Towards a fully revised and extended edition of the
Dictionary of Canadianisms on Historical Principles (DCHP-2):
background, challenges, prospects
(University of British Columbia)
Received: July 2006, published August
2006 (HSL/SHL 6)
Sidney Landau’s highly stimulating introduction to lexicography, one finds the
concise remark that the Dictionary of Canadianisms on Historical Principles
(DCHP) is a “one-volume dictionary [...] modeled after the OED [Oxford
English Dictionary, with dated, attributed quotations illustrating each entry
and each definition” (2001:14). This sober statement, while perfectly correct,
somewhat conceals the fact that the DCHP is nothing less than the
flagship of English historical lexicography in Canada: no other source provides
more precise and accurate information on an equally balanced set of Canadianisms
than this work.
The purpose of the present paper is twofold. First, the
background and genesis of the DCHP-2 project will be introduced, which is
in the process of transferring to the University of British Columbia in
Vancouver. The DCHP-2 will be put in relation to the work on the first
edition, and the advantages and challenges involved in reviving a project almost
40 years since its publication and some 25 years after the DCHP-1 project
finally folded, will be discussed. Secondly, by way of illustration, three
Canadianisms will be analysed from a viewpoint that illustrates both the
lexicographical work that forms a significant part of the DCHP-2 project
and shows how these data may be of interest to the historical sociolinguist.
DCHP, in addition to being of national Canadian interest, has some claim as
an innovation in the lexicography of former colonial Englishes. While it is true
that American English (AmE) was the first ex-colonial variety which could boast
its own scholarly dictionary on historical principles (Dictionary of American
English, DAE 1938-44), both British English BrE and, at least since
WWII, AmE have been the dominant varieties of English of the twentieth century.
In this respect, when the DCHP-1 was published in 1967, it broke new
ground as the first scholarly dictionary on historical principles
of terms native to, or distinctively characteristic in a non-dominant variety of
reference works of other such varieties followed with considerable delays:
Ramson (1988) was the first to follow for Australian English, Silva (1996) for
South Africa and Orsman (1997) for New Zealand.
Since its publication in 1967, however, the DCHP has become out of date
to an extent that severely compromises its use today. While DCHP-1 is now
outshone by the highly successful Canadian English (CanE) dictionaries of
contemporary usage, such as the Canadian Oxford Dictionary (CANOX, 22004,
Canadian dictionary of the English language (ITP
Nelson 1997) dictionaries, it is clear that these dictionaries serve a
different purpose and cannot provide the diachronic depth (if any) of CanE
words. Even the OED, including its updates towards the third edition,
cannot provide a historical documentation of CanE words, senses and uses,
because its major focus has always been, until the second edition at least, on
British Isles usage. The policy of the OED in respect to former colonial
varieties has been called “ill-defined from the beginning” (Görlach 1990:1478),
a bias which the new edition seeks to remedy as much as possible in the
framework of a project of this size.
DCHP-1 was designed to fill this void in relation to CanE. Conceived in 1954
at the inaugural meeting of the Canadian Linguistic Association, its completion
was set to coincide with Canada’s centennial celebration in 1967, DCHP-1
testified not only to a highly successful start of Canadian historical
lexicography, but CanE lexicography in general, as it served as the backdrop of
the first truly CanE dictionaries.
The public’s response to the DCHP and its echo in the press, both pre and
post-publication, in combination with the high regard the DCHP has held
within linguistic circles, was very favourable, at times even enthusiastic. An
impressive number of reviews in newspapers and magazines, both domestic and
international (cf. entries in Avis and Kinloch 1977), as well as congratulatory
notes from competing publishers testify to the warm reception of DCHP-1.
Random House’s president Jess Stein at
the time called the DCHP-1 in a congratulatory letter “a real landmark in
English lexicography” (1 Dec. 1967),
and the editor-in-chief of Funk & Wagnall’s dictionaries at the time, Sidney
Landau, wondered that “now that we have it [the DCHP] I cannot imagine
how we managed to get along so long without it” (29 Nov. 1967). At the same
time, spin-off publications based on the DCHP, such as the Gage Senior
Dictionary, were being adopted by Canadian publishers as their in-house
reference tool (e.g. The Telegram newspaper, Toronto). In a review
of a different work, no less a dialect scholar than Raven I. McDavid (1970:289)
both praised the DCHP and, from today’s perspective somewhat ironically,
pointed to its ongoing updating and revision process, which was meant to set the
DCHP apart from comparable dictionaries.
Almost 40 years and not a single update later, we can say that this goal was not
met. Emerging disagreements within the editorial board and the sudden passing of
the editor-in-chief, Walter S. Avis, in 1979, are two possible reasons. Through
the acquisition of Gage Publishers by Thomson Nelson Publishers, however, we are
finally in the position to open a new chapter in Canadian English historical
But why should we engage at it at all? There are a number of
reasons why a second edition of the DCHP, a revision that remedies at
least the biggest gaps of DCHP-1; a revision that corrects (and possibly
purges) misconceived and outdated entries, a revision that updates the work for
the twenty-first century is not only a long overdue addition of material to
DCHP-2, but a
necessary overhaul of a research tool that can develop its full potential
only in today’s information age. As such, it has great potential to reach beyond
the core circle of users of DCHP-1 such as lexicographers, diachronic
linguists and historians.
these very general, almost obvious benefits of a revision, there are profound
scholarly reasons why the time is ripe for DCHP-2. Some of these reasons
were discussed among the linguistic community at a conference in early 2005. In
the late summer of 2004, Terry Pratt and David Friend initiated a dictionary
panel at a Toronto linguistic conference. The panel was part of the Canadian
English in the Global Context conference, held in January 2005 in honour of
Prof. J.K. Chambers, which provided the ideal interdisciplinary venue for a
discussion of the demand for a revision of the DCHP-1, on whose content
and outcome I shall report briefly in the next section.
2. The Toronto Dictionary Panel until mid-2006
dictionary panel at the Toronto conference was both a first report of
preliminary plans to revise DCHP-1 and a barometer test for its demand
among the linguistic community. Convened jointly by Terry Pratt (UPEI
University of Prince Edward Island,
General editor Gage Canadian Reference Series) and David Friend (Reference
Publisher for Nelson Thomson), the panel was completed by Katherine Barber
(editor of Canadian dictionaries, Oxford University Press) and John Considine
(University of Alberta). A total of ten questions were
raised by the panellists, which, for the record, are reproduced here:
are the strengths and weaknesses of the first edition?
there any basic principles that a second edition might change?
can be learned from other national dictionaries of –isms?
would be the logical stages through which the necessary new research and
editing would proceed?
would be the funding prospects?
the project attempt to access [research] materials not used for the first
would be the best role for the current copyright holder, Nelson Canada?
the aim be to produce the second edition electronically or only in printed
would this work connect with “Canadian English in the Global Context?”
a second edition worth undertaking at all?
evident from the start that not all of these questions could be addressed, and
so the contributions and discussions focussed on questions 3. (J. Considine), 5.
