Yes, it was a little cold and overcast — for May — but I noticed two things in addition to the weather:
- Everyone was so nice. Restaurant wait staff were particularly nice. I assume it may have something to do with the fact that the Canadians don’t have a big black cloud hanging over the country right now. However people tell me that Canadians have always been that way.
- The Canadian infrastructure surpasses ours. I would think it is a result of spending their tax dollars on it, rather than on corruption; the military; and long, drawn-out political campaigns.
But this is a language-oriented blog, so let’s now proceed to more relevant topics.
Did you know that Canada has a Commissioner of Official Languages? The need comes about because Canada has two official languages: English and French. The office of the commissioner oversees how well federal departments and their employees are able to carry out their duties in both official languages.
Madeleine Meilleur, a politician with close ties to Trudeau, has directly asked for this job from Trudeau’s people. She is being opposed by many because she is not proficient in English. They feel that the top language cop should be proficient in both languages, since she will be judging the language skills of others.
In front of a legislative committee, Melilleur had to use French several times when she could not come up with words in English. She has practiced law in Ontario — English speaking — and served for 13 years in the cabinet of Ontario’s Liberal government.
Words that she could not come up with in English included heritage minister, prime minister, and privy council office. In addition, she did not know the difference between singular and plural, saying she wanted to serve Canadian, rather than Canadians.
Here is a quote from her appearance before the committee: “There was 10 person, I think most of them were civil servant and there was a representative from the minister of patrimoine, heritage minister, and one from the premiere ministere.”
The Canadian New Democratic Party opposes her confirmation, mostly because of her close relationship with the government and her donation record, which they feel takes away from her objectivity.
I thought you might like to hear that other countries have issues with government appointees as well. And it was all about language, after all. Here is more about language and Canada:
Of course, Canada has two official languages, French and English. Quebec is the French-speaking province. Some people, known as Allophones, speak neither of those two languages as their first language. Those would mostly be immigrants and their children, and they total about 6.6 million people, or 14 percent of the Canadian population.
About 21 percent of the population speak French as their first language. About 17 percent of Canadians are bilingual in English and French.
Canadians who write in English generally use British spelling. And one thing you notice right away about a Canadian is that the ou sound in house or about sounds more like oo — hoose or aboot.
Here are some Canadian words and what they mean. I did hear many of these when I was there recently:
Double double – My son-in-law ordered one of these at Tim Horton’s, one of their ubiquitous coffee (and food) places. It is coffee with two sugars and two creams.
Washroom – The Canadian restroom.
Zed – Instead of the letter zee. Some Americans also say this.
Poutine – A favorite dish. French fries with gravy and cheese curds (very yummy!).
Rink rat – I have heard this in the United States because my daughter ice skates. Kind of like a gym rat, but in an ice rink.
Toque – I heard it pronounced “tooque”: a knit beanie type of hat. I didn’t realize it was a Canadian word; I thought it was a word that younger people used and I was just out of touch.
Cowtown – Nickname for Calgary.
Darts – Cigarettes, apparently. Never heard it; I was with all nonsmokers.
Toonie – I thought this was a weird one. It is a coin that is worth two whole dollars!
Yup! loonies and toonies. Go figure.