How to write in Canadian English…

If you want to annoy a Canadian, try telling them that you picked up on their American accent. That always does the trick to me even though my accent is tempered with a good few decades of British influence.

Writing in Canadian English

Writing Canadian English is not as simple as chopping it between US and UK English half-and-half…

But it’s not just the accent that’s different. (Tip: listen for the “ou” diphthong in a word like “house” … if it sounds like ha-owse  it’s American, but if it sounds like hoose  it’s Canadian. Plus, Canadians don’t whine/drone anything like as much as some Yanks do.)

Believe it or not, written Canadian English has a personality of its own

As you would expect, it is caught between the two stools of British and American (that Noah Webster has an awful lot to answer for).

According, to Luke Mastin on lukemastin.com

…”Canadian spelling is somewhere on that ill-defined continuum between British and American practices. Also as in most matters, Canadian spelling is a little more flexible than either British or American spelling.”

“While, in general, it is closer to the British, the American variant is sometimes preferred, and often either would be considered acceptable (although the British is still usually considered “more cect”).”

“It can even be argued that there is a regional bias within Canada: in general terms, Ontario, British Columbia and Newfoundland are usually closer to the British usage, and Alberta and the Prairie provinces closer to the American.”

However there are other influences that creep in here and there

The Huffington Post was a little less polite about Canadian English than it should be, but it certainly had got a point in this article from a few years ago…

“Canadian English is an odd duck, a weird amalgam of American English and our British roots. Throw in some minor influences from First Nations languages, French and other immigrant tongues and you’ve got yourself a quirky variant.” 

“Canadian spelling keeps the ‘u’ in words like honour, colour and valour. Americans don’t. Chalk it up to being efficient and such.”

In fact, it’s thought that retaining the “u” in words like “honour,” “colour” and “valour” is because that remains closer to the French words with the same meaning (honneur, couleur, valeur).

So how do you write in Canadian?

The answer is pretty much as you please.

Just remember to throw in the odd “eh?” to emphasise your words, because that is even more Canadian than poutine, maple syrup and Polar bears…

Good luck, eh?

Suzan St Maur currently is working in southern Ontario, Canada. Please share your comments and thoughts anyway …!

 

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