(in the open discussion), 10. (T. Pratt, K. Barber), and 1., viewed in a
particular sociohistorical context (D. Friend). After the input by the
panellists, the discussion was opened to the floor where the focus was largely
on funding issues. A poll among the linguists showed, however, that more than
50% of the audience had actively consulted DCHP-1 in the past.
panellists gave concise input statements. T. Pratt summarized the history of and
key factors relating to DCHP-1, and illustrated one of the kinds of
revision work needed at the example of skid road, when compared with more
recent work such as the
Dictionary of American regional English (DARE).
K. Barber discussed in detail how OUP Canada took the DCHP-1 as a
starting point for their research for CANOX-1 by including all
twentieth-century attestations in their list of search words. She also pointed
out that OED-3, which started with M, includes more CanE words than ever,
result of work on CanE. John Considine compared the Australian, New Zealand
and South African equivalents with DCHP-1 and OED-2 and gave
estimates on their scope and the resources needed for a revision. D. Friend,
finally, argued that DCHP-1 might have an inherent bias, as all of its
editors were men past their middle age at the time it was composed. While
holding high esteem for the editors, Friend argues that while
the DCHP is a kind of compendium of historical sources …
it itself is a historical document and it’s a view of that source material
through the lens of 1967, as seen by men who had attitudes shaped from their
younger days. (transcript of panel discussion)
indeed an interesting statement, and we can see a change of perspective even
DCHP-1 material. For instance, there is a striking difference between the
draft and the final entry for Eskimo in the DCHP. Thus, Lovell,
who contributed the core of the citation slips to the DCHP-1 collection,
defines, along with the generally accepted terminology of the 1950s, an
Eskimo (meaning 1) as
of a race of short, stocky, brownish-skinned people living along the Arctic
coasts of North America and adjacent to Siberia; one of the Inuit”
(Lovell 1958:18). The final entry was revised and edited so that it would appear
in actually quite modern shape, defining an Eskimo as
of a large group of North American aborigines inhabitating the Arctic and
northern coastal areas from Greenland to Siberia”
(DCHP-1, s.v. Eskimo, 1). The final entry includes cross
references to other terms, including innuit [sic!], making it still
acceptable by today’s standards. In the case of muffin
female dating partner for a limited period of time, originally used by soldiers”,
DCHP-1 choice was not as enduring. Following its otherwise often praised
practice of conserving space by referring to one of the citations (from 1865)
in lieu of a definition, we find muffin
defined indirectly with the citation:
fair Canadians may have been too kind in accepting the name and position of
from the young Britishry; but the latter cannot say that they have suffered
much in consequence. A muffin is simply a lady who sits beside the male
occupant of the sleigh - sola cum solo.
the definition is prompted by this particular space-saving DCHP-1
practice, no dictionary should be left unscathed today for providing a
historical, sexist quote as the definition of the term. And, I presume, there
will be many more cases such as these in socially sensitive areas in DCHP-1.
is interesting also for another reason. If we compare the respective entry in
the OED online version (accessed 15 June 2006), we see that meaning (4)
is labelled as a historic Canadianism. We find there:
Canad. slang. A young woman, esp. one who regularly
partners a particular man, by arrangement, during a social season. Now
Life of Oliphant (1956) 50, I had a charming muffin yesterday. She is
engaged to be married, so don't be alarmed. 1856
I. L. BIRD
Englishwoman in Amer. 260 Every unmarried gentleman, who chooses to do
so, selects a young lady to be his companion in the numerous amusements of the
season..when she acquiesces, [she] is called a ‘muffin’. 1873 R. A. FITZGERALD
Wickets 118 We were then told that the term ‘muffin’ is not in good odour
at the present day; that no lady will admit she ever was or ever could be a
muffin. 1904 A. GRIFFITHS
Fifty Years Public Service iv. 52 A pleasant tête-a-tête drive for
many miles..with your ‘muffin’ by your side. 1965 G. R. STEVENS
Incompleat Canad. 202 At the beginning of the winter season each young
man chose ‘a muffin’ - a ‘steady date’ for the season - an arrangement
terminated by mutual consent in the following spring.
the definition, for which the OED does not refer to a citation but
generally provides a new definition, we see the same citations as in DCHP-1,
with the exception of the 1856 quotation from Bird, which is listed instead of
the DCHP-1’s original 1865 quotation, perhaps because the latter uses
muffin in inverted commas. It is easy to imagine where the input for the
OED entry came from, which shows the usefulness of specialist
lexicographical research beyond its original purpose. This largely agrees with
K. Barber’s panel statement:
specialist work is being done and published, it will find its way into more
comprehensive works; where this is not the case, information gaps are obvious”.
3. After the panel:
setting up the DCHP-2 project
spring of 2005, the project as such was beginning to take shape. The task of
editor was taken on by myself, and a number of institutions (see
footnote 1) began to express their support for the project, which
facilitated research into ways towards a successful revision of DCHP-1.
Much of 2005 was spent with
preparations for the start of the DCHP-2 project. Naturally, the location
of an academic home for the enterprise was paramount. This proved to be an easy
task, however, as University of British
Columbia’s (UBC) Department of English, realizing the potential of the
project, agreed to host it. An advisory committee and a panel of consultants
and, most importantly, two professors of the department, Laurel Brinton and
Margery Fee, took on the task of associate editors, while the present author was
offered a postdoctoral fellowship at the department as editor of DCHP-2.
A focus at this early stage is
the dissemination of the project plans among peers, both in academia and in the
publishing world, for which a website is being designed at the moment. In the
fall of 2006, major grant applications will be submitted and it is hoped that
full-scale operations can be commenced at UBC’s Department of English in May
During the first half of 2006 the base materials of DCHP-1 were located
and assessed, and first pilot studies were carried out: the letter
was collated in relation to new scholarship (T. Pratt), the information of the
various data sets of DCHP-1 was compared and cross-checked to gauge the
value of the legacy data (S. Dollinger) and a collection of post-1967
Canadianisms was begun (L. Brinton, S. Dollinger). Around the same time, an
embryonic reading programme was started among the editors.
In terms of existing DCHP-1
data, the University of Victoria (UVic) holds the largest collection of citation
slips, filling 22 full-sized archival boxes in three alphabetical sections, with
an additional revision section. In total, c. 85,000 citations are held there. In
Kingston, at Queen’s University Archives, c. 13,000 more citations slips were
found, all collected by the late Water S. Avis between the publication of
DCHP-1 and his death in 1979. An additional c. 4,000 of these update slips
were found at the Strathy Language Unit, which, thanks to the foresight of a
former director of the unit, Margery Fee, were transcribed for research
light of such massive documentation, by a very conservative estimate
it is assumed that at least 40,000 citation slips were not considered in DCHP-1,
which will form a springboard for the new data collection programme of DCHP-2.
