Canadian vs. US was: Will that be pop, soda or a soft drink?

Dan Goodman dsgood at VISI.COM
Sun Mar 16 06:46:24 UTC 2003

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> Date:    Sat, 15 Mar 2003 07:53:15 -0800
> From:    vida morkunas <vidamorkunas at TELUS.NET>
> Subject: Will that be pop, soda or a soft drink?
> Will that be pop, soda or a soft drink?
> /
> What you say is what you are, reports STEPHEN COLE. If you want 'icing,'
> not 'frosting,' on your cake, you're definitely Canadian
>  UPDATED AT 10:53 AM EST  Saturday, Mar. 15, 2003
> 'Chesterfield" is gone and "tap" may soon disappear. But a McGill
> linguistics professor maintains that while our evolving vocabulary betrays
> a continental drift, we remain true to regional pronunciations.
> Take, for instance, the British-Canadian colloquialism, chesterfield.
> Somebody did. "A 1972 study suggests Canadians once called furniture three
> people sat on a chesterfield," McGill University professor Charles Boberg
> says. "Whereas recent tests indicate we've adopted the American term:
> couch." (Chesterfield remains alive only in the Prairies.)
> That's hardly the end of the story, as far as Mr. Boberg is concerned.
> "What interests me is that our Canadian identity is preserved in
> pronunciation," Mr. Boberg says. Americans, he notes, keep female cattle in
> their living room furniture, pronouncing the word "cow-itch," where we
> rhyme the word with the shout you make when stubbing a toe -- ouch!

That places Ulster County, NY (where I grew up) firmly in Canada.  (As of
the 1950s, at least.  I'm told that Kingston [NY] is being taken over by
the New York Metropolitan Dialect.)

> Mr. Boberg is ideally suited to detecting nuances of "dialect topography."
> The 38-year-old Montreal academic was born in Minnesota to a British mother
> and Canadian father. His family moved to Edmonton when he was seven, and
> Mr. Boberg later completed a PhD in linguistics at the University of
> Pennsylvania.
> "I'm a dual citizen and chameleon," he says. "I fit in linguistically
> wherever I go."
> Which means, in Canada, he looks for a "shed'yool" to determine the
> "pro-gres" of trains to the city, where he might have pasta (short a) at a
> restaurant. In the States, however, he'd be saying "skej-oo-al,"
> "praw-gres" and "past-ah."

The second and third terms provide more evidence that I'm Canadian.

> Mr. Boberg's recent "lexical" survey, which is based on interviews with 600
> subjects across Canada, suggests some American terms have failed to catch
> on here, despite our appetite for Yankee culture.
> "Frosting," for instance, just isn't making it. We prefer icing on our
> cake, thanks.

More evidence that I'm Canadian.

> And few Canadians use the term "register" (for cashier or
> cash) or "candy bar" (chocolate bar).

> Other British-Canadian terms, however, face extinction. Where 30 years ago,
> most of us poured water from a "tap," we now freely use the Americanism
> "faucet." Except again in the Prairies, where citizens continue to drink
> from a "tap."
> Why do the Prairies continue to differ from the rest of Canada? Professor
> Boberg is glad you asked.
> "There are a number of reasons why we use different words in various parts
> of the country," he says. "Southern Ontario and New Brunswick were settled
> by British Empire Loyalists." Americans! "Where [English] Montreal was
> settled by British citizens,

Which doesn't explain why Montreal English sounds more "accent-free" to me
than most US dialects do.

> and Halifax developed from a British naval
> base. Then we must consider proximity and influence of American cities. The
> Prairies aren't influenced by America [historically and geographically] the
> way Southern Ontario is."

However, many Americans moved to the Prairies.

> Mr. Boberg also suggests regions stick to local expressions out of a
> collective desire to distinguish themselves from everyone else. "There are
> two warring pressures on language," he explains. "First, there is the
> inclination to model speech after national, or international standards, in
> search of global prestige. You see that when the regional middle class
> emulate a national, professional class way of speaking.
> "But I would suggest there might be an equally strong impulse to reinforce
> local prestige by exercising what remains one of the few indicators of
> local culture: the face-to-face exchange of words."
> And so we maintain regional phrases. Montrealers turn to "soft drinks" for
> refreshment. (A direct translation, Mr. Boberg suggests, of the French
> phrase, "liqueur douce.")

Not quite a direct translation.

> Almost everywhere else in Canada, they'd ask for
> "pop."

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