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?

Always have a maple leaf on your back-pack. Whether you are American or Canadian.

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 :confused:
  • South Africa :smack:
  • Australia :eek:

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.

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…

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.

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.

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.

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.

They get *really *touchy about that.

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.

The “aboot” thing is a Scottishism. There’s lot’s of people of Scottish descent in Canada.

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.

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!

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.

I just start with, “Sorry, but…” and they just say, “Oh, you’re Canadian!”

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! :wink:

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.

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! :smiley:

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”).

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.

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).

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?” :smiley: