Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain
Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

11 of Canada’s Weirdest Demonyms

Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain
Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

A demonym—the word for a resident of a particular place—can tell you a story. Sometimes it's the story of an historic event, and sometimes it's a sign of what the locals find important. Sometimes it's even a clue that can help you detect linguistic ghosts, such as in the case of Shropshire, England, whose residents are called Salopians, a relic from the days before 1980 when the area was the County of Salop, in one form or another a name dating back to the Normans.

As in the U.S., most of Canada’s demonyms sport the usual -ian, -er, or -ite suffixes, but in such a huge country, there are a few surprises to be found—some official ones, and some just colloquial. Here’s a guide to some of the more unusual names for residents across the Great White North.

1. BLUENOSE

The famous racing ship Bluenose brought its home province of Nova Scotia great pride in the 1920s and 1930s and quickly became a symbol of Canada, so much that its image appears on the Canadian dime today. This nickname is commonly used as an alternative to “Nova Scotian,” and it’s sometimes written that the moniker hails from the revered ship. But actually, the reverse is true—the nickname came before the ship. It actually dates back to at least the 18th century, when Reverend Jacob Bailey, an Annapolis Loyalist, wrote derisively about Nova Scotians on at least two occasions, once calling them “blue noses, to use a vulgar appellation.” Guess they had to get the name for the ship from somewhere.

2. HERRING-CHOKER

A Herring-choker can be a resident of any of the three Maritime Provinces of New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island, but especially New Brunswick. The name refers to Scandinavian settlers who fished for herring and used them as a staple in their diets; the choking bit has to do with removing the fish from the net by their gills, or alternatively simply eating vast quantities of herring. (Herring-choker has also been used as a nickname for folks hailing from County Galway, Ireland.)

3. COASTIE

Although Canada has several coasts, it’s only the people who live on the west one who bear this nickname, specifically ones in Vancouver or the Lower Mainland region that surrounds it, and especially the fashionable city-slicker types.

4. HALIGONIAN

Nova Scotia’s capital city, Halifax, was named after the 2nd Earl of Halifax in 1749, and not the English city of the same name, as one might assume. That said, the Canadian and English cities do share a demonym, Haligonian, and some sources claim that the origin of the unusual term is related to the same reason we call people from Manchester Mancunian: a fashion in the 1900s for deriving demonyms from the Latin translations of English cities’ names. (Some people attribute this practice to the ancient Roman presence in Britain, but they skipped town in 410 A.D., long before this trend became fashionable—and before many of these cities even existed.)

However, in the case of Halifax’s demonym, the Latin involves a misunderstood etymology. Haligonian is based on the term halig faex, meaning “holy hair,” so the 16th-century creators of the term took halig, slapped a Latin suffix on it, and called it a day. It’s now believed that the name Halifax instead comes from halh (“secluded spot) and feax (“rough grass”). That means Haligonian was just a big mistake—one that managed to travel all the way to North America.

5. SOURDOUGH

A Sourdough is a resident of Yukon Territory, but not just any Yukoner: This term is reserved specifically for an old-timer. The nickname dates back to the Klondike Gold Rush in the late 19th century and alludes to the prospectors and pioneers and their reliance upon sourdough bread. The term was popularized by Robert Service’s book of 1907 Yukon-themed poetry, Songs of a Sourdough. A tongue-in-cheek explanation from the 1960s describes a sourdough as a person who is “sour on the country but doesn’t have enough dough to leave.” Conversely, the opposite of a Sourdough is a CheechakoChinook jargon for “newcomer”—which Service used in yet another book title, Ballads of a Cheechako. (Both words are used across the territory’s western border, in Alaska, as well.) It’s said that one transcends one’s Cheechako status by witnessing both the freezing of the rivers and their subsequent thawing in the spring—twice.

6. TRIFLUVIEN

The residents of Trois-Rivières (a.k.a. “Three Rivers”), Quebec are elegantly called Trifluviens, which is Latin, a somewhat unusual language for that part of the world. (But they do add a bit of French flair on at the end when talking about a female inhabitant, who’s called a Trifluvienne.) No explanation for this linguistic mishmash has apparently been offered, but when you consider some of the possible French demonyms they could have cooked up—Trois-Rivièrain? Trois-Rivièrasque?—it seems like they may have made the right call.

