Monthly Archives: August 2013

O, Canada, Part 2

I recently made a trip to New York City with three Canadian friends who were eager to experience the delights of the Big Apple for the first time. 

Travelling in the United States as part of a Canadian contingent, I was once again reminded that the two countries have some similarities, but also many differences, some of which are reflected in their terminology. 

Some of these differences are due to their relationships with Britain, the nation that gave birth to both countries: the Americans were the rebellious children, rejecting their parents’ authority and determined to forge a new path for themselves, while the Canadians were the good children, following the lead of their parents in creating a governance style and institutions.

This divergence is reflected in the language, with many Canadian terms and spellings (e.g., humour vs. humor) often hewing more closely to those used in Britain. Yet, don’t make the mistake of thinking Canada – or its language – is a mere clone of either its mother country or its sibling to the south.

Money is the one indication that we’re no longer in Canada. Not only are we spending greenbacks (U.S. dollars, so named for their green colour) rather than using Canada’s coloured currency, but we must pull dollar bills out of our wallets, rather than loonies or toonies. 

Loonies? No, that doesn’t make me a candidate for the loony bin, aka the insane asylum. Canada has phased out its one- and two-dollar bills, introducing coins instead. The golden one-dollar coin bears the likeness of a loon, one of the birds with distinctive calls found on Canadian lakes, hence the affectionate, ubiquitous name, the loonie. 

Its success prompted the creation of a two-dollar coin. With typical Canadian wit – many popular comedians hail from the provinces –it was dubbed the toonie. Two dollars, brother to the loonie … perfect!

It’s enough to drive a non-Canadian to drink – but that, too, can be fraught with difficulties! You might be offered a sip from a mickey, a small bottle or flask of alcohol that contains about 375 milliliters, or offered a Bloody Caesar. It’s similar to a Bloody Mary, but it uses tomato-clam juice, rather than straight tomato juice. And if it’s coffee you crave, the drink of choice north of the border is often a double double: coffee with double cream and double sugar.

Different, eh?

 

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