Post-1967 Canadianisms

Items overlooked in DCHP-1


Revision of definitions

Documentary evidence of historical citations

Coverage of citations by period

Etymologies and scholarly works published since 1967




Post-1967 Canadianisms |Home| |Top|

The list of terms that have come into use since the publication of the DCHP-1 is impressive. For example:


all-dressed, 'all optional garnishes on fast food items' (Eastern Canada)

bunny hug, 'a hooded sweatshirt' (Saskatchewan)

loonie, 'one dollar coin'

mangia-cake, a name used by Italian-Canadians in a jocular or derogatory way to refer to 'a non-Italian white person with characteristic North American traits and customs'

midget, 'a level of amateur sports for players usually aged 16-17'; or 'a player in such a league'

toonie, 'two dollar coin'

The above examples of Canadianisms include national terms, regionalisms, and ethnic terms.
At times, it is unclear whether a term is a post-1967 creation or went unnoticed before. Two extended examples are running shoe (or runner) and north of 60, which illustrate two key questions in historical Canadian English lexicography: the question of regionalisms (running shoe) and the nature of the evidence for precise dating of Canadianisms (north of 60):

1) Running shoe, 'casual, rubber-soled shoe', is a particularly intriguing example from the point of view of a regionalism. The DCHP-1 lists one sense for running shoe:


running shoe a strip of metal attached to a runner (def. 1a)
1940 MARSHALL Arctic Village 81: Both [sleds] were invented by the natives, though the whites have added iron running shoes and brakes.

While one could argue that this is the meaning that appears to be most important in early CanE, more recent research has shown that the distinction between runners or running shoes (the majority use in CanE) and sneakers (more common in AmE) is operative along most of the Canada-U.S. border, with the exception of Atlantic Canada (Chambers' question 39 in his Dialect Topography of Canada project ). Wick (2004) has shown that as early as 1894 the meaning in the sense of 'light sports shoe' is clearly documented in CanE, and therefore very close to the earliest attestation in the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) from 1884.
Based on recent findings, running shoe or runner, in the sense of casual footwear, should be included as Canadianisms that contribute to an isogloss along the United States border from Quebec and Ontario westwards.


2) north of 60, 'the Canadian areas north of the 60 degrees latitude'. The following attestations are from four 19th-century texts (a full-text link to Early Canadiana Online is provided for each example). While our evidence is mostly confined to textual material, we can see that even in cases of very well documented Canadianisms such as north of 60, the question of when the phrase "north of 60 degrees" or "north of the 60 parallel" etc., was clipped (degrees, parallel, etc., were dropped) can only be approximately equated with the dated attestations:


to the north of 60° (1824) Complete context

north of the 60 parallel (1878) Complete context

to the north of the 60th parallel (1878) Complete context

to the north of 60 north latitude (1893) Complete context




Items overlooked in the first edition |Home| |Top|

One of the biggest challenges in the revision of the DCHP-1 is to further complete the historical record of early Canadian English; it is inevitable that certain terms were overlooked in the process of compiling the first edition. For example:

butter tart
DCHP-1 has no entry for butter tart, a Canadian version of a small tart with a filling of butter, eggs, and sugar, mixed with raisins. Food writers claim the existence of an Ontario recipe from around 1915 and make it quite clear that, while similar recipes exist elsewhere, butter tart is a Canadian treat.

One form that does not seem to be properly documented is kersimer, which is attested in an early Ontarian newspaper.
In 1799, John Grier, from Newark, Ont., advertised a list of goods for sale in his store in the Canada Constellation from 31 Nov. One of these articles is referred to as "kersimers", which is, in this form, not attested in any of the historical dictionaries (OED-online, 14 Nov. 2005, DARE, DA, AND, DNZE, DSAE). This is surprising as the word is part of an advertisement in print; i.e., people would need to know and clearly understand what is referred to. Here is the entry:

Has for sale, at this store opposite Dr. KERR'S, the following articles, viz.

