11 Canadian words, phrases and slang most Americans wouldn’t understand

Pass me a pop or I’ll turf you out of here, hoser (and so on)

Our list of terms Yanks probably wouldn’t get in last year’s Book of Lists was a big hit, so here are 11 more Canadianisms to stump our friends south of the 49th:

1. Double double
2. Pogey
3. All-dressed
4. Chesterfield
5. Pop (soda)
6. Soaker
7. Dinged (financially hit)
8. Turfed out
9. Give’r
10. Parkade
11. Hoser


The Maclean’s Book of Lists, Vol. 2, is now available at www.macleans.ca/bookoflists, in the iBookstore, and on newsstands June 24.




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11 Canadian words, phrases and slang most Americans wouldn’t understand

  1. You’re showing your age: I have a feeling quite a few Canucks wouldn’t know some of those terms either.

    • I thought ‘all-dressed’, ‘parkade’ and ‘chesterfield’ were sketchy. I don’t use these three words but I never was a good Canadian.

      • What do you call a parkade?

        • Parking lot, doesn’t matter whether horizontal or vertical. Anything with the ending ‘ade’ makes me think of juice, not cars.

          Soaker is when you step in puddle and your sock gets wet. To me, soaker is in winter when you unexpectedly step into a slushy puddle and your sock is soaked.

          • I would call them parking lots as well.

            I believe the British term is “motor park”, but I’d quickly confuse that with “speedway” or “race track”.

          • That’s crazy to call it a “parking lot.” Maybe parking garage? Definitely not a “lot” though, which implies a flat, featureless piece of land. I say parkade, myself. :)

          • But if you stack them you can park a “lot” more cars.

          • The British term is ‘Car Park’

          • Car park / motor park – either or.

          • British term is “Car Park”.

          • Motor park seemed nearly just as common when my job sent me to Manchester in ’96.

          • In PEI we call them parkades but im lost on soaker.

          • tub

        • Parkade is a company that runs parking strutures and lots in Canada.

          • Ah, I see so it is like calling a box of tissues, Kleenex even though that is a brand name or geliten, Jello. We tend to do that to in Alberta. No one usually asks for a tissue but rather for a kleenex and we definitely call the parking structure a parkade.

          • Add Q-tip to your list as well :)

          • ‘Pass me a tissue’ sounds hoity toity to me. *grin*
            “Would you care for some gelatin?” No thanks, I’m waiting for the Jello.

        • butter !

      • Lay’s makes “All Dressed” chips.
        I’ve used “chesterfield” my whole life.
        “Parkade” I didn’t know. “Parking Lot”, as Hester says.

    • I AGREE PACHOULI! I DON’T KNOW ANYHING ABOUT #6, 8, 9 OR 11 AGAIN I ALBELIVE ITS NOT ONLY AGE BUT WHICHPART OF CANADA YOU CAME OR GREW UP IN! CHESTERFIELD IS STILL USED ALOT OTHE EAST COAST IN PROVINCES LIKE NOVA SCOTIA , NEW BRUNSWICK , NEW FOUNDLAND

      • “Give’r” was a phrase we used in the late 1970′s/early 1980′s in Alberta…it meant “to party”. “Hoser” was a silly name ‘Doug & Bob Mckenzie’ used to call one another. They were the alter-ego’s of two Canadian comedians in the early 1980′s. I think a hoser is a drunk. Not sure about the other 2. I think a ‘soaker’ might be a tub. No idea what ‘turfed out’ is.

        • I always understood a soaker was a heavy rainstorm.

          • She was a hell of a soaker by in translation Hey buddy one hell of a rainy day wasnt it lol

        • Never heard of soaker. Give’r is still used. Hoser comes from Bob and Doug, but there are actually people who talk like them in southern Ontario. Finally, Chesterfield comes from England and NO ONE says it anymore.

          • Well if that’s the case, no one must understand me when I say chesterfield.. which is always.

        • I had to think very long and hard about “turfed out” but then I remembered a couple of times when people had been “turfed out” of a tavern for behaving poorly.

          To turf, is to throw or toss -
          Q: Where can I hang my coat?
          A: Just turf it over there.

    • My 98-year old Grandma is the only person I know who uses the term Chesterfield, so you have a point.

  2. I think ‘fcuk the dog’ is mostly a Canadian expression. And ‘toque’, off the top of my head.

    • The Seven Canadian Phrases You Can’t Say on American TV!

      • fantastic monologue, ever so funny. Carlin was quality.

    • What about “screw the pooch”?

      • Those two confuse me – I thought ‘screw the pooch’ was you made a big mistake or important error while ‘fcuk the dog’ means wasting time, bored.

        • What does it mean when you ‘sell the pups’ ?

          • You get paid.

      • I like the term fluffing puppies lol

    • walk the dog is more polite and Canadians are polite

    • Would they know “wobbly pop”?

      • I wonder?!

    • Neat map, Ace. Thanks for sharing. (Would be great to see an updated version.)

      • Also this: http://www.popvssoda.com/

        I lived in upstate NY for a while, and it was almost a clear divide at about Rochester, where people east of that said “soda” and west said “pop.”

        • I spent several years in the Buffalo/Niagara region and they said soda (actually sodah) though they understood pop.

          • How does “soda” and “sodah” differ exactly?

          • Think of it like this: the first is “soduh”, the second is “sodah”, a slightl touch harder a, akin to rad or bad or some such. Kind of like how Americans pronounce Mazda (“Maazdah”) correctly but Canadians tend to say “Mozduh”

          • I dunno. First off, Canadians actually tend to say Mazda, like it’s written (the ‘a’ is like that in man, Jazz, Taz, Shabazz). It’s tighter, clipped, mouth more closed, as Canadian vowels tend to be. Americans go with a broader ‘aww’ pronunciation, saying it “Mawzda” (as in paws, cause, Roz). I won’t get into which is right and wrong, seeing as the Japanese company is actually “Ma-tsu-da.” But that’s a different discussion. :)

            But as for “soda” I’ve lived in the U.S. and I’ve ever heard hold onto the last ‘a’ in “soda” to make it “sodah.” The final syllable, like in many English words of all stripes, becomes a shwa sound, and is unvoiced. So it sounds like “uh” or in this case, “duh.” ;)

            The only thing I can think of here is the Midwestern tendency to come up at the end of a word or phrase. Think of “Minnesota” as pronounced in the movie Fargo. They stress the “SO” (making it long like “SOH”) and come up a bit on the “ta” which make it sounds a bit like a different vowel sound, when in fact it’s just a tonal or pitch change. I can see Midwesterners doing something similar with soda.

  3. How about z, as in x,y, ‘zed’?
    I’ve had engineers baffled when I spelled out a word & said ‘zed’-I had to repeat & say instead ‘zee’.
    Toque is another hilarious one for them-instead it’s ‘wool hat’

    • TOQUE IS MORE FRENCH CANDIAN THAN JUST CANADIAN! I THINK IT DEPENDS WHICH PROVINCE YOU CAME FROM ..WOOL HAT , WINTER HAT SKI HAT , HAT!

      • I don’t know, we in Alberta say “toque”. My daughter was in disneyland and asked at one of their stores if they sold “toques” and they were completely baffled.

      • Yeah, that’s crap – no matter how loud you yell it. It’s toque across most of English Canada.

        • and It’s a “beanie” south of the border

      • A toque is a toque everywhere. And please stop yelling!!! :)

        And the letter Z is zed everywhere in the world except the US.

        • Fascinating!

        • Sorry sir, but you are mistaken. “Zed” is the French pronunciation of the letter, whereas “Zee” is English. In Canada, we say “Zed” because we’ve been brainwashed by the self-entitled Quebecers into believing that is the proper way to say it.
          And besides… saying “Zed” just makes you sound like an idiot. “Zee” actually fits the rhyme scheme of the alphabet. (A, BEE, SEA, DEE, E, etc, etc, until you get to the end and say Zed? Dumb.)

          • No.

          • What about all the other letters that don’t fit the rhyming scheme? A,F,H,I,J,K,L,M,N,O,Q,R,S,U,W,X,Y…. Why is it suddenly dumb to say zed?

          • It is pronounced “Zed” in the UK, Australia, and New Zealand to name a few

          • Chist, you bigoted losers are everywhere.

            It’s “zed” in England and Australia, too, you mouthbreather. “Zee” is an Americanism, pure and simple.

      • toque in Sask to

    • I’ve never really understood why the rest of Canada spells it “toque”… especially since it’s pronounced (and spelled, at least in Quebec) a “tuque”.

      • I agree. I’ve never pronounced it “toque” and it irks me to even see it spelled that way. I know what a “tuque” is but I don’t know what a “toque”
        is.

      • It falls on my ears as “tuke” so I’d prefer your spelling as a result. When I read “toque” my brain hears “toke” which I associate with a hit of cannabis rather than a hat.

    • Back in my school days, we were frequently told that Americans incorrectly called it a zee (yes, Ernie and Bert were wrong). It still amazes me that no reference to this is ever made in American schools.

      My grandmother however, who was born and educated in Scotland, insisted that it was an izard.

      • My Scottish grandmother called it an izard too. How “cheeky” of them. ;)

  4. In Montreal, all-dressed pizza means pepperoni, green peppers, and mushrooms- NOT all -available toppings.

    • Quite true… all-dressed = pep/mush/green, baby! Also, in Montreal (and the rest of Quebec), it’s neither pop nor soda but a SOFT DRINK.

      And yes, people under 70 still call it a “Chesterfield”… but no, we don’t have any parkades, they are regular old parking lots… whether one floor or more.

      • In Alberta, we only have “all dressed potato chips”. We sometimes call a sofa, a chesterfield and we ALWAYS call a raised parking structure with many levels, a parkade. We call soft drinks, pop rather than soda or soft drinks. However, we also refer to them by their specific brand names…Coke, Pepsi….etc.

        • I frequently hear people calling a couch a chesterfield but never a sofa. Sofa is something I only ever hear on TV or see printed in ads. My relatives in Montreal say “soft drink” and laugh when I call it pop, while my relatives in New Hampshire confuse the hell out of me by calling it tonic. My American girlfriend calls it soda-pop but no one other than Kim Mitchell ever calls it soda. All dressed is something I only see printed on potato chip bags and I’ve never heard of a parkade before reading this article.

          • When I was a kid, I assumed Kim Mitchell was referring to club soda.

  5. Over here on the west side of the Continental Divide, I can’t recall ever hearing anyone use “all-dressed” except maybe to describe a bag of chips labelled as such.

    And all I know about “double double” is that it has something to do with Tim Horton’s coffee.

    • I use it when I order a hot dog or hamburger.

      • I would call that “loaded”.

        • Actually loaded would work too.

          • I would call it “the works”, but would clearly understand the others as meaning the same.

    • If I recall correctly, all dressed chips are a Canadian thing that simply doesn’t exist south of the border. I assumed that’s what they were referring to in the list, although pizza came to mind as well.

  6. Some of these terms are dated – who uses “chesterfield” other than people over 70? And I think “parkade” is regional. I use #1 and #5 (and “pop” is used in parts of the US, especially areas close to the border).

    • We used to say “pop” here in the Seattle area. But somewhere in (I wanna say) the late ’80s it switched to “soda.” I think it happened overnight no one informed me of the change. I was left scratchin’ my head for several years.

      • Was that the same time as thongs went from being sandals to being underwear?

    • Pop is also used alot in Alaska and Bob and Doug MacKenzie were big hits here in the States so Americans understand “Hoser.” Hoser is to Canadians what Yank is to Americans

      • Hoser is to Canadians as Yank is to Americans? I thought that it was Canuck.

