying to pour sugar packets into a cold drink produces rather yucky results.

  2. This was great! The measurement section, tho…
    How does your brain not explode 🤯
    I’m American, but I’ve heard a lot of these while traveling or reading. The Canadian garbage disposal is a new one. I love it! Totally using that from now on.

    1. The switch to metric was pushed by the government in the ’70s, but my parents’ generation grew up purely using the Imperial system. It seems like the switch to metric was most successful with the kinds of things taught in schools or regulated by governments.

  3. I enjoyed this post. I think the differences in English among the three countries is very interesting. I’m in the US. My fiance was born in the next state over, only one hour from me, and we jokingly argue over pronunciations. I insist that for carrot, it’s CARE-it, not CEH-rit! I’m terrible with slang from all global and local places. One thing I never get is that I feel like non-Americans look down on Americans who don’t know other languages. But not everyone travels or comes into contact with visitors or immigrants. For the ordinary person who just wakes up, has their coffee, and goes to work, there’s no real practical reason or time to learn languages you have no one to speak with. But for English, lots of reading (or television for those who prefer lol) exposes you to the many differences.

    1. I wonder if part of the issue with Americans not knowing other languages come down to the perception that Americans expect to be able to get by on English alone when they travel internationally. It’s a stereotype that’s obviously not broadly true, but I’ve certainly come across people who fit that stereotype when I’ve travelled.

  4. It can be funny at work. There are people in London from all over the world, and although they have learnt English – what comes out is sometimes a little funny. But we try not to discourage anyone. It is a big challenge to learn a language fluently.

    My flatmate came out with a few corkers though. She stood up one day and told a group of us that she was going to go and brush her teets. She found it hard to say the word “chaos” and she would often tell people that her work or the traffic was “cows”.

  5. I thought Canadian language was more similar to British. This was very interesting. I will say that where I live in the US, we say pop and not soda. I think it is more the states that aren’t close to the Canadian border that say soda. If you ever visit Minnesota you will see the word “pop” as the word to advertise it

  6. I’m visiting from Melanie’s blog. Interesting post. 🙂 I grew up in a bilingual Canadian household (my mother was from the UK and I spent a lot of time there) and had a strong ear for pronunciation differences in both languages. I use metric for all measurements, not just some. I just got a new stove and changed it over to Celsius first thing. I get somewhat annoyed by the loss of some Canadianisms; the use of “vacation” instead of “holiday” or “rest room” instead of toilet or bathroom. I’ve noticed now a tendency for Canadian students to say 8th grade, for instance, instead of grade 8. I won’t get into Québécoise. 😉

  7. I had no idea we said trap, dress and kit differently. It can’t be! I stubbornly add u to colour, neighbour, etc. and spellcheck underlines everything! thanks for posting this!

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