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Thursday, October 23, 2008

The Definitive British Visitor's Guide to Canada

by our southern correspondent Don Woad

There are two official languages called "French" and "English". Neither bears more than a passing resemblance to the original European versions.

... it's bloody big and, for most of the year, it's cold enough to freeze the balls off a brass monkey.

As the unofficial British Consular Office in Orangeville, Ontario Blighty's Tuck Store is often called upon to offer advice on many subject matters relating to life in Canada for expatriate Britons. Today, for the benefit of new settlers and visitors from the British Isles, we are going to start with a brief outline of the country itself and how to communicate here. In the second part of the series, our northern correspondent, Clifton Hill, will write about a part of Canada few Canadians even know exists - the Arctic.

Canada's Official Languages
First, the languages. There are two official languages called "French" and "English". Neither bears more than a passing resemblance to the original European versions. Canadian English is loosely linked to the Queen's English but there are several important differences with which British settlers and visitors should acquaint themselves prior to any visit to the coldest part of the Commonwealth.

There are 52 letters in the Canadian English alphabet. Two of them are "d's", none of them are "t's" and 26 of them are "r's". It is unacceptable to enunciate the letter "t" in Canada. In order to encumber rapid diction and thereby facilitate multi-cultural inter-communication, the letter "r" at the end of a word is repeated many times until one's breath is exhausted (e.g. "whateverrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr").

British settlers may also be confused by a modern system of vowel substitution prevalent in Canada. You will have learned the five basic, distinctively individual Queen's English vowel sounds early in your schooldays. You will, therefore, inevitably find it confusing to discover that in Canada the five vowels have been condensed to one single generic, guttural vowel that is difficult to document but sounds similar to "uh".

The Geography of Canada

Let us now progress to a lesson in Canadian geography. First, it's bloody big and, for most of the year, it's cold enough to freeze the balls off a brass monkey. It is generally referred to as the "Great White North" - you will quickly learn why. There is only one paved road; it's called the "Trans-Canada" and it winds all the way along the American border from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific. Canadians live all along the Trans-Canada in places they call "cities" even though very few of these "cities" actually have a cathedral. Here are some of the major cities along the Trans-Canada:

Halifax: A completely fraudulent impersonation of the original in Yorkshire, England. An attempt was made to destroy this imposter by an enormous explosion early in the 20th Century. Tragically, the attempt resulted in mass casualties but the city itself survived. Beware, it is now heavily defended by the Canadian Armed Forces.

Kaybeck Siddy: The redcoats decisively beat the French here, but despite this the French still govern Canada: "Quoi?" It is almost illegal to speak any kind of English whatsoever in Kaybeck Siddy. It is certainly illegal to use written English; you will be imprisoned by the Kaybeck Language Police for attempting to do so.

Montreal: A real city: it has two cathedrals - just like Liverpool. It used to be the biggest and best city in Canada but when the French took over, the English all moved out. Note that the name of this city is the only Canadian word in which the letter "t" is pronounced - to distinguish real Canadians from the French who pronounce the city's name "Monray-al"

Uhdwuh - Canada's capital. Nothing important happens here partly because it remains frozen for most of the year. About every four years Canadians select a hostage from their local community to be sent there. They never hear from the hostage again and seem to be unsure about the purpose of the tradition. They suspect the hostages are treated well because there is often fierce competition to be selected.

Dronnuh (also pronounced "Dorondo" by prententious Canadians) - where anglo-MonTrealerrrrrrrrrrrs fled when the French took control. This is the city from which Canada is really governed. Canadians generally believe that fat rich men with large satchels of money meet at the corner of King and Bay Streets to buy bits of Canada from each other.

Winterpeg (enough said - stay away)

Calgary ("yee-haw" - stay away)

Vancouver - a balmy settlement on the Pacific coast. A large, prime piece of real estate overlooking "English Bay" is called "The British Properties". Go there.

The Weather in Canada
Very simply: brass monkey weather with lots of snow nine months of the year. Stinking hot, humid and entirely populated with man-eating insects during the rest of the year.

Phrases to use while in Canada:
1. Howuh you d'day - a colloquial, rhetorical greeting. Try to sound disinterested while using this phrase to preserve its rhetorical nature. A friendly intonation may incur the response "nod do bad; yerself?" The subsequent interlocutory exchange may exhaust your ability to communicate in the Great White North.

2. Yuh rilly eh? - a generic response to any statement that serves to indicate to your interlocutor that you are [a] still alive and [b] passably sober. Use this phrase liberally; it will preserve your apparent social skills when you have absolutely no idea what a Canadian is trying to convey to you in his strange and bizarre dialect.

That's about it really. You can live for days using just these two phrases.

One final word. Stay away from the local beer - just like the whole damned place it is insufferably cold. Some settlers have described it as like "having an accident with a knife while in a canoe" (bloody close to water).

In the next part: "... and it gets even colder ..."


  1. Anonymous12:46 AM

    Nice to read some good ol' francophobia!

    Keep up the good work!

  2. Anonymous8:58 AM

    And now for some verifiable "cold" hard facts ;-)