        • I agree. I think a hoser is a drunk.

          • I once read that a hoser (or at least its origin) was the loser of a hockey game, who had to stay behind and hose down the ice surface while the winners went off to celebrate their victory.

          • I was such a hoser that they quickly promoted me to Designated Zamboni Driver once the new indoor rink opened.

        • “Canuck” in some circles is considered an offensive term, even to non-Canadians. Growing up, for whatever reason, I was not allowed to say this word at home or at school… and choose not to use it as an adult because I think it ‘sounds’ a bit vulgar. It’s as if the C-word and the F-word have been mashed together as one

          • It was originally coined as a derogatory racial slur against Ukrainian labourers brought to North America to work mines in regions along what’s now the US/Canadian border. The term eventually expanded to include other non-English speakers living nearby Ukrainian mining settlements, and eventually to practically all Canadians as a whole. The nearly dormant word was playfully revived in 1869 with the creation of a political cartoon called “Johnny Canuck,” and again in 1942 with Leo Bachle’s comic book superhero of the same name. It became a household Canadian word in 1945 when it was borrowed from the comic for the naming of the Vancouver Canucks WHL team. You probably won’t find many people offended by its modern use, but we can’t overlook its shady past. It’s part of Canadian history.

          • As you’ve pointed out…..Unless it’s the name of your team it’s a word unworthy of any pride or respect. I have never identified with it or answered to it. “Canadian” is easy enough to say if that’s really what we mean.

      • I remember a time when I called my American girlfriend a yank and she replied, “No, I’m a dixie”…..so I asked her to explain. She told me that some states are yanky states and others are dixie states, then began naming them off and telling me which one was which. I’m still confused but assume it might have some throwback to the American Civil War. I quickly stopped using “yank” when referring to Americans.

    • Well I am not 70 and I know and have used chesterfield, sofa, couch.

  7. ” Pulling a Hank” a saying from down east referring to a person who moves and doesn’t come back refers to country singer Hank Snow.

  8. Washroom, they don’t know what the term washroom means. I was at an outlet mall in New Jersey and I asked a women in one of the shops where the washroom was. She looked at me like I had three heads. She asked, “like the room where you wash your clothes?” I said no, the room where the toilets are. It took a minute to connect the dots.

    • That may just be youth. I’m from NJ and know the phrase fine. Although that’s not a common term.

    • Yes, you are best to ask where the toilets are.

      • Americans almost always say “restroom” or alternately “men’s/ladies’ room.” Bathroom also is used. “Toilet” would be considered vulgar. In the UK however it’s the norm.

    • What about cheque. It dosnt seem to exist in American English spell check.

      • That’s just a difference in spelling. Americans spell it ‘check’, so a check book, checking account, etc. British/Canadian/Australian? spelling is cheque.

      • I ask for a bill after dinner at a restaurant… to me a ‘check’ and/or ‘cheque’ mean something altogether different.

  9. So in other words, a more Canadian term for “couch potato” could be “Chesterfield potato”?

    • Chesterfield spud, you mean

      • Hahaha! Awesome.

      • I prefer an all dressed chesterfield spud.

  10. Went to college in Michigan: “runners” and “elastic” were unknown. They called them sneakers and rubber band.

    • That’s what we call them on the Maritimes as well.

      • My friend from Newfoundland calls an eraser at the end of a pencil, a rubber. In Alberta, we call a condom a rubber.

        • I grew up in Toronto in the 60s/70s. ‘Rubber’ used to mean an eraser for pencils. When we got a bit older it also meant ‘condom’. Both ‘elastic’ and ‘rubber band’ were used. “Thong”.. kind of like a ‘wedgey’, isn’t it?!

    • Hey, when I was a kid we wore “thongs” on our feet. Now thongs are called flip flops and a thong is a piece of “hardly-there” underwear.

    • I’m most familiar with elastic and sneakers but rubber band is not so uncommon either, particularly if you’re referring to one with no elasticity.