7. SOOITE/SAULTITE

A Sooite (more formally spelled Saultite) is from Sault Ste. Marie, and the word applies to the people who live in both the portion of the city on the Michigan side of the Saint Marys River as well as the Ontario side. The name comes from the French pronunciation of the name: “Soo Sainte” (with a breathy, barely-there t) “Marie.” In colonial Middle French, which was the language that was spoken when the region was settled in the 17th century, the now-archaic word sault was used to refer to rapids, which were found in the local river. (Although the word literally meant leap; you might also recognize it from the English word somersault.) Today, the same word survives in modern French as saut, retaining the meaning “to jump,” as rapids or waterfalls might, but you can still spot its ancestor sault in plenty of place names throughout Eastern Canada.

8. SPUD ISLANDER

A Spud Islander is another name for a person who lives on Prince Edward Island, which is not-coincidentally the home of the Canadian Potato Museum, seeing as PEI is Canada’s most prodigiously potato-producing province (despite it being the country’s smallest province by land). PEI’s culture is so saturated in spuds that it’s often called “the Idaho of Canada.” Or, depending on how you want to look at it, is Idaho actually the Prince Edward Island of the United States? PEI has definitely had its current name longer than Idaho’s been called Idaho, by about 60 years, but the jury’s out on who’s been growing taters the longest.

9. STAMPEDER

The nickname for a resident of Calgary, Alberta is a Stampeder, in a nod to the city’s yearly rodeo and western fest, the Calgary Stampede. Mind you, the official demonym is Calgarianbut the folks who live there don’t seem to be too fond of the word, and seemingly prefer even Cowtowner (per Cowtown, another rodeo-referencing nickname for the city) to the term that’s on the books. Calgary, Alberta was christened after Calgary Bay and its corresponding hamlet on the Isle of Mull in Scotland—and not the flyspeck of a town in Texas—and all three cities share a demonym. Well, officially, anyhow.

10. BYTOWNER

Starting a little over a year after its founding in 1826 and lasting until it was became the city of Ottawa in 1855, Canada’s capital city was known as Bytown, named for British canal-building engineer Lieutenant-Colonel John By. This was reportedly a dinner party joke when it started, but the name stuck—and still endures. Ottawans still call each other Bytowners, and the city is home to the Bytown Museum and the ByTowne Cinema.

11. NDG-ER

To be fair, Notre-Dame-de-Grâce is a neighborhood of Montreal, not its own separate city, but that didn’t happen until 1910, when the town got absorbed by the metropolis. And its status as a neighborhood didn’t stop people from needing a word to refer to people who live there. One can imagine, though, that they had their work cut out for them, trying to construct a snappy adjective from a city that has four words in its name. Eventually, some very practical person came up with the obvious solution—that less is more—and today, the district’s residents are tidily called NDG-ers. (Some locals have proudly claimed that the NDG stands for “no damn good,” while other residents say it’s short for “Notre-Dump-de-Garbage,” but it should be said that both of these seem to be styled affectionately.)

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15 Products You Can (Usually) Only Buy in Canada
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Canada is widely known for its hockey, maple syrup, and brutally cold winters. But you can bet your back bacon that Canadians also enjoy some special products only available in the Great White North, many of which are completely unknown to its neighbors to the south, at least outside of specialist importers. Here’s a salute to some of the items that are usually only available on Canadian soil.

1. CANADIAN MILK CHOCOLATE

Crispy Crunch, Smarties (the Canadian kind), Aero, Wunderbar, Caramilk—while the names and textures of these candy bars may differ, they all contain the same unique “Canadian” chocolate taste. Apparently, there is a Canadian preference for a sweeter, creamier milk chocolate, as opposed to the gritty, bitter taste of American chocolate. In 2013, The Hershey Company changed its formula to develop a milkier, creamier chocolate “that is unique to Canadian chocolate.” Even Canadian versions of popular American chocolate bars, such as Kit Kat and Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, taste completely different, as documented in a 2009 Food Network survey.

