you say toe-ron-toe, i say ta-rahna

March 26th, 2001

an odd part of being canadian is that often we define our national identity by its not-being-american-ness. i guess the folks in new zealand have a similarly defined-by-proximity gestalt.

i remember a scene from a ww2 movie, maybe with David Niven, where a british soldier trying to escape the germans is boarding a train. the guy checking his papers hasn’t a clue, since his german, learned from his parents, is impeccable and deceptively local. however, when he’s done, the german sends him off with a “thank you”, to which the britsh guy instinctively replies “you’re welcome” microseconds before his world comes crashing in.

i also remember that when for a short time i thought i might learn to speak nederlands (dutch), i was told that during the war the officials used to have you say the name of the dutch town Scheveningen, since your pronunciation of the “sch” could determine your dutch/deutsch-ness.

well, the closeness of canadian and american speech is pretty hard to define. that’s why many famous actors and news anchors are canadian and most folks wouldn’t know it. even the vernacular is indistinguishable in many cases.

so here’s your border-check. ask them what grade they were in when they were ten years old. instinctively, the canadians will give you a numeral (grade 4), and the americans will give you an ordinal (4th grade). it’s fascinating to watch. it’s even more telling in print, where canadian press style is to put it in roman numerals (grade IV).

you thought this was leading somewhere but it’s not.

Comments are closed.