  11. I love reading this, terms that are used specifically in that country only. Sounds cool :)

    baby animals puzzles

  12. What no serviette? I’m almost certain hoser was an invention of the McKenzie brothers comedy routine.

    • Yes, you are right about hoser and the Mckenzie brothers. Serviette is a good one. Although it might be like chesterfield, only older Canadians use it.

      • My family uses “serviettes” for paper “napkins”.

    • I agree. I had never in my life heard the term “hoser” (or take off) prior to its use by the McKenzie brothers. They also popularized “eh’”, which I had previously never heard used outside my travels through southern Quebec and southwestern Ontario.

      • Hmmm. I doubt the Aboriginal population of Western Canada learned to say “eh” from Rick Moranis and Dave Thomas. And that community uses it a lot, eh.

        • I use ‘eh’ a lot. I was in an elevator in New York City. I said, it sure is hot ‘eh’ and the man said, “you’re from Canada.” I asked, “how can you tell” and he said “eh, I don’t know, eh.” I don’t even realize I say it but I do, almost at the end of every sentence, eh.”

  13. Pop is quite widely used in parts of the U.S., mostly the midwest. Meanwhile, I had no clue what “pogey” meant until I clicked that link. Sounds like it might be an east-coast expression, since I notice a Nova Scotia Celtic band has Pogey for a name: http://www.pogey.ca/

    • Pogey is used in Ontario as well.

      • I live in Ontario. Never heard it. Where have you heard it?

      • In fairness I have found some examples. Here is one from The Sun: http://www.torontosun.com/2012/05/24/ei-changes-will-work-out-but-pogey-express-loses-its-first-class-seats
        Seems to be a pet-phrase of that writer though, as he’s used it in several articles. Still seems to be fairly rare (or archaic) here. Definitely seeing more uses in the Maritimes. In addition to the band I mentioned earlier, there is a video series from PEI called “Pogey Beach!” Always good to expand the old vocabulary!

        • Sorry to disagree, but I spent 20 some years in Toronto and that much again here in Eastern Ontario and ‘pogey’ is neither rare nor archaic.

          • You are very entitled to disagree! Maybe I just don’t know many folks who are on ‘pogey.’ I’m actually still not sure if it means welfare or EI or what. I am going to do survey at work next week! ;)

          • I’ve always thought of it as EI (or UI if you’re my age!) “He works all summer and goes on pogey for the winter!”

          • Ha ha you are young. EI is the new term for UI. Seems “Political Correctness snuck into the government and took over in the 80′s.
            It will always be “Un” employment insurance to me.

          • Yeah, well it’s called EI now friend! By your logic we should also change life insurance to “death insurance.” That might be harder to sell though.

  14. Um, I’m Canadian and I don’t recognize half these words — though I think my grandmother would.

  15. Keener. I am a Canadian teacher working overseas and it is only other Canadians who know what that means.

    • Alright I give up. What’s a keener?

  16. I’ve lived in BC, Alberta and Saskatchewan and to me a soaker is a steady, medium – paced rain which deeply penetrates the soil. It is also a flat shaped garden hose with pinholes down the length to give off the same effect as the aforementioned rain.

    • A soaker around here is a boot/shoe soaking wet. As in: stepped in a puddle and got a soaker.

  17. I’ve asked Americans where the washroom is and many are baffled by the term. “you mean the restroom?”

    • I remember, probably before MacDonald’s, when we called French Fries, ‘chips’ as in Fish n’chips. And we used Vinegar rather than Ketchup on deep fried foods. To my great embarrassment, when the first MacDonald’s opened in Richmond BC around 1969 they didn’t have vinegar for the ‘chips’ and I loudly proclaimed that they’d never make it in Canada

      • Chips with vinegar rock! They used to be my most favourite food of all time before the health freaks messed them up with all their goofy new cooking oils. Some things are best left unchanged.

        We still call them chips at home but usually translate it to fries when we’re out in public.