Kersimers is most likely a phonetic distortion of cashmere, describing a type of fine, woolen cloth, associated with the textile-producing town of Kersey. The OED-3 documents it as Karsimir from an 1802 source (with information from Barbara Fox, Powell River, and Martin McCarvill, Victoria). The form as such has escaped documentation and it remains to be seen whether it was the prevalent Canadian variant.

last best West
A nickname for the Canadian prairies, used around 1900 in promotional literature, has escaped the DCHP-1.



Antedatings |Home| |Top|

Miss Canada, the personification of Canada in the form of a young girl, is an example of an antedating by 43 years. The first attestation in the DCHP-1 is from 1912


1912 Jack Canuck 28 Dec. 1: [Caption] MISS CANADA - "That can't make this waterway more undrinkable than it has been for many a long year."

The Canadian illustrator J. W. Bengough, however, used this Canadianism at least by the late 1860s, as a cartoon from Diogenes, April 16, 1869, shows:

MISS CANADA. -- "Thank you, Sir George! I've been waiting for him [Bear with necklace labelled "Red River"] such a long time! But don't you think, after all, he may prove rather troublesome?"

  View scan of the cartoon.

From: Bengough, J. W. 1974. A Caricature History of Canadian Politics. Ed. by Doug Fetherling. Toronto: Peter Martin Ltd., p. 25


toque, 'woolen hat'

A less dramatic, but not unimportant antedating was found for a typical Canadianism: toque, ' woolen hat', is used throughout the country and is one of the most famous Canadianisms. While the OED records earlier attestations for BrE varieties, and the terms also has some other meanings (such as ladies' hat and a cook's hat) the term survived in CanE, gaining wide currency there. The DCHP-1 lists its earliest attestation in 1882 under its main entry for tuque, and 1888 as toque. An example from 1880 was found that seems to be an overlap of two senses, a cook's hat and a woolen hat:

  When dinner was ready, the cook, a little fat man, with an apron tied round his waist, a long red toque on his head, ..., put his hands to his mouth, and gave a loud halloo. (FitzGibbon 1880, p. 112, original emphasis)

This new evidence may push back the attestation by two years and establishes the spelling with <o> as the earlier attested form and questions the <u> form as the main entry in a new DCHP.




Revision of definitions |Home| |Top|

Some of the existing definitions will have to be rewritten and adapted as new evidence is found. One such example is runner, sense 1b: Hist. a light, fast sleigh, often used in racing. A contemporary description, provided in King (1836: 212), describes runner in a rather different sense:

  Nor had the other men been idle: they had formed themselves runners for the conveyance of their loads; which materially differ from the snow sleighs. They resemble a brewer's sledge, and are well adapted for conveying heavy weights over ice when the snow has melted from the surface. Birch is generally used in their construction; an article, however, so scarce with us, that barely sufficient could be found for making snow-shoes: they were necessarily, therefore, built of pine, which it was feared would prove too soft a wood to last out the voyage. (boldface added)

The definition of a light sleigh does not suggest a connection to the heavy loads that runners were apt to carry. A definition in the DCHP-2 therefore, adapting the former one, might read something like this:


a light, fast sleigh of simple design, apt to carry heavy loads, also often used in racing. Ideally made of birch for increased endurance, or, alternatively pine.

As more evidence such as the quotation above is found, definitions can be improved.




Documentary evidence of historical citations |Home| |Top|

The quotation evidence in the DCHP-1 is at times not as varied as one would wish. For instance, the following is the entry for beaver-eater, with two attestations, one from 1763 (in an edition from 1904), the other from 1965:


beaver-eater n. the wolverine (def. la) or carcajou.

1763 (1904) LONG Voyages 76: The country everywhere abounds with wild animals, particularly bears .. . beaver eaters.... 1965 Islander 14 Feb. 5/3: Beaver-eater is one of the wolverine's nicknames.


Preliminary searches in electronic databases have yielded the following additional quotations (the frames mark those examples that are selected for a new edition). There is still a gap for much of the 20th century (1889-1997), which is a result of electronic data available today. In any case, the attestation record is much improved in a time-economical manner:



1791 (Long, 221): English beaver eater Chippeway Quickwahay [a glossary]

1793 (1801) (Mackenzie, 83): As he mentioned that there were some beavers in this part of the country, I told him to hunt it, and desire the others to do the same, as well as the martens, foxes, beaver-eater or wolvereen, &c. which they might carry to barter for iron with his own nation, who are supplied with goods by us, near their country.