2. KRAFT DINNER (NOT TO BE CONFUSED WITH KRAFT MACARONI AND CHEESE)


Kraft Dinner, or “KD” as it’s affectionately (and now formally) known in Canada, is the country’s unofficial official food. It been reported that Canadians consume 1.7 million boxes of the neon-colored pasta tubes a week, out of the 7 million sold globally. Yes, you can get similar pasta-and-powdered cheese concoctions in the United States, but you can’t find the “KD” packaging anywhere in the U.S., and there tend to be more varieties of the pasta in Canada as well.

3. BUTTER TARTS

These yummy desserts—pastry tart shells filled with maple or corn syrup, sugar, butter, and raisins—are a distinctly Canadian treat. Some articles have traced their origins to pioneer cookbooks published in the early 1900s. However, a 2007 Toronto Star article suggests they date back to the mid-1600s and the arrival of the filles de marier, or imported brides, from France. Regardless, these desserts are a seasonal staple at the Canadian Christmas snack table. And while some small American bakeries might offer butter tarts, in Canada processed, pre-packaged versions are found at most convenience stores around the country.

4. MILK BY THE BAG


Kevin Qiu, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

Yes, that’s really a thing. You may think milk in a bag defies the laws of physics come pouring time, but the bags are smartly placed in a pitcher container and the corner is snipped off at an angle for easy pouring. Bags of milk are still popular in Ontario, Quebec, and Eastern Canada, but have been phased out in other parts of the country. Some American states have flirted with the idea of bringing bagged milk to the masses, but the practice doesn’t look like it’s catching on.

5. MOUNTAIN EQUIPMENT CO-OP


m01229, Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0

Similar to the U.S.-based REI, Mountain Equipment Co-op was founded in 1971 by four mountaineering friends who wanted to offer Canadians a low-cost way to purchase outdoor equipment without having to go to the States. Today, MEC still runs as a co-op, offering memberships for $5 (you need one to purchase anything at the store). It’s found in 18 cities across the country and boasts 4.5 million members from Canada and around the world.

6. HICKORY STICKS

Picture julienned, thick-cut potato chips with a tangy, smoky flavoring and you have Hickory Sticks. They're also one of the few remaining products under the Hostess name in Canada, as Hostess was bought out by Lays in the 1990s (the Canadian potato chip brand is completely unrelated to the Twinkie hawker). These products have survived the test of time … as has the decidedly unglamorous brown packaging.

7. SWISS CHALET

Mention the words “Quarter Chicken Dinner” to any Canuck and the words “Swiss Chalet” will immediately come to mind. The restaurant is known for chicken, ribs, and one-of-a-kind dipping sauce. Bonus point for anyone who remembers the cheesy Swiss Chalet TV commercials of the 1980s with iconic images of those juicy succulent chickens rotating on skewers.

8. CAESARS

Americans may have their Bloody Marys, but the Canadian hangover cure (and cause) has always been found in a Caesar. Similar to a Bloody Mary, the recipe typically calls for 1-2 ounces of vodka, two dashes of hot sauce (Tabasco is commonly used), four dashes of Worcestershire sauce, and 4 to 6 ounces of Clamato juice. Don’t forget the celery salt and pepper on the rim! The crowning glory are the stalks of celery, olives, limes, and other greenery that may accompany it. Serve over ice and enjoy.

9. RED RIVER CEREAL

Who would have thought that a blend of wheat, rye, and flaxseed mixed with boiling water would be such a hit? Named after the iconic Red River that flows north into Winnipeg from the U.S., the hot cereal has been a staple in many homes since 1924. Red River Cereal was once imported into the U.S. by Smuckers foods of Canada, but it appears to have been discontinued.

10. MCCAIN DEEP N’ DELICIOUS CAKE

McCain Deep n’ Delicious cakes are a fixture in Canadian freezers around the country. The moist cake is available in vanilla, marble, chocolate, and other flavors, topped with a sweet icing. The treat comes in a metallic aluminum foil tray with a resealable plastic dome lid that is often superfluous, as the cake is usually eaten entirely in one sitting. Pass the fork, please!

