Dictionary of Canadianisms Online.

A decade ago I posted about the project to revise the Dictionary of Canadianisms on Historical Principles, whose first edition appeared in 1967. The revised second edition is now online here, free for anyone to access. As Dave Wilton says at Wordorigins.org (where I learned about it):

The new edition not only includes words that have appeared since 1967, the editors have also cleaned up questionable entries for older words—for example, the DCHP-1 had separate entries for toque and tuque, which are now combined into one. As well, many entries have full color, photo illustrations and charts showing the term’s use across the provinces or through time. […]

Users of the DHCP must be aware, however, that the dictionary only includes citations from Canadian sources. So when a term is older in other dialects, the older citations will not appear. This editorial choice, while a valid and justifiable one, means that users cannot rely on the DHCP alone, but must use it conjunction with more comprehensive sources like the OED. Still, this isn’t going to be a serious limitation to most users.

Hurray, say I!


  1. Call it the O-Eh-D.

  2. I suspect that Dave Wilton has a computing background; ‘DHCP’ is the Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol, which is the thing that (on many networks) gives your machine an IP address. It’s really hard to type ‘DCHP’ when ‘DHCP’ is so familiar . . .

  3. Hah, I didn’t even notice that!

  4. Sven Regener says
  5. And many of us need to type manually “dhcpcd” whenever they want to connect to anything…

  6. ‘Canadianisms’ surprises me – I suppose because ‘Scotticisms’ is always pejorative, or at least condescending. It must be neutral to the creators, but I’d still have expected ‘of Canadian Dialect’ or similar.

  7. Americanisms is not pejorative in the U.S. either. The English can condescend to anybody, especially when it comes to what they fondly believe to still be their exclusive possession, the language. On the other hand, dialect is, most unfortunately, condescending, the more so because everyone speaks one.

  8. Indeed, the coiner of Americanism in 1781 was himself a Scot, the Reverend John Witherspoon, who was invited to immigrate from Scotland to be the president of the College of New Jersey (now Princeton University), and he explicitly devised it on the model of Scotticism. He made the first known collection of American usages, and depreciated most of them, though he foresaw that American English would eventually become independent of overseas models.

    The first entry for Canadianism (in the linguistic sense) in the DCHP-1 (not yet updated) is as late as 1957. There seems to be no popularizing book titled The Canadian Language as yet, in the manner of Mencken’s The American Language (1919-48) and Baker’s The Australian Language (1945); of course, there are two Canadian languages, which might make that title unacceptable in Canada.

  9. Trond Engen says

    Jen: ‘Scotticisms’ is always pejorative, or at least condescending.

    That’s surprising. I think this would be very dependent on the context. I can see how that would be the case in some parts of the education system, but I would think less so in literature, and none whatsoever in (modern) lexicography.

  10. The OED3 (2011) says ‘A characteristically Scottish word, phrase, or idiom. Freq. depreciative.’ The quotations back this up, both by Scots and non-Scots. The quotations for Americanism are much more mixed in tone. Here’s Witherspoon himself:

    The first class I call Americanisms, by which I understand an use of phrases or terms, or a construction of sentences, even among persons of rank and education, different from the use of the same terms or phrases, or the construction of similar sentences, in Great Britain. The word Americanism, which I have coined for the purpose, is exactly similar in its formation and signification to the word Scotticism.

    As for Canadianism, the OED3’s first quotations are from 1909 and 1928, but the terms butt in and kick ‘thrill’ mentioned there are of course Americanisms as well. The most recent quotation is about Obama giving a state dinner for the Canadian PM, saying “It’s about time, eh?”

  11. John Cowan: I have already remarked here at Casa Hat that English Canada, since the mid-twentieth century, has been entirely absorbed by the United States, culturally: what few linguistic features once separated the two countries are growing fewer in number, and in any case they never were so salient as to make Canadians perceive themselves as speaking a distinctive variety of English (which is quite true, of course -the English spoken in most of Anglophone Canada –basically, all of it minus Newfoundland, Cape Breton and the Ottawa valley, and perhaps a few other, smaller areas– is much closer to “Broadcast standard” American English than the English spoken by a large number of Americans), so a book on the topic of “the Canadian language” would have found too few readers to be considered worth writing or publishing, even back in the day when English Canada did exist as a separate nation (in the sociological sense).

    Sensitivity to the other official language of the country, is, I think, a rather unlikely explanation for the absence of a book titled “The Canadian language”, inasmuch as many francophones outside Quebec (including yours truly) have been rudely told in public to “Speak Canadian”.

  12. I can’t speak for anglophone Canadians, of course. Southern Americans may not be able to tell the difference between Canucks and Yanks, and there is a dialect continuum between Western American (which includes the “standard broadcast accent”, which is not a standard accent) and Canadian English. But along the border with in New England and the Inland North, the distinction between American and Canadian varieties is more salient than ever. And that’s just a matter of accent. There are still plenty of Canadian-specific terms, especially in politics of course, but also in everyday life.

  13. Trond: It’s a very old-fashioned word, quite strongly connected with the period after 1707 when ambitious Scots suddenly had much greater access to London and wanted to live up to its standards – and not mark themselves as provincial. Lists of Scotticisms are always lists of what not to say if you want to be taken seriously in London or as a ‘British’ writer!

    If I wanted to be neutral I could talk about Scottish words/expressions/dialects, or just about Scots or Scottish English – but ‘-isms’ of any kind do sound like something to be looked down on to me.

  14. What Etienne said.

    After having spent a couple of months in La Havana Vieja getting deeper into the Spanish (not quite yet into the Cuban) language, I am starting to feel more strongly that I am American, not in the political, but the geographical, or hemispherical, sense.

    It’s possible, JC, that Cubans know the difference between Canadians and Americans, if such a thing exists (and I cling to that ideal). Further sojourns (and I do not mean journeys) there may teach me more on that score.

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