Tuque, chesterfield, eh: 'Canadianisms' dictionary delights wordsmiths

Word nerds rejoice — there's a new guide to the Canadian lexicon, eh.

After more than a decade of work, a team of researchers have released a newly-updated version of Dictionary of Canadianisms on Historical Principles, and it's full of things you'll only hear this side of the border. 

More than 1,000 new entries have been added to the comprehensive online guide of uniquely Canadian words and phrases — like chesterfield, eavestrough, and tuque.

Wordsmiths behind the new guide say it's designed to capture how Canadians really talk, just in time for the country's 150th birthday.

"I think because Canada is so big and so complex, it's hard to sum up a single pattern of Canadian English, but that's a thing in itself," said John Considine, an English professor at the University of Alberta who helped research the new edition.

"I think it used to be a source of cultural cringe where Canadians felt as though they were speaking a kind of American English or a kind of British English. Absolutely not. Canadian English is its own thing."

The detailed tome — first published to mark Canada's centennial in 1967 — includes colourful definitions, strange origin stories and in some cases, even photographs or videos depicting the word described.

For instance, "all-dressed" — which comes from the French "tout garni" — includes a photograph of a bag of the oft-cherished seasoned potato chips only found in The Great White North. 

The word "eh" itself is described in an essay of more than 4,800 words, and a detailed graphic demonstrating how the word has slowly fallen into disuse.

Hosers and a parkade mystery

During his research, there were plenty of surprises for British-born Considine, who also works as a consultant for Oxford Dictionary.

Among those surprises were words with a distinct Alberta connection, like "hoser." Used to describe "the type of Canadian young men who wear tuques and flannel shirts while drinking beer and conducting inane conversations" the term was created by comedians on set of Canadian cult classic SCTV.

"It seems to have a strong Edmonton connection," Considine said in an interview with CBC Radio's Edmonton AM.

"According to Rick Moranis, back in 1981, when he and Dave Thomas were doing the Great White North segments on SCTV, they made up some extra Canadianisms in order to sound extra Canadian, and hoser is one of them."

The word "parkade" is another word with Alberta origins that has been added to the dictionary. The word makes its first appearance in the written record in a 1957 edition of the University of Alberta newspaper The Gateway, but its true origins remain a mystery, said Considine.

"I would love to know who made it up. Some unknown genius, some unknown poet," said Considine, whose decade-long research into Canadian English has not dampened his love of language.

"It's a really good word. It's short, it's easy to say and it's clear what it means. It trips off the tongue."