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Old 04-18-2019, 01:08 PM
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Do Canadians get offended if they are mistaken for Americans?


Well I find it difficult to tell the difference between a Canadian accent and an American accent so I was wondering if Canadians get offended if they are mistaken for Americans. And how they feel about it if it happens when they are travelling in a foreign country or in some place?
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Old 04-18-2019, 01:14 PM
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Always have a maple leaf on your back-pack. Whether you are American or Canadian.
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Old 04-18-2019, 01:23 PM
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I've visited Las Vegas a few times (and made some super American friends.)

I'm from London and have an 'educated' English accent.

Americans told me they liked my accent, so I would ask where they thought I was from.
The answers included:

- Ireland
- South Africa
- Australia
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Old 04-18-2019, 01:47 PM
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I can't answer your question, but it is interesting to read that you cannot tell the difference between Canadian English and American. Even after living in Canada for 50 years, neither can I. On the other hand, every native English Canadian identifies me as American as soon as I open my mouth. I can only imagine that the spread of English Canada is narrow, while American dialects vary so much that the Canadian one just sounds like another one.

That said, there are a few tells I know of. The most obvious is the final letter of the alphabet, but most people don't recite the alphabet often. Another is the final word of the preceding sentence. The t is not pronounced in most American dialects (certainly none I am familiar with), but is invariably pronounced by Canadians. Canadians always pronounce schedule as though it was shedule. Lieutenant is always pronounced leftenant. About is usually pronounced as aboot, but that is not invariable and the difference is slight. Same with out.
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Old 04-18-2019, 01:47 PM
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Not offended at all but I would let them know that I'm Canadian.

When I was a teenager I was a waitress and I once had some Canadian customers who thought I I had an American accent. I also had some American customers say to me "say 'about'". So I said "about" and they said "no say it the way Canadians say it" so again I said "about" and they said "nooooo, say it your way" and I said "that is how I say it". They seemed disappointed...
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Old 04-18-2019, 01:50 PM
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IAbout is usually pronounced as aboot, but that is not invariable and the difference is slight. Same with out.
The only times I've heard 'about' pronounced as "aboot" is on comedy shows where people really play up the Canadian angle and also in the movie Fargo. Also the west coast and the east coast have very different accents.
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Old 04-18-2019, 02:44 PM
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The biggest difference to my ear is that Canadians are much less prone to mumbling. Which might be why some of our "talking heads" on the TV news here in the US are from Canada. They're easier to understand.

There are some subtle differences - "about" is slightly different, but not as much as comedy would have you believe (and there is considerable overlap between some US and Canadian dialects), "at all" sometimes comes out "a-tall". But, like I said, it's subtle.
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Old 04-18-2019, 03:13 PM
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Not likely to be offended, and no need to correct unless it's relevant to something.

I was once touring the US Capitol and wanted to watch the proceedings in the senate. The tour guide told our group at the end of the tour that if we wanted to watch, we should go to the office of one of the Senators from our state to get a pass.

I put up my hand and said; "What if you don't have a Senator?" (Wasn't trying to be a smartass, just was the way the question came out.)

She replied (in a voice laden with Civics 101), "sir, everyone has a Senator!"

I said I didn't because I was from Canada. She was a bit taken aback, but explained that we foreigners had to go off to the office of the sergeant-at-arms to get passes.
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Old 04-18-2019, 03:31 PM
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But you do have a senator. You have several, even if Pamela Wallin only pretends to be from Saskatchewan. Probably not much use in getting a pass at the US Capitol, though.
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Old 04-18-2019, 04:09 PM
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They get really touchy about that.
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Old 04-18-2019, 04:12 PM
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That said, there are a few tells I know of. The most obvious is the final letter of the alphabet, but most people don't recite the alphabet often. Another is the final word of the preceding sentence. The t is not pronounced in most American dialects (certainly none I am familiar with), but is invariably pronounced by Canadians. Canadians always pronounce schedule as though it was shedule. Lieutenant is always pronounced leftenant. About is usually pronounced as aboot, but that is not invariable and the difference is slight. Same with out.
Britishisms, mostly. The only part of Canada in which I spend a significant amount of time is Newfoundland, and British pronunciations (and spellings) are standard there (although filtered through the Newfoundland accent, especially among older people).