Apart from the citation slips as such, a wealth of additional material was found
at UVic and Queen’s, such as headword lists and antedatings of hockey terms,
which further increase the wealth of this “legacy material”. With this, we are
of course confronted with questions of digitization as one of our first tasks.
3.1. Digitization: legacy data and new information
of the legacy DCHP-1 data implies having to migrate it into a reliable
electronic format. This task, which will keep us busy for a considerable amount
of time, is comprised of three major steps, which are complemented by (4):
development of a suitable database that allows future application beyond our
immediate dictionary needs
scanning, OCR-ing of the
DCHP-1 and its conversion into the database format via automatic
identification of the
citation slips not included in the DCHP-1, their transcription and
their feeding into the database (incl. other legacy materials, such as the
17,000 update slips)
addition of new data from our reading and research programmes.
clear early on that the transfer of the legacy data, steps 1-3, would be a
project on its own that would have to run parallel to some of the
lexicographical parts of the project. It is estimated that some 6,000 person
hours are needed to key in the legacy data, as the material, 4" x 6" filing
cards, included newspaper clippings and both typed and handwritten excerpts do
not allow for a simple, straightforward scanning procedure. To illustrate the
problem, three citations slips of the best quality are provided in Figures 1 and
2. They are part of, in the words of the introduction of DCHP-1, the
“great deal of material that for practical reasons could not be published” in
the first edition (Avis 1967:xiii).Thousands of cards like these need to be
digitized for DCHP-2 (University of Victoria Archives).
Figure 1. Two file cards from the DCHP-1 files.
Salishans, dated 1898 (Lovell collection) and red-knives, 1956 (added
by Charles Crate), as two examples for native band names (neither of them in
DCHP-1 was confronted with strict page limitations, DCHP-2, at least
in its digital form, does not need to exclude entries and citations that would
Figure 2. File card from Avis update files (Queen’s
University Archives, Kingston, Ontario), with a brief assessment of a 1970s
source for its historical relevance.
clear that even top-notch scanners and software would have some difficulties to
OCR these very tidy and neatly kept slips, let alone the considerable number of
digitization effort such as this one is a formidable task for any project. This
why I am especially happy to announce that two of our most recent partners, the
Strathy Language Unit and Queen’s University Archives, have agreed to join
forces to transcribe their c. 13,000 citation slips as of September 2006. We are
currently negotiating with UVic Archives towards a solution for the 85,000 base
citation slips located there and we are hopeful that we will reach a similar,
mutually beneficial cooperation as in the former case.
3.2. Bank of Canadian English
on Historical Principles
digitization work relating to the second edition attempts not only to fulfill
the needs of
DCHP-2, but aims at putting the advantages of the current information age
to the best possible use. The DCHP-2 database, therefore, is conceived as
a multi-purpose database and research tool for use in many areas of inquiry,
most notably, historical linguistics and dialectology, but also historical
sociolinguistics, spanning the Late Modern English (LModE) period and the
twentieth century in toto from a Canadian perspective.
As the OED
quotations database and its application in linguistic studies has shown, the
linguistic community shows great demand for such databases. The DCHP
database would supplement the existing Strathy Corpus of CanE (reaching back to
the mid 1980s) in important ways, providing both diachronic depth, pre-1980s
data, and additional PDE data, while it would also provide more convenient
search tools than are offered by existing digitization projects with their
We believe that the DCHP-2 database should become the core of a Bank
of Canadian English on Historical Principles, so to speak, which not only
linguists of various trades and lexicographers will find useful, but also
historians of all aspects of Canadian and North American life and related
disciplines. It is with this intention that we design the DCHP-2
4. Three Canadianisms:
origins and spread
So far, I
discussed the background of DCHP-1 and the genesis of DCHP-2 in
administrative and logistic terms. On the lexicographical side, the DCHP-1
has many examples that are of potential interest to sociohistorical linguists.
In DCHP-1, the editors aimed “to provide a historical record of words and
expressions characteristic of the various spheres of Canadian life during the
almost four centuries that English has been used in Canada” (Avis 1967:xii).
As such, it provides many avenues for follow-up research on the spread of
English in North America. For the purposes of the introduction of this project
to readers interested as much in the socio as in the historical
aspect of linguistic research, I would like to demonstrate some of the
sociolinguistic implications of
historical lexicographical data for three Canadianisms. While there are
many interesting lexicographical problems in
former colonial varieties of English, ranging from very profound ones
such as the definition of a Canadianism for DCHP-2 and the question of
whether to include regionalisms, to minor questions such as the inclusion of
abbreviations and acronyms, I will focus on what, from a sociohistorical vantage
point, is perhaps one of the most interesting questions, i.e. the origin and
spread of a form, corresponding to Weinreich, Labov and Herzog’s (1968) classic
categories of actuation and transmission/implementation of a change. With the
use of new, mostly digitized data, I will try to demonstrate, for written
sources, how much information lexicographical work can unearth today, as a side
effect so to speak, concerning these two perennial questions of language change.
will review two previously recorded Canadianisms, from opposite ends of the
temporal spectrum, as well as a very recent one that has not yet been properly
recorded. The terms are
“an illegal operation to grow marijuana plants, often indoors”, which is of very
recent use, hoser “a loser, an uninspiring person”, dating back some
thirty years, and Canuck “a Canadian, sometimes used in a jocular or
endearing way”, going back at least to the 1830s. While all three terms have a
strong claim at being
Canadianisms, they represent three very different types.
is a recent word, which is neither found in CANOX-2, ITP Nelson
nor OED online. The first attestation in a large Canadian newspaper
is from 1998 in a Vancouver newspaper, while hoser, not quite as new,
already found its way into the OED with an attestation from 1981 from the
Toronto Star; Canuck, of course, is by far the term of longest
standing, with an 1849 attestation in DCHP-1 and a 1835 citation in the
Dictionary of Americanisms on Historical Principles (DA)
(1951), which is also the earliest source in OED online (15 June 2006).
It is clear that
Canuck is expected to have undergone the most profound forms of semantic
change, judging by the time depth of its attestations alone. I will begin with
the two more recent innovations, however, before discussing what a new edition
of the DCHP may have to add to the story of Canuck.
