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10 Canadian Slang Terms Explained

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It’s often said that Great Britain and the United States are two countries separated by a common language. The same applies to the United States and Canada, especially when it comes to slang. While Canadians are typically chided aboot their accents and for saying “eh?”, Canadian slang is largely unheard of south of the border. So, dear Americans, here are a few of the most common slang words that will have you speaking Canuck in no time.

1. POGEY (PRONOUNCED: POE-GHEE)

The term is found mainly in the Maritime provinces of Atlantic Canada and in parts of Ontario, and is used to describe unemployment insurance or social assistance. The origin of pogey in Canadian usage is somewhat unclear, although some have suggested it was a general North American term in the late 19th century meaning workhouse or poorhouse.

Usage: “I’m taking the winter off and going on pogey!”

2. TOQUE/TUQUE (PRONOUNCED: TOUK)

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A wool knit cap commonly worn in winter. The Canadian sense of the word originated in the late 1800s during the French fur trade with indigenous people in Quebec and parts of western Canada. But today, toque is commonly used throughout the country. Note that a toque in Canada is not be confused with that tall white chef’s hat, which is called a toque blanche.

Usage: “It's really cold out there! Don’t forget to wear your toque!”

3. LOONIE/TWOONIE

The loonie is the gold-colored one-dollar coin that features a loon on one side and Queen Elizabeth II on the other. It was introduced in 1987 and replaced the one-dollar bill, which is no longer in circulation. The two-dollar coin came into circulation in 1996, and usually features a polar bear on the side not bearing the likeness of the Queen. It was named a twoonie after the loonie—because if something works, why not just go with it?

Usage: “Do you have change for a twoonie?”

“Sorry, I only have a loonie on me.”

4. GIVE’R OR GIV’N’ER (PRONOUNCED: GIV-EN-ER)

To give it all you’ve got, to go above and beyond what was expected, or to go really, really fast. The word seems to be found in central and western regions of Canada such as Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and Alberta. The term was also popularized in the 2002 move Fubar, which was set in Alberta:

Farrel Mitchener: “Can you maybe explain given’r? What exactly does that mean?”
Dean Murdoch: “Give’r. You just go out and you give’r. You keep working hard.”

5. DOUBLE-DOUBLE

If you ever get a caffeine fix north of the border and find yourself in line at “Timmies” (slang for popular coffee chain Tim Horton’s), don’t be surprised if you hear someone order a double-double (or even a triple-triple). Not to be confused with a burger from the California chain In-N-Out Burger, a double-double is Canadian slang for coffee with two creams and two teaspoons of sugar. In fact, it’s so common people often order double-doubles at non-Timmies cafes as well.

6. STAGETTE

This term is largely used in Manitoba and parts of Ontario, as well as elsewhere in the country, to describe what Americans call a bachelorette party. The term “stag night” (for bachelor party) originated in the U.K., with “hen night” used to describe the party for the bride and her friends. Apparently, Canadians avoided the term "hen" and preferred to add the “ette” on the end of “stag” to give it a slightly French feel.

7. BOOTER

A “booter” is when you step into a puddle or snow bank deep enough that the water flows into your boot (or shoe). Canadians are well-versed in this term (often found in western parts of the country), which is especially used during a heavy snowfall or a slow spring melt. The cold water creeping into your boots from the top and submerging your socks is an uncomfortable memory that can haunt a person for years.

Usage: “Hey watch out for that giant puddle, I just got a booter!”

8. GRAD

Grad is akin to the Canadian version of “prom,” but with fewer formalities involved. Some high schools may have a “grad week” complete with activities, but the actual grad involves the cap and gown ceremony in the morning followed by a formal dinner and dance. Unlike prom, there is usually no “Grad King or Queen” crowned at the end of the night.

9. MAY TWO-FOUR

May two-four is Canadian slang for Victoria Day, the Monday of a long weekend honoring Queen Victoria’s birthday on May 24. The use of May two-four rather than saying the twenty-fourth is an inside joke referring to what Canadians call a flat, or 24 bottles of beer. The May long weekend signals the first signs of summer, which Canadians get very excited about. They often head to a cottage or cabin armed with a two-four of beer, as well as an arsenal of mosquito spray and mouse traps.

10. MICKEY/TEXAS MICKEY

Similar to a two-four, Canadians have their own way to describe certain sizes of hard alcohol. A mickey refers to a 375ml (we’re metric, remember) bottle of alcohol, such as rum, vodka, or Canadian rye whiskey. Despite the name, a Texas mickey is 100 percent Canadian. It’s an oversized 3 liter bottle of alcohol commonly found at university house parties (similar to college frat parties in the U.S.) and comes with a pump you attach at the top. Once finished, the Texas mickey bottle is often put on display, so all your house-mates can admire the cause of your liver damage.

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Food
A Brief History of Poutine
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Walk down a street after a hard night of drinking in Montréal and you’d be hard-pressed not seeing someone gorging themselves on poutine, a high-calorie classic staple of Québécois casse-croûtes—or “greasy spoon”—cuisine.

Just what is poutine, you ask? The delicious Canadian dish is comprised of a holy-hoser trinity of ingredients: French fries, cheese curds, and gravy. Try some yourself and you’ll be hooked. It’s become so popular that it’s readily available at certain restaurants in the U.S. (Lucky New Yorkers can get their hands on some traditional poutine at Brooklyn restaurant Mile End.) Otherwise, the dish has become so ubiquitous in its home province that even McDonald’s and Burger King sell it as a side.

Much like the debate in the U.S. about the origins of the hamburger, poutine has similarly unclear beginnings. The most widespread claim for inventing poutine comes from the small dairy-farming town of Warwick, Québec, where, in 1957, a customer asked restaurateur Fernand Lachance to throw cheese curds and French fries—items the owner sold separately at his restaurant L’Idéal (later renamed Le lutin qui rit, or “The Laughing Elf”)—together in one bag because the customer was in a rush. Legend has it when Lachance peered into the bag after the two ingredients were mixed together, he remarked, “This is a ‘poutine,’” using the joual—or Québécois slang—for a "mess.”

Noticeably absent from Lachance’s cobbled-together recipe is the gravy ingredient, which was added to the mix in 1964 when a restaurant-owner in nearby Drummondville, Quebec named Jean-Paul Roy noticed a few of his diners ordering a side of cheese curds to add to the patented gravy sauce and fries dish at his restaurant, Le Roy Jucep. Roy soon added the three-ingredient item on his menu and the rest is delicious, gravy-soaked history.

Eventually, poutine spread across the province and throughout Canada—with different combinations added to the fries, curds, and gravy recipe—but the original remains the most recognized and honored. It even initially made its way to the United States by way of New Jersey, where an altered recipe known as “Disco Fries” substitutes shredded cheddar or mozzarella cheese for the Canadian curds.

But if you ever find yourself in Montréal and have a hankering for greasy food, be sure to order it correctly. Anglophones usually pronounce the word as “poo-teen,” but if you want to pass for a real Québécois, it’s pronounced “poo-tin.”  

This story originally ran in 2013.

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15 Colorful Canadian Slang Terms
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Americans looking to take a trip across their country's northern border might find themselves bewildered by some Canadian turns of phrase. It is, after all, a place where people go out for a rip to the beer store and plunk down their loonies to pick up a two-four. Pretty confusing, eh? But fear not. For all you keeners who want to learn how to speak like a Canuck, here’s a handy chart to help you master Canadian slang, courtesy of Expedia.ca.

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