On the other hand, I've never heard "aboot" there.
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Old 04-18-2019, 04:45 PM
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The "aboot" thing is a Scottishism. There's lot's of people of Scottish descent in Canada.
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Old 04-18-2019, 04:58 PM
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I have been told, while travelling in SEAsia that they simply ask first if you’re a Canadian, because an American won’t be offended by being asked if they’re a Canadian, whereas a Canadian will be a little, if not offended, certainly keen and quick to corrrect.
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Old 04-18-2019, 05:11 PM
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I don't get offended. I just gently correct them.

The accent thing is funny. On more than a few occasions, when I've been in the US in touristy areas (Las Vegas, for example), I've been chatting with American strangers, and they've wondered where I was from. I told them, and they were surprised--they thought, with my accent, that I was from Chicago!
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Old 04-18-2019, 05:16 PM
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Well I find it difficult to tell the difference between a Canadian accent and an American accent so I was wondering if Canadians get offended if they are mistaken for Americans. And how they feel about it if it happens when they are travelling in a foreign country or in some place?
It's happened to me, on a train between Geneva and Interlaken. I was asked if I was English or American. I just smiled, it's no big deal. I was more surprised by the idea that I sound like I'm English because I don't.
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Old 04-18-2019, 05:18 PM
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I just start with, "Sorry, but..." and they just say, "Oh, you're Canadian!"
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Old 04-18-2019, 05:22 PM
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It would be sad if we did, because overseas Canadians are pretty much routinely mistaken for Americans. When there are roughly 10 American tourists to every one Canadian, who probably sounds exactly the same to most Europeans, it's just a fact of life. I would be offended only if someone, on that basis, made outrageous assumptions about my politics!
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On the other hand, every native English Canadian identifies me as American as soon as I open my mouth. I can only imagine that the spread of English Canada is narrow, while American dialects vary so much that the Canadian one just sounds like another one.
My understanding is that this is the reason a disproportionate number of newscasters and hosts on American networks are actually Canadian, like the late Peter Jennings, Robert MacNeil, Morley Safer, Kevin Newman, Fiona Conway, and dozens of others, not to mention the venerable Alex Trebek. Their "accents" are considered essentially neutral, thus not indicative of any sort of region-centric bias.
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That said, there are a few tells I know of. The most obvious is the final letter of the alphabet, but most people don't recite the alphabet often. Another is the final word of the preceding sentence. The t is not pronounced in most American dialects (certainly none I am familiar with), but is invariably pronounced by Canadians. Canadians always pronounce schedule as though it was shedule. Lieutenant is always pronounced leftenant. About is usually pronounced as aboot, but that is not invariable and the difference is slight. Same with out.
As a lifelong Canadian, my pronunciation is contrary to every single one of your examples. The "t" in "often" is hardly "invariably" pronounced by Canadians. I don't pronounce it, and probably the majority of my friends don't, either. I pronounce "schedule" as "shkedule", though I've heard it pronounced the other way, which I think is a British-ism. I pronounce "lieutenant" the way it's spelled, as if it began with the word "lieu". So I think what you're opining about must be regional, and certainly not universal in Canada.

There are, indeed, subtle but fairly consistent differences in the way Americans and Canadians pronounce some "ou" and "o" sounds, but certainly no one I've ever heard (except possibly in Newfoundland) ever pronounces "about" as anything even remotely close to "aboot". To my mind we pronounce it pretty much the way it's spelled, whereas Americans tend to intone it with more of an "a" sound, to my ear somewhat like it was spelled "abaut". And then there's "sorry", which, when an American says it, sounds to Canadians like they are referring to the sari, a drape-like woman's garment from India.