4.1 Among the new words:
and (not so new) hoser
coinages such as grow-op, we are today in a very good position to trace
the spread of a word in various digital sources. While I will primarily take a
look at newspaper data here, I will include student newsletters and student
newspapers, which represent a less formal printed source. The
includes UBC student publications since 1918, which can be accessed online and
free of charge.
attested occurrence for grow-op that we could find is from 21 Aug. 1998,
from the Vancouver Province in a report on the break up of a
criminal-style, illegal marihuana grow operation in Langley, BC, and appears in
a headline (example 1). In the text, the term does not occur as such, but twice
in its unclipped form grow operation (example 2):
Police sweep massive grow op: 'Sophisticated organized crime' behind pot:
Police (Province, 21 Aug. 1998, Final Edition, A8)
suspects were out fishing, unaware their high-stakes commercial grow
operation had been busted earlier in Langley's biggest-ever drug raid.
(Province, 21 Aug. 1998, Final Edition, A8)
an example of notorious newspaper headline clippings? There is solid anecdotal
evidence from around 1995/96 from spoken data in a British Columbia context for
grow-op, which points towards its colloquial origins. Two days later, in
the same newspaper, we find the clipping used four times (examples 4-6) and the
unclipped version once (3):
say the seized property was part of a sophisticated
in which B.C. marihuana is traded in the U.S. for cocaine.
(Province, 23 Aug. 1998, A7)
story is revealing, because it suggests that many of the estimated 2,000
marijuana grow-ops in B.C. are tended by people just like him.
(Province, 23 Aug. 1998, A7)
He described how Flashy came to his home with lumber, plastic, fans, fertilizer
and plants and set up a hydroponic grow-op in his basement.
(Province, 23 Aug. 1998, A7)
not unusual to have fires as a result of amateur wiring”
in grow-ops, he said. (Losses through diversion are estimated at
$3,500 per grow-op.)
(Province, 23 Aug. 1998, A7)
The first occurrence is the
unclipped compound, followed by four clippings from throughout the article. One
day later, we find a report on the police raid in the Ottawa Citizen (Aug
24, 1998:A6), which is almost identical with the Province article from
the day before, so that sentences (4), (5) and (6) appear verbatim in the
Ontarian newspaper. Only three days after the initial report the clipping had
made its way from a regionalism to a term of national currency. If our newspaper
database is a good enough indicator of the spread of the term in writing, we
might have evidence here that the article of 23 August in the Vancouver
Province actually spread the clipping beyond provincial boundaries, at least
in the print news media. Attempting to trace the word’s further use and
distribution in Canada, I relied on search features in the Canadian Newsstand
database (CNS). Figure 3 shows the results for the years 1998-2005, with a
linear projection for 2006 based on data from 1 January to 15 June (red column)
Figure 3: Frequency of grow-op in CNS (2006
score projected, based on period 1 January–15 June 2006)
aside the projected 2006 data for now, we see that every year shows a steady
increase in frequency. We can say that the problem has been discussed
increasingly from 1998 to 2005 and that part of the increase from 2004 to 2005
was due to the tragic shooting of four police officers on a large scale grow-op
in Mayerthorpe, Alberta, in early March 2005. Today, however, we can say that
both the clipping and the long form are still in competition. We can also
speculate whether the projected decline in 2006 is the result of successful
police work or is simply reflecting that grow-ops usually get into trouble
during the summer months, when rising outside temperatures increase the
likelihood of fires in illegal grow-ops, which then make headline news.
interesting as these findings may be, however, sociolinguistically speaking we
would like to know where the word originated. With more types of data becoming
available online, we can sift through various sectors of society by way of the
texts they produce and compare incidence and attestations. If we compare this
data with the UBC university publications, including student newspapers, we find
grow-op has not been much of a topic. Its oldest hit occurs in 2004 in an
official UBC release on the medical benefits of marihuana for sick people and
their problems acquiring it, and not in a student-run publication: “Few
dying patients have the energy to start their own grow-op” (UBC Report, Jan. 8,
2004:7). It seems clear, at least from written evidence, that students did not
have much to do with the spread of the clipping in its written form.
hoser is quite different in many respects. First, it has been attested in
various reference works (including ITP Nelson and CANOX-2, or the
OED online), and second and more importantly, it is attested early, and with
multiple hits, in our student paper data. Let us first take a look at the OED
entry (15 June 2006):
A stupid, unsophisticated, or loutish person, esp. one
regarded as typically Canadian.
Toronto Star 2 Nov.
MacKenzie brothers phrases like ‘hoser’ and their habit of wearing toques and
ear muffs while drinking beer are being imitated in living rooms and schools
across Metro... For parents puzzled by talk of hosers and such, Rick Moranis
explained..that ‘a hoser is what you call your brother when your folks won't let
you swear.’ 1990 M. MACRURY
in C. Martin Local Colour (1994) 16 Coming toward them are a couple of
hoser boys soddenly knocking back their buellers. 1994 Toronto Star
27 Nov. F3
Bettman arrived in Boston on Friday wearing ‘beige hiking boots, blue jeans, a
flannel shirt and a ski jacket’. A real hoser, eh? 2003 M. SCHIFFMAN
Hacker's Challenge 2
I. iii. 37 That'll show those American
hosers! No more stealing our hockey teams or our beer.
striking that the OED entry is the addendum to the definition that a
hoser is someone “typically Canadian” (it may be derived from the somewhat
contradictory 2003 quote American hoser). Indeed, neither ITP Nelson
(1997) nor CANOX-2 (2004) say anything of that sort:
Cdn slang 1 an idiot; a
goof 2 an uncultivated person, esp. an unintelligent, inarticulate,
beer-drinking lout (CANOX-2)
Cdn slang A gullible, uncouth,
beer-drinking man (ITP Nelson)
compared to these two Canadian dictionary entries, where could the OED
specification and stereotyping come from? The spread of the term, if not its
coinage, is closely linked with Canada’s SCTV Comedy skit show, which first went
on the air in the late 1970s on Global TV, then a small private network, and was
soon taken on by major Canadian and American networks. The term hoser was
used by comedians Rick Moranis and Dave Thomas, who played the Mackenzie
brothers (Bob and Doug) in the skit The Great White North (or Kanadian
Korner). This series
ridiculed almost every Canadian stereotype, including historical ones, they
could come up with. The first skit was aired on 19 September 1980 (http://www.sctvguide.ca/episodes/sctv_s3.htm,
22 June 06), and the term was soon taken on by students for parties and in more
organized “Hoser Days”. From there it found its way into the Toronto Star,
from which the OED picked it up (1981 quote.
also picked up, however, was the American perspective on the term, however
short-lived it may have been. The earliest attestation from the Ubyssey
student paper is from 21 January 1982, and there it occurs in an advertisement
from an off-campus club on East Broadway, advertising Thursdays as “Hoser
Night[s]”, when everyone with “toque, scarf and earmuff” got in for free. The
club was responsible for 6 out of 13 hits (Figure 4):
The Ubyssey, 21 January 1982 (21/1/1982:20).
