The Difference of Canadian English to United States English

White Rock, BC - a beautiful Canadian city in the border of US. This photo was taken in a sunset of Fall 2018.

Canada and the United States of America (U.S.) are the two largest countries of North America. In sharing borders and alike geography as well as a common history, many people think that these two countries are similar in every way. It is true that both nations are multicultural, although the U.S has been described as being a melting pot of cultures, while Canada is mosaic. Additionally, North American English is the most common language of these nations despite the inclusion of many other languages contributed by immigration. While these great nations express plenty of similarities, Canadian English has a significant variance with the United States English, especially when it comes to word usage, spelling, measurement systems and expressions.


First of all, between Canada and the U.S. certain words and word combinations are different but they convey similar meaning. Canadians ordinarily say “tuque or touque” (pronounced like took) which is influenced from the French language. While in the U.S., Americans would call this type of winter hat a “beanie”. Other common words in Canada are “toboggan”, “washroom”, “pop” and “garburator” while the U.S. equivalents would be “sled”, “restroom”, “soda” and “garbage disposal”. Related to education, Canadians would say “write the exam” as opposed to the American version of “take the exam”. Furthermore, Canadians would say a “first grader” is in “first grade”, while Americans would say a “grade one-r” is in “grade one”. The letter “z” is also pronounced differently in Canada and the U.S. Derived from the French pronunciation, “z” is “zed” in Canada while “zee” is chiefly American. Indeed, there are a countless number of different words that have similar meanings.


Secondly, discrepancies exist between Canada and the U.S. in the way certain words are spelt. Canadians commonly use British spelling like “offence” and “defence” (both words ending in -ce) while Americans customarily use the French-derived spelling “offense” and “defense” (both words ending in -se). Possibly the most controversial spelling convention in Canada is whether to include “ou”, the traditional Canadian spelling, or just use “o”, the traditional American spelling. Canadian spelling of words “colour” and “labour” are with the letter “u”, while the American spelling would be “color” and labor”. Similar spelling diffractions exist where the word “realize” uses “z” instead of “s” and “centre” can also be spelt “center”. In many instances, both ways of spelling are acceptable in both countries, sometimes making it difficult to decide which one is most appropriate. Consequently, spelling are variant between Canada and USA and may crossover between the two countries.


Thirdly, when it comes to the measuring system, Canada and the U.S. use different units. Canadians use the Metric system while Americans use the Imperial System (SI). For instance, temperature is measured in Celsius in Canada, while Americans use Fahrenheit. When it comes to driving, Canadians normally use kilometers while Americans use miles. When measuring liquid, Canadians use Liters and the Americans use Gallons. In both countries, depending on the situation, measurement units can be interchangeable like pound and kilos, grams and ounces, and meters and feet. For example, measuring body weight in Canada is usually in pounds which is SI while measuring ingredients when cooking is usually in grams which is the Metric system (grams). Evidently the two countries diverge in their preference of using some measuring systems, while the converge on others.


Finally, there are slang expressions in Canada that may be misinterpreted by residents of the U.S. To illustrate, a “gong show” is a Canadian expression for a chaotic event; however, in the United States, “Gong Show” is a television contest show for amateur talents. Loonies (one dollar coin which has a picture of a loon on it), Toonies (two dollar coin), and “double-double” (two cream and two sugar in a coffee from a famous Canadian coffee shop) are numerical expressions that unfamiliar Americans might misunderstand. In addition, given that Molson is a beer company in Canada, some Canadians may call a beer belly a “Molson muscle”. In another example, as a reference to the famous Niagara Falls that generate hydroelectricity, Canadians have a “Hydro bill” that refers to the electrical bill in Canada. Therefore, there are various Canadian expressions that the Americans may find peculiar.


In conclusion, while North American English is the majority language that people speak in both Canada and the U.S, variations exist in how it is utilized. There can be differences with word usage, spelling of words, measurements and expressions.


Essay edited by Jeremy T.

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