But a British person may not hear these subtleties. To them, Americans and Canadians are probably equally incomprehensible!
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Old 04-18-2019, 06:02 PM
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I pronounce "schedule" as "shkedule", though I've heard it pronounced the other way, which I think is a British-ism.
Oh! That's a new one I never noticed. Americans (or at least the vast majority) don't say it with an initial "sh" sound. For most of us (I don't know if there are exceptions--but I wouldn't be surprised if there are on the border), the initial cluster is /sk/ ("sk") and not /ʃk/ ("shk").


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There are, indeed, subtle but fairly consistent differences in the way Americans and Canadians pronounce some "ou" and "o" sounds, but certainly no one I've ever heard (except possibly in Newfoundland) ever pronounces "about" as anything even remotely close to "aboot".
Indeed. I'm not entirely sure why that's the approximation we settled on here. For those accents that have Canadian raising, it sounds more like "aboat" than "aboot." In IPA, it's /əˈbʌʊt/ or /əˈbəʊt/ or maybe even /əˈbɛʊt/. Think of the "OW" sound, except instead of starting it with an "AH", start it with an "UH" or even an "EH" (though typically the former.) And it doesn't happen everywhere. Not every "ow" sound gets raised. When I listen to NPR, I like to pick out the Canadians based on this diphthong.
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Old 04-18-2019, 06:03 PM
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There are, indeed, subtle but fairly consistent differences in the way Americans and Canadians pronounce some "ou" and "o" sounds, but certainly no one I've ever heard (except possibly in Newfoundland) ever pronounces "about" as anything even remotely close to "aboot". To my mind we pronounce it pretty much the way it's spelled, whereas Americans tend to intone it with more of an "a" sound, to my ear somewhat like it was spelled "abaut".
When I've heard Canadians who pronounce "about" differently than Americans, it sounds more, to my ears, like "aboat" than "aboot." (Though, I've met few, if any, Canadians from the far eastern provinces.)

And, yeah, most American dialects pronounce the final syllable like "bout" (as in a boxing match).

Last edited by kenobi 65; 04-18-2019 at 06:04 PM.
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Old 04-18-2019, 06:34 PM
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Oh! That's a new one I never noticed. Americans (or at least the vast majority) don't say it with an initial "sh" sound. For most of us (I don't know if there are exceptions--but I wouldn't be surprised if there are on the border), the initial cluster is /sk/ ("sk") and not /ʃk/ ("shk").
Sorry (or, if you prefer, sari). My apologies, that was just sloppy thinking/wording on my part. I was focused on the "shedule" variant omitting the "k" sound, but the most common variant in my experience, and the one that I use, is "skedule" -- no initial "sh" sound. If I ever heard anyone say "shkedule", I would assume they were drunk. I would probably say to them, in a Basil Fawlty voice, "What's wrong with you?"
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Old 04-18-2019, 06:38 PM
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I have to say yes. Not that it's really fair to get angry at someone who mistakes me for an American, but I would correct them.

It could literally be dangerous to not correct them in some foreign countries (ones I would avoid if at all possible, but still).
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Old 04-18-2019, 06:48 PM
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I get so offended I offer only the curtest of apologies for causing their confusion.
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Old 04-18-2019, 06:49 PM
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I just listen for the eh, eh?
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Old 04-18-2019, 07:07 PM
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I just listen for the eh, eh?
That one has an element of truth, but it's not nearly as common as the stereotypes make it out to be. There was an interview with a homeowner on TV the other day about a truck accident on his property, and it was like "I just saw this truck coming up the road, eh? And before I knew it, it went right through my fence, eh?" and so on and so on. I just burst out laughing, it was like a Bob and Doug McKenzie skit without the Molson Ex. Most people don't normally talk like that, except the types who also for some reason have to end every sentence with "right?" or "you know what I'm sayin'?". What is, however, true is that Canadians are more likely to say "eh?" as an expression of confusion where an American would say "huh?".
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Old 04-18-2019, 07:22 PM
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Canadians always pronounce schedule as though it was shedule.
We do? I'm a 60 yr old Canadian and I don't know anyone who pronounces it that way.