March, after five Vancouver Tonite Hoser Night ads, a glossary of student
language was published in The
Ubyssey This list, partly intended to “assist professors in understanding
their students”, includes 22 words and expressions, one of them being hoser,
which is defined as “jerk, undesirable person, silly person but without the
affectionate overtone” (The Ubyssey 2/3/1982:5). While caution is called
for with self-proclaimed glossaries of student language, it seems clear that the
OED definition does not hold and carries, if anything, colonial overtones.
No doubt, though, the term must have carried covert prestige in 1982.
(29 March) we see the last
use of hoser in the Ubyssey; since then, there has only been one
attestation each in 1997, 2000 and 2005
all in negative contexts. Hoser seems to have had only a short-lived
stint in the student media in the early 1980s. In general, while students do not
seem to have used the word hoser in writing to make it a term of even
moderate frequency over the past 25 years, commercial enterprises such as
Vancouver’s Tonite used it, evidently to accommodate to the language of
students. At the same time, the expression seems to have largely left the
student milieu and has entered mainstream CanE, which 1,001 hits in CNS, since
the mid-1980s, suggest (3,384 hits for grow-op
since 1998 put its frequency in relation, however). It is probably safe to say
that the student population of the early 1980s played a crucial part in the
transmission of hoser for CanE.
its ultimate origin, however, we would need to go back to data from the 1970s,
i.e. prior to the airing of the TV skit, a period which coincides with one of
the digitally least accessible periods: old enough to have missed early
computing, young enough not to merit digitization at the present point in time.
While one informal account links its origin to hockey slang, to hose a hockey
team “to beat them soundly” (Thay 2004:67), an earlier commentator detected
this verbal expression already in a WWII contexts (Eric Adams, Toronto Star,
26 February 1982:A19). An etymological entry in DCHP-2 for hoser,
could perhaps, besides its link to SCTV, include the phrase, “of some currency
in early 1980s student circles”.
and hoser both have a good claims to being Canadianisms:
hits in the New York Times since 1981 indicate that hoser was used
only as of 2001 in the sense described here. Grow-op also has a strong
claim to being a Canadianism based on evidence from the New York Times,
as its only hit is in a review of a book
Douglas Coupland, the famous Vancouver
author (21 May 2006).
For less recent terms, such as
our next example, we can start with the information in reference works such as
DARE, DAE or DA and Wright's English Dialect Dictionary (EDD), which are
invaluable resources for our next case, one of the most prototypical
4.2. The complex case of Canuck: some preliminary thoughts
Canuck has been documented for more than 170 years and the term, quite in
contrast to the two words discussed earlier, underwent significant shifts of
meaning. While it is impossible to present a comprehensive account of it here,
largely for lack of data, I would like to point out strengths and weaknesses in
the existing documentation and propose a tentative scenario of its spread and
changes of meaning based on new attestations. The current OED
entry (15 June 2006) again provides a point of departure:
A Canadian; spec. a French Canadian.
A Canadian horse or pony.
The French-Canadian patois.
adj. Of or pertaining to Canada or its inhabitants.
In U.S. usage, gen. derogatory.
H. C. TODD Notes upon Canada 92 Jonathan distinguishes a Dutch or French
Canadian, by the term Kanuk. 1849
J. E. ALEXANDER L'Acadie I. xvi.
273 ‘Come boys and have some grog, I'm what you call a canuck:’ a (Canadian).
1855 Knickerbocker XLV. 341 [We gave] our donkey into the keeping of
a lively Canuck. 1860
HOLLAND Miss Gilbert's Career ii.
29, I'll hang on the tail of it and try legs with that little Kanuck of his.
1862 Congress. Globe 29 Apr. 1867/3 To Canada to buy the little
Canuck ponies. 1884 Harper's Mag. June 125/1 A ‘Kanuck’ or French
Canadian. 1895 Century Mag. Sept. 674/2 That would be convenient
over the line among the Canucks. 1904 H. F. DAY Kin o' Ktaadn 145
‘Roule, roulant, maboule roulant,’ it's all Canuck but a good song. 1910
T. E. LAWRENCE Let. 17 Dec.
(1954) 121 The three Canuck priests. 1964 Calgary Herald 19 Mar.
18/6 The Scottish skip missed a wide open takeout in the fifth leaving the
Canucks another single. 1965
H. GOLD Man who was not with It
xxvi. 249 Bon jour, Grack, tu viens enfin? That's Canuck for you ain't
been a son to your ma.
glance, meaning (2), “a Canadian horse or pony”, strikes one as peculiar. On
closer inspection, we find that DARE (Vol. I, 1985) no longer provides
this meaning, which is likely to have been taken over into OED from
DAE (1938) and DA (1951). Relevant citations are the 1860 and 1862
quotations from above and an 1888 example from DAE, provided in (7):
I have often since thought it would be a good way to advertise horses … for
certainly no frontier town ever saw a grander sight than those four Canucks.
1860 and 1862 quotes and example (7) can be ruled out for DCHP-2 as
American attestations; while (7) comes from a book on the 1849 California
Goldrush, the 1860 quotation is from a book subtitled An American story,
published in New York and the 1862 quotation from the US Congress publication
Congressinal Globe. Thus, while meaning (2) should be in American
dictionaries and also in the OED, as a storehouse of world Englishes, it
should not be in a dictionary of Canadianisms.
(1951) is also the source for the oldest attested citation for Canuck,
reproduced in the 1835 OED quotation. If we compare the OED with
DCHP-1 entry, we see that the separation of meanings is different,
reflecting the different status of CanE vs. AmE and BrE: in DCHP-1
“native or citizen of Canada” is the prime meaning, with “French-Canadian” in
second place, followed by a minor variant in meaning (3):
n. [origin uncertain;
see suggestion at 1963 quote (def. 1)]
is not clear whether this term was first applied to
French Canadians or to residents of Canada in general;
in spite of the order dictated by the dates of the Canadian evidence, it is
probable that the term first designated a French Canadian since in the early
nineteenth century the term
itself most often referred to a French
1 Informal a native or citizen of Canada. See also Jack Canuck and
* In spite of the definition given in many dictionaries
still, the term
as applied by Canadians to themselves is not at all derogatory, quite the
contrary. Nor is the term, in modern use, especially associated with
French Canadians; again, quite the contrary.
alexander L 'Acadie I 273:
"Come boys and have
some grog, I'm what you call a Canuck; a Canadian."
Cdn Naturalist Dec. 432:1 must add that it is
by the analogy of another
term, namely Canuc, which is used
vulgarly and rather contemptuously for Canadian, and which seems to me
to come from Canuchsa, the word
employed by the Iroquois to denote a
"hut." Here Canadian would mean a "townsman" or "villager," but a
canuc would be only a "hutter."
