Canadianisms

This page is an eclectic collection of Canadian words and phrases that sound strange to most Americans.

loonie
A dollar. The Canadian $1 coin has a loon (the bird) on the back.
toonie, doubloon
The new $2 coin. Gold in the middle, with a silver ring around the outside. The Queen is one one side, and a polar bear is on the other. When the coins were introduced in the winter of 1995-1996, Canada was overcome by a frenzy to pop out the middles of the coins. This was especially popular on the Prairies, where there's not much to do in the winter. (Would you go outside any more than you had to when it's -40 for days on end?) The most successful method for destroying this new piece of currency seems to be to put it in the freezer for a while and then hit it with a hammer. Throwing it off tall buildings was popular, too. The craze passed pretty quickly, though.
pogey
Unemployment benefits. "I'm getting pogey" means, as the British would say, "I'm on the dole."
serviette
French for "napkin." This term is used by anglophones as well as francophones. One visitor noted that younger people don't seem to use this term.
anglophone
A Canadian whose first language is English.
francophone
A Canadian whose first language is French.
allophone
A Canadian whose first language is neither French nor English. I believe this term isn't used much unless it's referring to the language problems in Québec.
washroom
bathroom
housecoat
robe, bathrobe
runners
sneakers, running shoes
track pants
sweat pants
Chesterfield
A couch, or sofa, or whatever you call it where you are. (Thanks to another visitor for this one.)
poutine (pron. poo-TIN)
Québecois specialty. French fries covered in cheese curds and gravy. Hyurgh.
Shreddies
A brand of breakfast cereal, vaguely resembling Chex.
Smarties
Not the ones you're used to seeing in the US. In Canada, Smarties are a candy resembling M&Ms. They do melt in your hand, and they're a lot sweeter. (Thanks to a visitor for this one.) Smarties conoisseurs eat the red ones last.
Kraft Dinner, or KD
Kraft Macaroni and Cheese. No difference between what's in the boxes, just what's on them. (Thanks to another visitor for this one.) Canadians eat a lot of KD.
back bacon
Canadian bacon. Sometimes rolled in peameal (like cornmeal, only it's made from peas).
brown bread
Whole wheat bread. If you are at a diner for breakfast and you ask for whole wheat toast, they'll understand you, but "brown toast" is a lot more Canadian.
homo milk
Homogenized milk. Known in the States as whole milk. Nobody here thinks twice about what images milk cartons with the word "HOMO" in big letters on the side conjure up in the minds of Americans.
whitener
powdery stuff to put into coffee or tea. Called "non-dairy creamer" in the US.
chocolate bar
Candy bar. Popular Canadian brands include Aero, Crispy Crunch, Coffee Crisp, Caramilk. Other Canadian candies include Smarties (imagine very sweet M&Ms in brightly colored boxes, not the sweet-tart chalky things) and Callard & Bowser toffees.
icing sugar
powdered sugar
Gravol
dramamine
ASA
aspirin, which is a trademark of Bayer in Canada.
lineup
line. "There was a really long lineup for tickets to last night's hockey game."
keener
Brown-noser, suckup, bootlicker. Someone obviously trying to get into someone else's good books. (Thanks to another visitor for this one.)
table (v.t.)
to bring up for discussion, as in a session of Parliament. Compare with American sense of "table" as a verb, which means "to postpone discussion about the issue indefinitely."
Robertson screws
Screws (for metal or wood) with a square hole in the top rather than a straight or X-shaped one. Robertson screwdrivers come in different colors to indicate what size they are. Green number ones and red number twos are the most common. Robertson screws are just about impossible to strip, unlike Phillips-head ones, which become unusable about thirty seconds after you've brandished the screwdriver at them. They'd be popular in the States except that Henry Ford wanted exclusive rights to them, and Robertson (the inventor, a Canadian) refused to sell.
three-sixty-five
In Ontario, formerly a learner's permit for new drivers. Referred to the number of days that the permit was valid. In Nova Scotia, a 365 is a $365 fine you're charged when you get caught with open liquor in public.
jockey box
glove compartment (in a car)
Screech
A kind of liquor popular in Newfoundland. I've always been too frightened by the name to try it.

A visitor notes: "It's actually a Jamaican dark rum. I believe the Newfoundland<->Jamaican relationship goes back a long period of time, i.e. when the Newfs had tons of fish to trade."

Swish
A kind of liquor made from putting water into barrels that have previously held some sort of alcohol (whisky, brandy, whatever) and letting the alcohol leach out of the wood. Drunk by university students who like to go blind.
Alcool
Pure grain alcohol. Known in the States as Everclear. The kind person who described Screech has this to say: "The name Alcool actually comes from the french word "alcool" (kind of pronounced like alco-ol, like alcove and awl, but no v) which means alcohol, (obviously) but since there is no other product name on the bottle, people have come to calling it "Alcool", rhymes with tool, instead of no-name alcohol. Alcool is also easier to say than alcohol when inebriated." He notes that it may just be an Ontario thing.
two-four
A package containing twenty-four bottles of beer.
The May Two-Four
The nickname of Victoria Day, Queen Victoria's birthday, May 24th. It's celebrated the Monday before Memorial Day. Beer is the official beverage of the Victoria Day weekend, because it's more or less the first weekend of the summer, when everyone goes to their cottages or cabins and opens them up for the first time since fall.
case [of beer]
A package containing twelve bottles of beer. (Some tell me that a case isn't a twelve-pack at all, it's a two-four. People tend to feel strongly both ways.)
mickey
A measurement of alcohol (13 ounces: it's a flat, curved bottle, supposed to fit in your pocket, but it doesn't, really).
twenty-sixer
A bottle of liquor containing 26 ounces. This term is outdated; the equivalent bottle now contains 750 milliliters.
forty-pounder
A bottle of liquor containing 40 ounces.
pop
A sweetened carbonated beverage. Canadians: not all Americans call it soda. Some call it pop, some call it coke (regardless of the brand or kind) -- it's a regional difference, rather than a national one.
toque
Rhymes with "kook." A kind of hat, ubiquitous in wintertime.
arse, bum
One's hind quarters. "He kicked me in the bum."
south of the border
The USA (not Mexico).
The States
The USA. Canadians hate referring to the US as "America," because Canadians are just as much North Americans as Americans are.