'It's part of what makes people Canadian': Updated dictionary compiles 'Canadianisms'

An updated dictionary provides a fascinating look at words and expressions distinctively Canadian, with entries from “all-dressed” to “zed.”

Words like ‘garburator’ and ‘chesterfield’ are documented

Stefan Dollinger is the editor-in-chief of the second edition of the Dictionary of Canadianisms on Historical Principles, full of distinctively Canadian words and expressions. (Twitter, Mark Blinch/The Canadian Press)

An updated dictionary provides a fascinating look at words and expressions distinctively Canadian, with entries from "all-dressed" to "zed." 

A Dictionary of Canadianisms on Historical Principles, first published to mark the country's centennial in 1967, was recently released online with more than 1,000 new entries, following a decade of work.  

Stefan Dollinger, the editor-in-chief of the second edition and an associate professor in the linguistics department at the University of British Columbia, spoke to The Homestretch Thursday about the updated dictionary, including its Albertan terms.

"From the Alberta perspective, parking stall is an interesting word," he said.

"When you ask Canadians what they call the building where they park their cars, you get something from 'parking garage' to 'parkade'. 'Parkade' is Western Canadian, mostly, 'parking garage' is more Ontario and the East. And in Alberta, it came up that 'parking stall' is a very frequent variant."

The online entry for the word shows graphs of Internet domain searches that clearly show the prominence of "parking stall" in Alberta.  

This graph, from the Dictionary of Canadianisms on Historical Principles, shows regional domain searches for "parking stall" spike in Alberta. (The Dictionary of Canadianisms on Historical Principles)

Another word familiar to Albertans, said Dollinger, is "Caesar," an alcoholic drink containing Clamato juice, vodka and spices.

"In the Albertan context, we found out that a lot of sort of drink terms seem to be coming from Alberta," he said.

Dollinger said some words — such as "chesterfield" —  have died out, while others are growing in popularity. "Take up," for example, meaning to "go over the answers to homework or a test, quiz or examination," is an Ontario term that is spreading.

Dollinger said the story behind some words surprised him.

The history behind the word "canuck," for example, is complex and not completely understood.

"Canuck goes back to a Hawaiian term meaning man," Dollinger said. Once used derogatorily, it has come to have positive connotations in a Canadian context.   

Dollinger said he hopes people enjoy the dictionary.

"I think it's parts of the history, it's part of what makes people Canadian, so people get pretty excited by it," he said.

With files from The Homestretch