1907 kennedy New Canada
192: "And don't you want to be
Americans any longer?" I asked. "No," said they most emphatically, "we're
Canucks now." 1963 Citizen
30 May 12/5: What is the origin of the nickname Jack Canuck ? It probably
comes from the name Connaught, the nickname given more than 100
years ago by French Canadians to Canadians
of Irish origin. 1964
Calgary Herald 19 Mar. 18/6: The Scottish
skip missed a wide open takeout in the fifth
leaving the Canucks another single.
Slang a French-Canadian.
donkin Trooper & Redskin
148: But for pure and
unadulterated brag I will back the lower class Canuck
against the world. 1900 North American Notes & Queries
July 64/1:1 would very much like to know the origin of
the expression Canuck applied to the French Canadians.
roe Whispering Hills 39: On
the face of the swarthy
Canuck guide who sat in the stern there was a weary contempt.
Rare a thing made in, or native to, Canada.
Grip (Toronto) 19 Feb. 3/2:
"Who'll buy my caller herrin' ?
Cod, turbot, ling, delicious herrin',
Buy my caller herrin',
They're every one Kanucks!"
adj. Informal Canadian.
Crip (Toronto) 5 Mar. 1/2: "Well, what do you
think of the Canuck elections ?" 1963 Globe and Mail
(Toronto) 2 Feb. 6/1: Any trend by the big brother to
the south to tell Canadians how to run their affairs can
raise Canuck dander very quickly.
there is no mention of Canuck as a term for horses, because it was not
Canadian. Let us then look at what is today the major sense of Canuck and
attempt to sketch a scenario of its development and spread in CanE.
4.2.1. Referents of Canuck
can rule out meaning (2) as non-Canadian, it is striking that DCHP-1,
published much later than DA, would have missed the 1835 antedating. It
is worthwhile to take a more detailed look at the source as such. The source
materials for DCHP-1 were limited to sources “written by persons native
to or resident in Canada who were writing about Canadian life or by travellers
and other visitors to Canada who were commenting on their experiences in this
country” (DCHP-1:xiii). The 1835 attestation is from Henry C. Todd, who
undertook his journey from England to North America in “the latter part of 1832”
(Todd 1835:3), and would therefore qualify as an attestation by a traveller. He
reached Toronto (then still called York) in late January 1833, almost certainly
shortly before he returned to England, and the larger context of the first
Canuck quote makes it quite clear that Kanuck, as reported by him,
was American usage at the time. Point 263 provides the context for the
attestation, which is added as a kind of afterthought of the portrayal of the
263. Taking possession, after purchase, is called, in the
phraseology of the country, drawing your land. The quantity of land described as
located in favor of U.E. loyalists, is 1,664,600 acres, and for militia
claimants 504,100 acres. Canadians are somewhat jealous of Americans; that they
are secretly manoeuvering, not exactly with the inoffensive good humor of a much
respected yeoman of England, in whose sequestered dwelling I some time resided
[…]. Johnathan distinguishes a Dutch or French Canadian, by the term Kanuck
contrasts the high-spirited English peasant with the American and Canadian, but
says that Americans use the term Kanuck, with initial, upper-case K-,
only for Dutch and French Canadians. The term Dutch is interesting here. As has
been shown for early Ontario (Dollinger 2006:71-75; 93f; 99), Dutch almost
certainly refers primarily to German speakers (up to 1/6 of the total population
after 1783), which were comprised of two groups: British mercenaries in the
American War of Independence who decided to settle in Canada (cf. Bausenhart
1989:26) and Quaker immigrants and their relatives (and
possibly Gaelic speakers). Dutch
speakers, when they migrated to Canada, were more likely to retain their
language after 1776. As a result, both High German and Low German (Dutch)
dialects were spoken by around 15% of the population in the early years after
1783. For Americans, where multilingualism was discouraged after the revolution
(Nelson 1961:89), members of Upper and Lower Canada’s two largest non-Anglophone
groups before the 1830s, Francophones and
Germanophones (including some
Dutch speakers), would most likely be put into one category: Kanucks, of
which the northern neighbour seemed to have a disproportionately greater share.
Therefore, I would like to suggest that Canuck, attested first, not
unimportantly, with initial
K-, originated as an American term, with derogatory overtones, for
Germanophones and Francophones. Since these two groups concentrated north of the
border the association with Canada came into play as a consequence of the more
multilingual nature of early Upper and Lower Canada.
speakers tended to assimilate with mainstream society quite quickly and were
only trumped by the Dutch in this respect (Weissenborn 1983:19; Schryer
1998:19f), so that it is little surprise that subsequent documentation of the
derogatory uses of Canuck for Germanophones and Dutch are rare. For
Francophones, in their cultural struggle for survival in Anglophone Canada, the
documenation of Canuck as a derogatory term for French Canadians is found
at regular intervals (see Spedon 1866:71f,
Laperrièrre 1881:207, Clapain 1894:67 and Harrison 1898:11). By the 1920s, the
derogatory connotations seem to have been largely lost. The statement of
francophone intellectual and former Prime Minister of Canada, Pierre E. Trudeau
(1919-2000), who claimed he “never heard [Canuck] used pejoratively in
connection with French Canadians” (Globe and Mail, 26 Feb. 1977: 1)
– if it
can be taken at face value –
coincides with this estimate.
DCHP-1 evidence supports Trudeau's observation, as its last citation for
derogatory use is from 1912.
was used already
early on in the sense of
however. Spedon (1866) is an interesting case, as first, after using the term
habitants and Frenchman, he resorts to the Canuck Frenchman
(1866:71), while on the next page he pejoratively refers to the Canuck lingo
illustrating the polysemic status of the term in that period. However, already
some 20 years earlier we have evidence for use of Canuck to denote an
English speaker: the first attestation in DCHP-1 from 1849 is again from
a British traveller. The traveller and a group of British officers meet with a
“lusty fellow in a forest road with a keg of whisky slung around him”, near
London, Ontario, and they are invited, in perfect English, to have some “grog”.
explains that he is “what you call a canuck”. By then, an extension of meaning
from the referent
must have already happened, as Canuck is applied to an Anglophone
Canadian, perhaps in contrast to the British travellers and British soldiers,
who were likely to return home to Britain.
DCHP-1 expresses in its definition (1), the emphasis on being native-born
obviously had some currency in the 1840s. An attestation in a novel from 1878
has the protagonist declare that he was “a Canuck”, i.e., born in Canada, but
was raised in Ireland, before he returned (Dobbin 1878:93). Another citation
from 1878 goes even further and applies the term exclusively to
Anglophones when Canuck
is juxtaposed with other peoples of Canada:
The land of snow and ice [Canada] proved to be a land
which carried off the prizes from all corners in grain and fruit. The home
of the “Canuck,” the “Habitant,” the “Metis,” and the “Indian,” proved to be
a land whose educational exhibit was confessedly superior to anything of the
kind in the great collection (Leggo 1878:851).