11. PRESIDENT’S CHOICE PRODUCTS 


What started out as a desire to make top-quality generic-brand products in the 1980s has since grown into a best-selling national empire. The President’s Choice line was spearheaded by the late Dave Nichol for the Loblaw chain of stores in 1984 as way to bring a “higher end” generic brand of products to consumers. Some of the first items included PC Beer and The Decadent Chocolate Chip Cookie, which hit the shelves in 1988 and is still one of its top-selling products today. While the company did expand to selling some of its products in select grocery stores around the U.S., the PC brand has largely been phased out of the United States, save for a few stores in the Chicago area.

12. LAURA SECORD CHOCOLATES

Take the name of a Canadian war hero and mix in some cocoa, sugar, and butter, and you have a recipe for national chocolate-making success. Laura Secord was an American-born pioneer woman in what was then Upper Canada (the forerunner of Ontario), who successfully warned the Canadian and British forces of an impending Yankee attack during the War of 1812. To the delight of many sweet-toothed Canadians, her legacy did not stop there. In 1913, Frank P. O’Connor opened the first Laura Secord candy shop on Toronto’s Yonge Street. Today, over 100 stores are found across Canada—boasting more than 400 products, including the marshmallow Santa Claus, a seasonal favorite stocking-stuffer. The chain does deliver to the U.S., but there are no locations south of the border.

13. DUNK-A-ROOS 

The Betty Crocker kangaroo-shaped cinnamon-flavored graham cookies dunked in sweet, sweet icing are still sold in grocery stories in Canada despite being discontinued in the United States. Americans will either need to cross the border to pick them up, pay at least five times the retail price for the product on sites like Amazon, or come up with their own homemade remedy for their sugar craving.

14. HAWKINS CHEEZIES

The original Canadian Cheezie was actually created in Chicago after the Second World War by James Marker and W.T. Hawkins. According to the product’s website, the duo perfected their recipe by extracting cornmeal into finger-like shapes, frying them in shortening, and then dusting them with aged cheddar cheese. The plant moved to Ontario, Canada, in the 1950s and the product has remained north of the 49th parallel ever since. Some have said the snack is similar to a Cheetos Crunchy, but others claim there is only one Cheezies.

15. LE CHÂTEAU

Long before U.S. chains such as H&M and Forever 21 graced the storefronts of Canadian malls, Le Château was the go-to store for affordable, Euro-chic clothing and accessories. The Canadian clothier first got its start in 1959 as a family-run store in downtown Montréal. Today there are more than 200 retail locations across Canada. In the late ‘80s, Le Château opened more than 20 stores in the U.S., but closed them about a decade later after reporting significant losses in those markets. The company boasts a small international presence in countries such as Dubai and Saudi Arabia, but the name recognition of Le Château in Canada is as Canadian as poutine. (Le Château founder Herschel Segal is also co-founder of another Canadian business, David’s Tea, but that one is now widely found in certain parts of the U.S.)

This article originally ran in 2016.

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Happy Canada Day! What Exactly Is Canada Day?
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Happy Canada Day! On July 1, 1867, the nation was officially born when the Constitution Act joined three provinces into one country: Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and the Canada province, which then split into Ontario and Quebec. However, Canada was not completely independent of England until 1982. The holiday called Dominion Day was officially established in 1879, but it wasn't observed by many Canadians, who considered themselves to be British citizens. Dominion Day started to catch on when the 50th anniversary of the confederation rolled around in 1917. In 1946, a bill was put forth to rename Dominion Day, but arguments in the House of Commons over what to call the holiday stalled the bill.

The 100th anniversary in 1967 saw the growth of the spirit of Canadian patriotism and Dominion Day celebrations really began to take off. Although quite a few Canadians already called the holiday Canada Day (Fête du Canada), the new name wasn't formally adopted until October of 1982.

HOW TO CELEBRATE?

There are many ways to celebrate Canada Day. First: What's a patriotic celebration without a parade? There will be parades held in cities, towns, and villages all over Canada today. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police have an established group called the RCMP Musical Ride. These 32 officers, who are rotated after three years' service, perform equestrian drills for the public throughout Canada.

Other Canada Day traditions that are gaining footholds are picnics, festivals, sporting events, and fireworks.

Many Canada Day events are planned all over the country, including Vancouver, Ottawa, Calgary, Toronto, Montreal, and Victoria.

The lyrics to "O Canada" can be found here. Hear the French version as well.

Portions of this article originally appeared in 2010.

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