Take Off, Eh?

I’ve read some interesting debates online recently pertaining to the differences between UK and US English. Just last week, our own Hise highlighted the differences between the two Englishes when it involves the punctuation surrounding dialogue. Boy (George), do people take this stuff seriously. As well they should, though—our wondrous English language is as essential to us writers as pickled sheep’s eyes dipped in fruit bat guano are to pregnant women. Utterly indispensable. But I ain’t going there. Neither pregnant women nor the Limey/Yank debate, nosiree. Not even fruit bats. No, I want to talk today about a different type of English, and one that oftentimes gets completely overlooked in these discussions: Canadian English.

Let me begin with a story. When I first arrived in this vast, slightly bewildered country from England in the late ’80s, I quickly found work in a group home for abused/neglected teens. Back then, I’m mildly ashamed to say, I smoked. A lot. Cigarettes, mostly (but I didn’t inhale, I swear). So, one evening I was involved in a stressful situation dealing with a kid who was flipping out about something or other, and once calm had returned, I said (ostensibly to myself, but for some reason the words emerged as out-loud speech instead of innermost thoughts… no doubt my first mistake), “Boy could I use a fag right about now.” All of a sudden, I had the rapt and wary attention of every teenager in that home. You could have cut the silence with a great big silence cutter (I was far lazier with my metaphors back then). They stared. I stared back. Someone laughed nervously and said “duuuude” under his breath. In that shaky skateboarder voice—you know the one. Now, don’t get me wrong, it ought to go without saying that the humour of this moment isn’t at the expense of gay people, it’s at the expense of a stupid, bigoted word alongside my own naivety and the propensity of adolescents to tend toward the homophobic. A perfect storm of awkwardness, really. Continue reading “Take Off, Eh?”

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