We can see
that quite early on, within a generation or two from the earliest attestation in
1835, the term was used by Canadians (as opposed to Americans) in a neutral, if
anything, endearing, albeit somewhat informal way.
4.2.2. Possible origins and spread
Canuck, “a native or
citizen of Canada”,
represent an unresolved puzzle in historical lexicography. Theories are
numerous, some more jocular than anything else. It has been claimed that
Canuck is derived from:
a derivation by French
Canadians from the last name Connaught, a common name of the Irish
post-1815 immigrants in eastern Canada (DCHP-1, 1963 quote)
from Iroquois Canuchasa
‘hut’ (DCHP-1, 1861 quote)
an ‘adaptation’ of the
phrase “Genug [von Kanada]”, ‘enough of Canada’, which German mercenaries
are thought to have used after the American War of Independence (Thay
an American adaptation of
the French troops’ uttering the words quelle canule frequently during
a siege on Quebec (Thay 2004:36)
Incidentally, the most promising theory of origin also seems a bit far-fetched
at first glance, as it establishes a connection of Canuck with Hawaiian
kanaka ‘man’. This idea,
first suggested by Mitford M. Mathews, the editor of DA, is reported by
Adler (1975:158-60), only after it emerged from a discussion in a Honolulu
newspaper and two readers objecting to this connection.
There are some striking pieces of evidence that, while far from being complete,
suggest the merit of the idea so that DARE (I:1985), for instance, picks
up the Hawaiian root theory (labelled
Sledd (1978) provides a summary on the evidence for the origin of Canuck
until the late 1970s, where the discussion
ends, proposing his own theory on the spread of the term in North
America. Sledd establishes a connection between Hawaiians and Frenchmen only
(1978:177), but it seems crucial that he thinks the term went via the Pacific
coast to eastern Canada, i.e. suggesting that it was used the fur trading routes
(1975) establishes the connection between Hawaii and New England via American
whaling ships. Whalers often hired sailors on the Hawaiian and South Sea islands
and he surmises that the American sailors would have heard the term kanaka
“man” used by the Hawaiians, eventually using it themselves to distinguish
Hawaiian from other sailors. Adler (1975:159) specifically suggests ship log
books and sailors journals from the period of 1820-1840 from eastern Canada and
the American Northwest as the best sources for conclusive evidence. This,
clearly, stands in contrast to Sledd’s eastward expansion of the term, starting
in Pacific Canada.
no doubt, however, that immigrants from the South Sea were present in western
Canada and were referred to as Kanakas, which begs the question what
influence the original use of the term may have had on the spread of Canuck
in the west. It is known that Hawaiian sailors were omnipresent all across the
arctic coast and also in British Columbia (BC), and some “Hawaiian words [were]
introduced by the Kanaka sailors on the whale ships, which are universally
employed between whites and Eskimo along the whole of the Arctic coast” (Murdoch
1883:55). In Le Jeune’s Chinook Jargon phrasebook (1886), a contact language
based on English in nineteenth- century BC, we find the following entry for
ethnicities in early BC:
Figure 5. Clipping from Practical Chinook vocabulary (Le Jeune 1886:6).
is Chinook Jargon for Canadian, while the gloss for Kanaka suggests
familiarity with the term by the contemporary speaker. While the Hawaiian
connection with BC is firmly established (Kanaka Ranch in Vancouver’s Stanley
Park was occupied by Hawaiians; Barman 2005, Forsythe 2006), there was also a BC
Native Band in the late 1890s called Kanaka [Indians] (Sessional papers
presence of Hawaiians, referred to as Kanakas, in British Columbia, and
of a native band at that is
likely to have had an influence on the spread of Canuck in the west, if
its origin in kanaka, only a generation before British Columbia was
colonized, is correct. Let us assume that Canuck originated with
kanaka and was first used for Hawaiian sailors, and, during the time after
the American revolution and the settlement of Upper Canada, for Germans, Dutch
and French, i.e. the two or three relatively large groups of early settlers that
must have been rather exotic to English speakers in the east. The term, however,
was quickly adapted as a term of endearment for Canadian-born people,
specifically for Anglophones, as we have seen earlier. From the 1890s onwards,
was frequently used in the Toronto Star to refer to Canadians who had
success abroad, particularly in sports columns, where it was often used
Johnny Canuck (as of 1901 also Janey Canuck, Fee and McAlpine
1997:93) against Uncle Sam, and sometimes John Bull; but it never
had derogatory overtones.
Canuck was increasing almost steadily, with some sizeable increases. Figure
5 shows its increase in terms of absolute frequencies in the Toronto Star:
Figure 4. Absolute frequency of Canuck(s) in the
Toronto Star (Pages of the Past, June 2006), 1894-1999 (weighted numbers,
according to average newspaper sizes, do not alter the picture to any great
In Figure 5, we first see a
considerable increase during the time of the Boer War (1899-1902), when Canada
sent troops to South Africa, and next during World War I (1915-1919), and also
in World War II (1940-1944), when
Canuck was frequently used in headlines of Canadian victories. The word
this had very clear positive connotations at the time. Cartoons figured also
prominently in the decade following the outbreak of WW I. From then on, the word
rapidly spread to other domains. In the 1920s businesses started using the term
(e.g. Canuck Poultry Feed) and in the 1930s sports columns habitually
employed the term, and this has been its major domain since 1945. Even before,
however, the term was sometimes found in horse race news (e.g. when staging
Canuck-bred events), but with the formation of a
National Hockey League team of that name in 1970 in Vancouver (though the
name dates back to 1946, Fee and McAlpine 1997:93), and the preceding coverage,
together with the self-referentiality on the occasion of the Canadian Centennial
in 1967, the term almost doubled its frequency in period 1965-1969.
In the west of the country,
however, our evidence does not suggest an adoption of Canuck as early as
in the east. The hits in
Early Canadiana Online,
which is a digitzation project of early Canadian texts, are from eastern sources
and BC newspapersseem not to have used the term prior to WWI.
This, of course, is the biggest obstacle to Sledd’s conviction that the term
travelled eastwards. WW I appears to have been of special importance for the
spread of term in the west, as it was then that more sober headline language,
was replaced by more sensational, endearing headlines
embracing the term Canuck, which had been used quite frequently in the
east. See examples
(8) and (9):
Canadians carry out
successful movement against the Germans (Vancouver Sun, July 24,
Canadian Artillery is
active (Vancouver Sun, July 30, 1917: front page).