The "leftenant" thing's interesting though. I retired as a Canadian naval lt (Lt(N) in Cdn). Brits pronounce it "leftenant" as well. I don't know for sure but I suspect the Brit pronunciation is the result of a historical antipathy to France, whereas France was an ally to the early US.
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Old 04-18-2019, 07:41 PM
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Sorry (or, if you prefer, sari). My apologies, that was just sloppy thinking/wording on my part. I was focused on the "shedule" variant omitting the "k" sound, but the most common variant in my experience, and the one that I use, is "skedule" -- no initial "sh" sound. If I ever heard anyone say "shkedule", I would assume they were drunk. I would probably say to them, in a Basil Fawlty voice, "What's wrong with you?"
Ah, okay! Thought maybe there was a variant I hadn't noticed before.
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Old 04-18-2019, 07:55 PM
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That one has an element of truth, but it's not nearly as common as the stereotypes make it out to be. There was an interview with a homeowner on TV the other day about a truck accident on his property, and it was like "I just saw this truck coming up the road, eh? And before I knew it, it went right through my fence, eh?" and so on and so on. I just burst out laughing, it was like a Bob and Doug McKenzie skit without the Molson Ex.
Maybe it was the Molson Ex that made the guy drive through the fence, eh?
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Old 04-18-2019, 08:35 PM
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When I was working with Ford, at one point I was shuttling between the plant in Windsor and the HQ in Dearborn. The manager I was working with subtly shifted his speech patterns every time we crossed the Ambassador Bridge. Not a lot, but enough that I could tell there was a difference.
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Old 04-18-2019, 09:54 PM
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Canadians always pronounce schedule as though it was shedule. Lieutenant is always pronounced leftenant. About is usually pronounced as aboot, but that is not invariable and the difference is slight. Same with out.
No, no and, uh, no.

Schedule is skedule, Lieutenant is lieutenant and about is about. Other than on TV, I've never ever heard anyone say shedule, or leftenant (and I was in the army) or aboot. The latter being something I stick on my foot. Nor do I say out 'oot' because I'm not an owl.
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Old 04-18-2019, 10:12 PM
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about is about.
It is different, though, in a lot of Canadian accents. Like I said, it's not "aboot," closer to something like "aboat," but not quite--it's a bit subtler, but it sticks out to me so much that I'll be listening to a Youtuber or NPR commentator and when it comes up I'm like, oh, that's Canadian.
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Old 04-19-2019, 07:22 AM
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The "shedule" thing is something I only hear on CBC radio, and even there it seems to be falling slightly out of fashion.

And we Canadians tend to not like Americans wearing Canadian flags abroad...
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Old 04-19-2019, 10:04 AM
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With regards to about, it's a thing called Canadian raising.
Canadians have a hard time grasping this because Americans seem to be suggesting that we pronounce the second vowel in 'about' as a single vowel rather than a dipthong (and argue about whether it's more aboot or aboat), when it is clearly a dipthong to Canadian ears.

For Canadians, consider how you say the words 'lout' and 'loud'. Same vowel? Not for most of us. 'Loud' is more dipthongy, as it were. When the 'ou' dipthong appears before a voiceless consonant like 't' it is shifted slightly, starting at a different place than when it precedes a voiced consonant like 'd'. In most American dialects this doesn't happen, and 'lout' (and 'about') have exactly the same vowel as in 'loud' or 'crowd'.

For Americans, it may or may not help to consider another form of raising (depending on your dialect). Consider the vowels in 'ride', 'side', and 'prize' vs the vowels in 'light', 'sight', and 'price'. In some American dialects, and most Canadian, the latter group of vowels are raised in a similar fashion to the Canadian 'about'.
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Old 04-19-2019, 10:07 AM
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No, no and, uh, no.

Schedule is skedule, Lieutenant is lieutenant and about is about. Other than on TV, I've never ever heard anyone say shedule, or leftenant (and I was in the army) or aboot. The latter being something I stick on my foot. Nor do I say out 'oot' because I'm not an owl.
Sorry, you're absolutely wrong about the pronunciation of Lt. How long were you in the army (and whose army?) and which regiment? I was in a strictly naval environment for 15 years and then various tri-service units for 15. I've never heard "loo"tenant except when dealing with American and other non-commonwealth officers.
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Old 04-19-2019, 10:19 AM
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I don't get offended. I just gently correct them.