  18. Hoser? Who says “hoser”? It’s a made up phrase from a mediocre movie. Ironically, ‘hoser’ is one of the few “Canadian terms” that some Americans would know, because of that film.

  19. My husband is 32 and uses most of these including chesterfield. He says that because he thinks it’s sounds wonderfully pretentious. lol He also taught our 3-year-old to say “Ya hoser.”

    • Does your husband eat dinner instead of supper?

      • Growing up, my family used to eat dinner at noon and supper (the main meal) at 5. We would only say “lunch” if it was something we ordered out or brown bagged and brought with us. I get the impression that meal descriptions can drastically differ from one family to the next, more so than from region to region.

        • Indeed – Lunch is [or was] a portable meal for those on the go or unable to get home for dinner. Hence the terms lunch room, lunch can, lunch pale, lunch specials…..etc.

          These days so many people incorrectly say they are going home for lunch.

  20. Stephen Colbert taught America all they need to know about driving in Canada:
    ice and holes.

    • And iceholes.

      • Especially fargin’ iceholes.

  21. How about “roof”, they pronounce it as “ruff”

  22. I’ve heard Americans say “hoser” to parody Canadians more than I have heard Canadians use the word for real. I only really hear older Canadians (40+) using a lot of these words, except for “dinged” and “double double”. When I was a young kid a “soaker” was also called a “booter” around here. “Soda” or “soft drink” are both used here. I never thought “all-dressed” was a slang word either – it seems more like a flavor description.

    • I rarely hear anybody asking for a soda or soft drink. If someone asked me for soda I’d give them Club Soda

  23. Hydro hook up stumps them .

  24. Pogey – Slang for Employment Insurance or Welfare. Derived from the Scottish
    word “pogie” which means workhouse. A workhouse being a place in the
    1500′s where beggars, children and others unable to support themselves
    were sent to work and in turn be taken care of.

    • Also called it “on the dole”.

        • That’s a Pogo.

  25. Taker slack eh !

  26. My word cuz u guys are goofs I ain’t never herd of these rachet words

  27. No one in any of the provinces/cities I’ve lived in uses hoser, except in joking. Zed is something I encountered while working in a call centre for an American company (along with me forgetting to translate Celcius to F temps on occasion). I grew up using chesterfield but have switched to sofa over the years. One to add might be bunny-hug, even tho’ that seems regionally based in Saskabush (I remember moving to BC when a young teen and people didn’t have a clue what I was talking about).

    • I’m in Eastern Ontario and have no idea what a bunny hug is.

  28. Washroom…….

  29. when I was a smoker, and used to go to Detroit, and ask for a “deck” of cigarettes at the gas station theyhad no idea what I was talking about

    • Flip and Deck are unique to Windsor for cigarettes.
      No body understands me when I left…

  30. Tobyornotoby – love your name. I say chesterfield because my mother always called it a chesterfield – occasionally a couch but never a sofa. But then I was a kid in the fifties.

  31. Butter Tart

  32. I have never used or heard ANY Canadian ever say Hoser besides Bob and Doug MacKenzie. Where is this word popular??

    • You must be young. In the 80′s it was more than popular.

  33. Okay, so some of the are local or regional. That doesn’t make them not Canadian. All Dressed and Chesterfield are even used in French, in Québec. Maybe not by the younger generation, though.

  34. Here are 2 I learned when I moved here: that “pissed” means drunk and not being mad and “f*cking the dog” for a worker not doing their job.

  35. About as useful as tits on a bull.
    Donating it to the Sally-Ann

  36. I believe your soaker is usually referred to as a booter!

  37. In Victoria and Burnaby, BC they have signs for Parkades. Is it regional? I’m from the States so I don’t really know.

  38. Cananadians dont have a culture they copy everything we say, do, watch. But at the same time call us dumb. Make up your own expressions, words and tv shows. Canadians are culturally embarassed and don’t realize they are psrt of the british commonwealth not the American democracy.

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