(10) is an early instance
Gains held by Canucks:
stand firm. Important Gun Positions Won From the Germans Firmly Held by the
Men From the Dominion (Vancouver Sun, June 14,
1917: front page)
Since attestations of Canuck
in BC newspapers are also missing in sport columns, cartoons and war reports
prior to WWI (e.g. particularly noteworthy is its absence from reports during
the Boer War), I would tentatively suggest that WWI was not only important for
the nourishment of Canadian national pride, but was directly linked to the
spread of the term Canuck from the east westwards, or at least its firm
establishment with positive connotations. While Jack Canuck cartoons
appeared during the time of the Boer War in the Toronto Star (e.g. May
28, 1900, front page), the first cartoon that I found in a BC newspapers is from
WWI. The evidence shows a temporal gap between eastern and western Canada of an
astounding 82 years (1835 vs. 1917), with still 68 years when it denoted
“Anglophone Canadians” alone.
would suggest, therefore, that one reason for this delay of more than half a
century lies in the strong presence of South Sea descendents in BC and the
connection of kanaka with Canuck. While this is a hypothesis for
the time being that leads the way for further research, it would be an obvious
one on the grounds that British Columbians were familiar with kanakas,
whereas Ontarians were not (as whaling ships usually called at American ports).
In eastern Canada, the early
adaptation of Canuck for big minorities such as French, German and Dutch
to Canadian-born Anglophones would have dissociated the Hawaiian connection in
eastern Canada, which would explain the problems of finding conclusive evidence.
At the same time, however, the origin of Canuck barred its adoption in BC
in the sense of “native or citizen of Canada”, because its cognate in the west
had been in use to denote people from the South Seas. WWI and the dissemination
of war news across the nation appear to have severed this connection in the
west, which was facilitated by different spellings for Canuck and
Kanak(a) (we have seen early spellings of Canuck with a K, and
u substituted for an a).
What would this hypothesis mean
DCHP-2 entry? The kanaka connection appears to be the best
explanation and would need to be given some emphasis. The early shift of meaning
to denote the largest group of “heavily accented” foreigners in eastern Canada
at the time, Germanophones and Francophones, and the early adoption by
native-born Canadians would be suggested; moreover, the supposed direction of
transmission, i.e. from east to west, more likely with the railway (as of 1885)
and news wire than with the fur trade (Sledd 1978:177) and the different rates
of spread in the east and west would need to be indicated, with the role of WWI
stressed. The transmission of the term would need to be illustrated by adequate
citations, and, as more data is made accessible, a more profound sociohistorical
approach would become possible: was the term used in private correspondence at
all? If so, by whom and in which context? These, and other questions pertaining
to Canuck and other terms, could be profitably addressed.
5. Tasks and prospects for
have tried to show that both new and old Canadianisms present their challenges
for lexicographical research, challenges that can be tackled much more quickly
with the aid of electronic databases than has ever been possible. We have seen
that grow-op is a new Canadianism, which is first attested in 1998 in
writing. In terms of the actuation and transmission of the word, it seems clear
that the term originated in British Columbia. It quickly transformed from a BC
regionalism into a word of national currency, in a matter of days, with its use
in an Ontarian newspaper. For hoser, a term that most likely had greater
currency in spoken than in written language, we have written evidence that
students played a key role in its transmission. We have also seen that the
OED, for instance, adopts the American interpretation of the word, which is
at odds with it being labelled as a Canadianism. The discussion of
Canuck illustrates probably best how digitized data can be used to
illuminate hidden aspects of a word with a comparably long pedigree in
considerably less time than before. For the origin of the word it is important
to establish, in sociohistorical fashion, the relationship of the addresser and
addressee, as I aimed to show in the discussion of the earliest attestations.
The scenario for the origin and spread of the term still lacks some important
pieces in the puzzle, but it seems clear that its increase in frequency and its
extension to other domains was positively influenced by WWI news coverage. I
further hypothesized, basing myself on evidence of BC newspapers, that WWI
coverage contributed to a nation-wide adoption of the term. The connection of
with Hawaiian kanaka seems particularly appealing, as other languages
share similar terms of abuse for people from the South Seas. French Kanak
or canaque refer to people from New Caledonia (and people of a darker
skin colour in general) and the Austrian German cognate Kanake was also
used for a person from the South Seas, but is one of the most abusive terms for
migrants today. It is interesting that the word underwent pejoration in French
and German, while its apparent early amelioration in the mid-nineteenth century
made it a key term in CanE.
article I analysed these three Canadianisms to illustrate some of the key tasks
of a revision of the DCHP, tasks which are not limited to an updating
with new terms that have come into use since the 1960s, but would necessarily
entail the revision of existing entries as well, which would not stop short of
prominent examples such as Canuck. Research published since the
appearance of DCHP-1 provides one avenue for some of these revisions
(such as Mathews’ or Adler’s hypotheses), but in many cases we do not yet know
what domains would be worth closer attention. Chinook Jargon loan words or
influences from Chinese pidgin in early BC are only two examples for areas that
would have great potential to further increase the resources of the DCHP.
updated, revised and extended DCHP-2 would not only serve important
purposes for scholarly academic research, but also have great potential to make
the diachronic dimension of CanE, and hitherto understudied aspect of the
language, accessible to the Canadian public by way of word histories. If the
research relating to DCHP-2 would provide the scholarly basis for
readable accounts of the sort of Burridge (2005) and, on Canadian content, Thay
(2004), and would help improve the quality of widely available word histories, I
believe that a step in the direction of language awareness of CanE speakers
would be made. I finally hope that the few examples chosen here illustrate the
case that DCHP-2 can provide valuable data not only for the word buff, but also
for the linguist, especially those of a sociohistorical conviction.
Jacob. 1975. “The etymology of Canuck”. American Speech. 50/1-2.
James E. 1849. L'Acadie, or, Seven years' explorations in British America.
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Walter S. 1967. “Introduction”. In: Avis et al. (eds.), xii-xv.
Walter S., Charles Crate, Patrick Drysdale, Douglas Leechman and Matthew M.
A Dictionary of Canadianisms on Historical Principles. Toronto: Gage.
Avis, Walter S. and A. M.
Kinloch (eds.) (). Writings on Canadian English, 1792-1975. An
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= Mathews, Mitford (ed.). 1951.
Dictionary of Americanisms on historical principles. Chicago: University
of Chicago Press.
= Craigie, William, and James R. Hulbert (eds.). 1968 [1938-44]. A dictionary
of American English on historical principles. 4 volumes. Chicago: University
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= Cassidy, Frederic G., and Hall, Joan (ed.-in-chief). 1985-. Dictionary of
American regional English. Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press of Harvard
et al. (1967).
Thos: a simple Canadian story. Montreal: n.publ. (CIHM).
Stefan. 2006. New-dialect formation in early Canada: the modal auxiliaries in
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