The accent thing is funny. On more than a few occasions, when I've been in the US in touristy areas (Las Vegas, for example), I've been chatting with American strangers, and they've wondered where I was from. I told them, and they were surprised--they thought, with my accent, that I was from Chicago!
Funny, your name is my 'tell' for Canadians.
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Old 04-19-2019, 10:32 AM
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The only times I've heard 'about' pronounced as "aboot" is on comedy shows where people really play up the Canadian angle and also in the movie Fargo.
Fargo took place in Baja Canada.
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Old 04-19-2019, 10:46 AM
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Offended? Of course not. It's an easy mistake to make. Most of us sound like your typical mid-west, Johnny Carson type accents.

There is a subtle difference in "about" but it certainly isn't "aboot."

Lieutenant is ALWAYS "leftenant."

I don't pronounce the "t" in "often."

One other subtlety not mentioned is the pasta/Mazda thing. Canadians pronounce both the vowel sounds the same way, like you'd pronounce Santa. Americans say something like "pawsta" and "Mawzda."

So, no, not offended at all, but will correct if required.
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Old 04-19-2019, 10:54 AM
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The only times I've heard 'about' pronounced as "aboot" is on comedy shows where people really play up the Canadian angle and also in the movie Fargo. Also the west coast and the east coast have very different accents.
Obviously you've never listened to NHL hockey broadcasts. Canadian announcers reveal their origin within 30 seconds on average.
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I just listen for the eh, eh?
Catch this episode of Forensic Files sometime. It's a classic eh-fest.

Last edited by Jackmannii; 04-19-2019 at 10:58 AM.
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Old 04-19-2019, 10:59 AM
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One of my very dear friends is Portuguese by way of Canada. Thats to say she was born in Portugal but is a Canadian citizen and was raised there. Its comical how she cant tell how pronounced her aboots are either. Some of you protesting may not be able to hear it as clearly as we do. She also doesnt realize she says eh. And she does. A lot.
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Old 04-19-2019, 11:10 AM
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Link to the Forensic Files "Bad Blood" episode (3 "eh"s from three separate participants within 20 seconds beginning at the 4:40 mark).

They're from Saskatchewan, if that makes a difference.
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Old 04-19-2019, 11:23 AM
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Link to the Forensic Files "Bad Blood" episode (3 "eh"s from three separate participants within 20 seconds beginning at the 4:40 mark).

They're from Saskatchewan, if that makes a difference.
No, we all do in fact say "eh" a lot. I have to catch myself when I'm in the US because the speech pattern is very much ingrained in us.
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Old 04-19-2019, 11:28 AM
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It's funny how some people claim they never say leftenent and others saying it is always pronounced that way. My main experience is with English speaking Montrealers and people from Ontario, including my close friend originally from Toronto who always says shedule and leftenant, not to mention ofTen. ISTM that all CBC announcers say ofTen. Another explanation is that I notice these differences only when they clash with my expectation and when they say it the way I do, I don't notice.

None of this explains how it is that I still cannot pick out Canadians while they can always tell I am American. I grew up in Philly incidentally and while we have our own quirks of speech (e.g. sad does not rhyme with bad, nor ran with fan) we are not anywhere near as extreme as a southern or New England accent.
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Old 04-19-2019, 12:09 PM
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Thirty plus years ago, on my first trip to SEAsia, I was being chatted up by a drunken Kiwi in a bar in Singapore. He kept asking me why all us Canadians sounded just like stupid bloody Americans. I was trying to ignore him but he just wouldnt quit. The next time he said it, I turned and blurted out, For the same reason all you Kiwis sound like stupid bloody Aussies!

He was mortified and deeply freaking offended, and now mightily pissed off!

