A New Yorker Review of the New Canadianisms Dictionary

Jesse Sheidlower, former American editor of the OED, reviews the Dictionary of Canadianisms on Historical Principles, Second Edition at the New Yorker Online

Having grown up watching the CBC on Channel 9 out of Windsor, I always had affection for the rather civil Canadian ways of being and seeing, and speaking about the world. And I was always in awe of how the very best youth hockey teams we Ohioans could offer up were devoured like snacks by our jovial Canadian counterparts, who played the gim aboot as well as a gim could be played.

So I very much enjoyed reading this review and being reminded of so many Canadiansims, as well as learning about some previously unfamiliar ones.

“The entry for the stereotypical Canadian term “eh”—not included in the original edition—is almost five thousand words long, discussing its history (it’s first found in British English), its status as a marker of Canadian identity, its main functions (“Confirmational uses, Contesting uses, Pardon eh, and Narrative uses,” further divided into a number of subsenses), and its use in other English-speaking countries. “Hoser” is shown to have been created by the comedians Rick Moranis and Dave Thomas, on “Second City TV,” in 1981. The development of “chesterfield”—once a common Canadianism for a sofa of any sort, but now somewhat moribund—is explored at length…

The dictionary also includes regionalisms from around the country. A “parkade” is a multilevel parking garage, found chiefly in Alberta and associated with the Hudson Bay department stores. “Bunny hug” is used in Saskatchewan for a hooded sweatshirt. In Quebec, “guichet” is a term for an A.T.M., from a Canadian French word for “counter.” Newfoundland is particularly well represented, thanks to its isolation and to an unusual Irish-dominated settlement history…”

Updated from the 1967 first edition of A Dictionary of Canadianisms on Historical Principles, the DCHP-2 is a “greatly expanded edition, which took eleven years of work by a team of linguists at the University of British Columbia.”

Released to coincide with Canada’s 150th birthday, this new edition was systematically re-conceptualized to focus upon 20th- and 21st-century words, along with revised meanings of various DCHP-1 entries.

Declaring it a “delightful dictionary,” Sheidlower takes minor exception to some lackluster photo illustrations provided for the online project, while praising its less than conservative use of modern research tools, and the inclusion of video still not typically utilized by scholarly websites.

And I found delightful Sheidlower’s own special way of using the English language to explore itself, as I always do. And that included the chuckle I had at the very end, when his parting line about this revised Dictionary of Canadianisms landed right on the button.

Read the Full Review at the New Yorker Here

 

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