Whatcha Say, Eh?

Since we’re on a bit of a Canadian kick this week – it is after all the 150th birthday of our country – I thought I’d delve into the linguistics of our home and native land.  No I don’t mean the French-English thing I mean an idiom that every comedian – particularly non-Canadians – seems to think is hysterically funny.  Those two little letters that has come to define a Canadian accent for the world though I myself have seldom heard it used and never use it myself.

Again we have to thank the CBC for enlightenment (even though I am pedantic enough to note that though Oliver Goldsmith was Anglo-Irish She Stoops to Conquer hardly qualifies as an “Irish” play) and entertainment, and my friend Cathy for bringing this little video to my attention.  She a fine lady, eh?

On this day in 1534:  Jacques Cartier is the first European to reach Prince Edward Island.


Author: Willym

A senior with the heart of a young'un

7 thoughts on “Whatcha Say, Eh?”

  1. I love this. Old New Yorkers (New York CITY New Yorkers) said “see” where Canadians say “eh.” So, I was talking to this cabbie, see. But I don’t remember anyone very talking aBOAT it (yes, that was a Canadian “ou”).

    1. I honestly don’t know anyone who says “aboot” or “aboat” – I’ve always heard it as “abowt” the “ou” sounding like an “ow”.

  2. There’s another factor in Canadian “eh” usage that doesn’t really get mentioned or discussed in any depth. There’s a very real working class and lower educational basis among those who use “eh” a lot. That may be why you have seldom heard it used and never use it yourself, as you note. My impression from your blog and stories of your younger days is that you’re from a very well educated, middle class background. Now, I am not. So I grew up hearing everyone around me saying “eh” constantly. And, although I am now also well-educated and middle-class, I continue to use it as a way of staying in touch with and paying tribute to my roots, to where I came from. Believe me, in many of the circles in which I now move, I’m the only one who does, eh?

    1. YES! I taught school in Winnipeg for 20-odd years in a working-class district, and ‘eh!’ was something I heard every day. It was very prevalent in the Native/Métis population.

    2. Not something I had thought about but you may have a point. Actually my background is working class and until I was 7 or 8 fairly rural. Now mind you elocution was part of our curriculum in grade school as our community, as it built up, was largely post-war immigrants. Also my mother was Irish so that idiom wasn’t in her vocabulary. And though I use to be ashamed to admit it I’m a high school drop-out; I never did finished my grade 13 but my father was a firm believer in reading and both my parents seemed to encourage my odd – for our community and social statues – interest in the arts. I was very fortunate in that.

  3. Too quick with the nimble fingers on the keyboard? On this day should it not be 1534? Cartier was the first to complain that “the heat is considerable” when he visited the Island at the end of June 1534.

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