I thought it was a good analogy, and hardly expected him to actually get pissed. We up and left, right after this exchange! What a dickhead!
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Old 04-19-2019, 12:16 PM
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One other subtlety not mentioned is the pasta/Mazda thing. Canadians pronounce both the vowel sounds the same way, like you'd pronounce Santa. Americans say something like "pawsta" and "Mawzda."
I don't know exactly what you mean by this, as I use a schwa in the ending syllable for all three of your examples. It could be that my "pasta" sounds like "pawsta" to you, but I definitely don't pronounce both of the vowels in "Santa" the same way.
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Old 04-19-2019, 12:18 PM
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One other subtlety not mentioned is the pasta/Mazda thing. Canadians pronounce both the vowel sounds the same way, like you'd pronounce Santa. Americans say something like "pawsta" and "Mawzda."
I don't. You must be thinking of some other Canadians. Pronouncing pasta like you would santa makes it sound like you're talking about a priest from Boston.
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Old 04-19-2019, 12:42 PM
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I don't know exactly what you mean by this, as I use a schwa in the ending syllable for all three of your examples. It could be that my "pasta" sounds like "pawsta" to you, but I definitely don't pronounce both of the vowels in "Santa" the same way.
I believe Leaffan is saying he pronounces them with an /ae/ sound. So, /'mzdə/ "MAZZ-duh" and /ˈpstə/ "PASS-tuh" instead of /'mzdə/ (MAHZ-duh) and /ˈpstə/ (PAH-stuh). I'm also guessing Leaffan is in a dialect with the cot-caught merger (where they're pronounced the same), as "pawsta" doesn't work as a phonetic spelling in my dialect (nor for about 60% of Americans) for the pronunciation of "pasta."

Last edited by pulykamell; 04-19-2019 at 12:45 PM.
  #46  
Old 04-19-2019, 12:46 PM
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No, we all do in fact say "eh" a lot. I have to catch myself when I'm in the US because the speech pattern is very much ingrained in us.
I'd like to say "eh" if people wouldn't always ask me if I'm Canadian when I do so: it's a shorter syllable than "right". In the 80s in Upstate NY we "eh'ed" quite a bit too and no one had to inquire as to our nationality when we did.
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Old 04-19-2019, 01:07 PM
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Originally Posted by pulykamell View Post
I believe Leaffan is saying he pronounces them with an /ae/ sound. So, /'mzdə/ "MAZZ-duh" and /ˈpstə/ "PASS-tuh" instead of /'mzdə/ (MAHZ-duh) and /ˈpstə/ (PAH-stuh).
I believe he's saying that as well. And, he's wrong. I don't pronounce it that way at all, never have. Maybe it's a Tronnuh thing.
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  #48  
Old 04-19-2019, 01:17 PM
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Originally Posted by pulykamell View Post
I believe Leaffan is saying he pronounces them with an /ae/ sound. So, /'mzdə/ "MAZZ-duh" and /ˈpstə/ "PASS-tuh" instead of /'mzdə/ (MAHZ-duh) and /ˈpstə/ (PAH-stuh). I'm also guessing Leaffan is in a dialect with the cot-caught merger (where they're pronounced the same), as "pawsta" doesn't work as a phonetic spelling in my dialect (nor for about 60% of Americans) for the pronunciation of "pasta."
No.
Not "Mazz-duh," "Mazz-da." Same with "Pass-ta." The "a" sound as both vowels in Santa, and Clara. And how the heck DO you pronounce Santa, Ludovic, if both "As" don't sound the same?

You are correct about the American pronunciations though.

Last edited by Leaffan; 04-19-2019 at 01:18 PM.
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Old 04-19-2019, 01:32 PM
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I wouldnt be offended to be mistaken for an American but would definitely correct them. There are a number of reasons for this. One is that I suspect travelling Americans are often called upon to defend American politicians and political actions, as if they were responsible or could personally influence these. Also, Canadians in certain countries are more respected than Americans. In Mexico recently, a taxi driver told me Canadians are not gringos, which I found slightly surprising/amusing.

Canada is so much a patchwork of people, and influenced by American media, that you could hear any pronounciation of words like schedule or lieutenant. Colourful spelling can be a giveaway. Americans talk much more openly about money and religion than most Canadians, and discuss politics in ways that are more direct.
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Old 04-19-2019, 01:33 PM
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And yes, caught and cot are exactly the same for me. I don't even know how the can't be
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