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Home » Culture

Speaking Canadian: But do you speak Ottawan?

Submitted by on November 8, 2010 – 11:26 am4 Comments

Most Americans, Brits, Australians, or other English-​​speakers who move to Canada assume that they’ll be able to under­stand Canadian English.

In fact, before we relo­cated to Canada from the U.S., it didn’t occur to me that there would be as many dif­fer­ences between Canadian and American English as there are.

So I had to learn to take my gro­cery pur­chases to the till (the cash reg­is­ter), put on my run­ners (sneak­ers or ten­nis shoes) before going for a walk, and of course, in win­ter always wear a toque (pro­nounced “toook” — and it’s a ski hat)!

Perhaps that’s why I espe­cially enjoyed read­ing a recent post from Let’s Go Ottawa: An Insider’s Guide to Ottawa and Canada’s Capital Region.

It’s called Do you speak Ottawan?

When Ottawans talk about “the Market” or “the Sens” or “the Chateau,” do you know what they mean?

I didn’t.

Read Do you speak Ottawan?” and you’ll find out!

For more on “Speaking Canadian,” check out my “Sled vs. Sledge” post or this arti­cle about unique Canadian words and phrases from Canada’s adven­ture cou­ple.

(And if you want to know more about liv­ing in Ottawa, have a look at: Moving to Ottawa? Relocation resources for Canada’s “cool cap­i­tal.”)

What about you? Are there other Canadian words or phrases that have puz­zled you? Leave a com­ment and let us know.

Byward Market Photo @Carolyn B. Heller


  • Jess says:

    I work in BC at one of the mines and the min­ers (oper­a­tors mostly)say you betcha after ask­ing to do some­thing or if you can do something.

  • Randall says:

    My rel­a­tive is work­ing in Canada and she is telling me that she really can’t under­stand some of the Canadian lan­guage too. The sahring in this post actu­ally got me pretty excited to learn their lan­guage. It may be hard the first time but once I get used to it, I know I’ll learn it someday.

  • Zhu says:

    I rarely say the till though… but yes, there are some British English expres­sions or words in Canadian English. Plus some French!

    • Carolyn B. Heller says:

      I had to get used to Canadian/​British spelling, too. I had expected some dif­fer­ences from American spelling — like colour, neigh­bour, flavour, cen­tre, the­atre, kilo­me­tre — but there were many I had to learn. Licence (not license), enrol (not enroll), trav­eller (not trav­eler), cheque (not check), jew­ellery (not jewelry)…

      In Vancouver, there’s much less French than in Ottawa. Are there com­mon French expres­sions you fre­quently hear?