What are you saying?


Canadians and Americans are similar in some ways but very different in others It isn’t until you travel somewhere or speak to someone from another province or country you notice that while we all speak English, not all words are used the same way.

As a Canadian author with an American publisher and American editors, this cultural language difference has cropped up more than a few times. I’ll admit that one of my favourite parts of getting “edits” back on a manuscript is reading the comment bubbles from my editors. Aside from the typical “u” and the “re/er” changes, I’ve been questioned on words like

Hydro Bill:  “Do you mean water or power because we just call it all, electric?”  

And Runners: “I think you mean tennis shoes or sneakers (?), please revise.”

I wrote a series of books set in a small town outside of Algonquin Park and then countered my editor with the reasoning that since the books are written in Canada, I’m using a Canadian dialect and should get to keep all my “u”‘s.(Even if you don’t hear them). Thankfully, I have awesome publishers that agreed it was fair but that didn’t stop them from teasing me in the comment bubbles.


Out of curiosity I started looking for the differences and found a list in one of my husband’s books,  Uncle John’s Bathroom Reader – Perpetually Pleasing edition.  (You can laugh but they’re a great resource when looking for obscure facts.)

This is a few examples from their list:

Canada:                                                      USA:

Elastics                                                       Rubber Band

Chocolate Bar                                           Candy Bar

Rippers, Peelers, or The Ballet                Strippers

Tap                                                            Faucet

ABM                                                           ATM

(Automated Banking Machine)                (Automated Teller Machine)

Pencil Crayon                                             Coloured Pencil

Now there was a couple I didn’t entirely agree with…

Bunny Hug                                                 Hoodie

This must be a Canadian regional thing, because I’m sure I’ve heard the term Bunny Hug (out east or west, maybe) but I’ve always called them Hoodies.

BFI Bin                                                       Dumpster

I’ve used Dumpster all my life and had to google BFI Bin to see what that actually referred to. Do any of you use BFI Bin when referring to the …dumpster?


They have a serious case of candy confusion…Did you know that In the US they call their “Rockets”, Smarties?

Smarties, the chocolate filled/candy coated favourite is totally a Canadian thing. Who knew?

Are there any similar examples you’ve noticed in your travels? Have you ever noticed a different in East Coast and West Coast terminology or expressions you’ve heard in another country that you weren’t quite sure what they were talking about?

7 thoughts on “What are you saying?

  1. there are a number of words we get teased on;
    About, they never use this
    Eh they use what instead
    chesterfield vs sofa
    Pop vs soda
    Freshy is vs koolaid
    Whiskey vs rye
    Scotch vs bourbon
    Abatoire vs butcher, we use butch too but that is when the meat is already in the store.

  2. Candy bar is the worst, I don’t understand why they call chocolate candy! On a more serious note, it is kind of painful how our overexposure to the American spelling of words, especially through autocorrect and spellcheck, is causing people to use the wrong one. I was talking to my dad recently, who works for a school board in Ontario, and he was saying that some of their daycare centres’ signs spell it ‘center,’ which is pretty brutal at a school! He also said sometimes when he goes into classrooms to fix things or check on things, there will be signs that say ‘Learning Center’, and he fixes them! And there will be words like honour missing the U up on the walls, among others. Pretty bad when teachers don’t even use the right version anymore! I think there should be a unit in school when kids are young devoted to Canadian/English spelling vs. American spelling so kids know the difference from an early age.

    • I completely agree! Personally, I’d like to see a Canadian MSWord because I’m really tired of all those little squiggly red lines under words I’ve spelled the Canadian way.

  3. I hadn’t heard the term “bunny hug” until a couple of years ago, and it was in this very same context… and I’ve never heard anyone say it to describe an article of clothing, but from what I understand it’s a Saskatchewan thing! I think, given that our country is so vast, and diverse there are bound to be some regional difference… I mean Newfoundland has a dialect of it’s own that most mainlanders don’t understand. Everything from “Whadda y’at?” to “Stay where you’re to ‘til I comes where you’re at.”

  4. Interesting !, I think no matter how close countries are, each country has its own ‘Verbal Codes’. Actually, the verbal code difference may cause a confusion, until you know it. It happened to me. I am Egyptian who traveled to different countries. When I visited Lebanon for the first time, I did not think that language could be something to think about, as both Egyptians and Lebanese speak Arabic. I went to buy milk, which we call it “لبن” (Laban) in Egypt, the grocery guy got me yogurt. So I repeated my request and he reconfirmed that this is what I asked for. I knew then that was something wrong, as soon as he knows that I am Egyptian, he said, oh you want ‘حليب” (Halib). We both laughed, and he started telling me about other verbal codes.

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