1808 (1813) (Lambert, 415): The wolverine, or carcajou, is called by the hunters beaver-eater, and resmbles the badger of Europe.

1823 (1824) (Talbot, 211): The WOLVERINE, or CARCAJEW, sometimes called “the Beaver-eater,” is not unlike a badger.


1849 (Warburton, 172): The wolverine or carcajou is called by the hunters beaver eater, and somewhat resembles a badger; the skin is soft and handsome.

1883 (Sessional Papers , 14-60): The “Beaver Eater” was the fur hunters' name for the animal known as the Wolverine, Glutton or Carcajou.

1889 (Sessional Papers, 5A-12): The “Beaver Eater” was the fur hunters' name for the animal known as the Wolverine, Glutton or Carcajou.


1997 ( British Columbia Report (Vancouver), Jun 23. 8/43: 34): Another B.C. cryptid is known as the beaver eater , a large, fur-covered creature that Mr. Kirk says is "like some kind of sloth." It is reported to inhabit northern lakes. By its name, its reputed diet is obvious.

2002 ( Province , [Vancouver], Aug. 25, A22): Do the Indians have a name for it [ huge, fur-covered animal that kills and eats beavers] ? "They call it Beaver-Eater ." How imaginative.





Citations and coverage over various time periods |Home| |Top|

The digitization of the print edition of the DCHP-1 allows for analyses that can guide the editorial team in its work. The following figure shows the absolute and relative number of citations (in relation to the total number of citations in the DCHP-1) per decade from 1700 to the 1960s.

(Dollinger 2006, paper presented at the 14 ICEHL Conference in Bergamo, Italy)

It can be seen that the bulk of the citations, i.e., 10 230, are from the 1950s and 1960s. These data reflect the nature of the traditional reading programme for the DCHP-1 and help identify the areas that would require the most attention.

Due to the availability of electronic databases (covering material until 1920 and from c. 1985 to the present), the periods from 1920 to 1950 and from c. 1965 to c. 1985 could be identified as two areas where a traditional reading programme for the DCHP-2 would be particularly rewarding.




Etymologies and scholarly work published since 1967 |Home| |Top|

Research published since the completion of the DCHP-1 provides valuable insights and cues for the revision of etymologies in a new DCHP. One such case is a very prominent Canadianism: Canuck, 'native or citizen of Canada'. The DCHP-1, labelling Canuck as 'origin uncertain', does not yet include the theory suggested by Mitford M. Mathews (reported by Jacob Adler in American Speech [50/1-2: 158-60, 1975]). Mathews (1975) establishes a connection between Canuck and the Hawaiian word kanaka 'man', suggesting the word's movement from Hawaii to New England via American whaling ships (whalers often hired sailors on the Hawaiian and South Sea islands). At first glance, this theory of origin seems as far-fetched as some earlier suggestions. Mathews surmises that the American sailors would have heard the term kanaka, 'man', used by the Hawaiians, eventually using it themselves to distinguish Hawaiians from other sailors. Sledd (1978) provides a summary of the discussion for the origin of Canuck until late 1970s. He, however, suggests that the term took a foothold on the Pacific coast and spread from there to eastern Canada with the fur trade.

Canadian evidence shows that the term appears early in the East (1849 in Canada, 1835 in the US). In contrast, the first attestation from the Canadian west coast dates from 1917. While Canuck is used to refer to Canadian troops during the Boer War (1899-1902) in eastern Canadian newspapers, British Columbia papers do not use the term, adhering to "Canadian/s". The presence of South sea descendants, usually referred to as kanakas in British Columbia, is likely to have blocked the adoption of related Canuck for some time. The evidence suggests not only that Mathew's theory holds, but also that his dissemination pattern from the east to the west is correct. For full details see http://www.let.leidenuniv.nl/hsl_shl/DCHP-2.htm, (section 4.2).