Discussion in 'Canada Discussion Boards' started by tsunami_trooper, Apr 22, 2003.
..... but how come you say eh (Don't know how you spell it)
all the time.
Well first off you spelled it right. Second, we don't get this a lot. And third, its becasue...
WE FEEL LIKE IT!!!
Because it's easier to say than "huh."
I've heard it explained this way...
Canadians are naturally, by nature, some of the friendliest people on the face of the earth. This is emphasized by our use of the word "eh".
During the course of conversation the word "eh" is used to turn a statement into a question. This opens the door for people to respond, and allowing for more friendly discussion.
We invite people to stop, talk, and get to know one another better.
Edit: On another note...
I have yet to hear ANY Canadian use the word "aboot" instead of "about".
What's aboot mean, eh?
eh interjection 1. What: is used to express uncertainty: surprise, etc.
2. a sound expressing: (a) surprise (b) doubt or inquiry
There you have it. The dictionary definition of our language...
Technically, it also leaves room for agreement from all parties present. (Example: It's really snowing, eh!)
Everything you'll ever want to know about Eh
First, a fable. The tribes of Gilead were at war with the Ephraimites. Gilead controls the mountain passes, and thousands of Ephraimities - indestinguishable in appearance from the Gileadites - attempts to get through. We join the story already in progress.
When those Ephraimities which were escaped said, "Let me go over" ... the men of Gildead said unto them, "Art thou an Ephraimite?" If he said, "Nay," then they said unto him, "Say now Shibboleth." An he said "Sibboleth" for he could not frame to pronounce it right. Then they took him, and slew him at the passage of Jordan: and there fell at that time of the Ephraimites forty and two thousand. - Judges 12:5-6
Aside from the obvious theological lessons and the ethical questions that were raised ("What if it was just some poor Gileadite with a speech inpediment?"), this biblical tale has given us a very useful term: shibboleth, meaning "a distinct word or pronounciation that sets one group apart from another."
In Canada, the national shibboleth is as elemental as the first letter in the alphabet, as ineffable as an autumn rain, as elusive as a summer sigh. In a word: eh?
Eh? is what separates Canadians from the unwashed, envious hordes outside their national boundaries. (You know who you are.) Eh? is the secret password the cross-Canada countersign, a two-letter, single-syllable symphony that takes years of diligent study to master. It must flow naturally into the sentance. It must never stand out, never call attention to itself - and yet must remain inextricably linked to the harmonial whole. It should trip melodiously off the tongue. "Howzit goin', eh?"
Canada's multilayered, contextual use of eh? is often compared to the Anerican use of huh?. This is erronous. Americans don't have what it takes to wield an eh?. That may sound harsh, but it's true. I have a whole slew of thick-tongued, slack-jawed American cousins who have never mastered the intricacies of end consonants. Simple sentances like "That was priddy good, eh?" come out as one extended vowel movement: "Thaa wuyh raal guh, huh?"
To make matters even worse, for one (blessedly brief) moment, Canadian comedians Rick Moranis and Dave Thomas, in their Canuck-caricature roles of Bob 'n' Doug McKenzie, were big hits south of the border. You may remember them. They had a segment in SCTV called "Great White North" which mainly involved them sitting around in toques and parkas, drinking beer and saying things like "Take off, eh?" Many Canadians mistook this for a documentary.
Bob 'n' Doug were, however, quite popular in the USA, and so, for one long summer, I had to endure the visiting American cousins imitating them in an apparent effort to blend in with the rustics. It didn't work. Americans simply cannot speak Canadian. Their eh?s always come out too nasally, too loud and too self-conscious. ("So how's it going, AYE?" as opposed to "Howzit goin', eh?") If the US and Canada ever go to war, this difference is going to come in very handy. "You wouldn't be a spy now, would'ja?" "Who, me? No way... AYE?" Sound of gunfire, followed by a dying gasp: "Huuuhh?"
This scenario is not as far-fetched as it sounds. According to an article by Harold B. Allen in Canadian English: Origins and Structures (this is a real author and a real article), the use of eh "is so exclusively a Canadian feature that immigration officials use it as an identifying clue." Scary, eh? Mind you, Allen doesn't make clear whether it is used by Canadian immigration officials to allow Canadians in, or by foreign immigration officials to keep Canadians out.
Regardless, the use of this exclamation remains the clearest badge of Canadian citizenship, what the BBC called Canada's "national tic": the expressive, habitual, glorious eh?
In it, one finds hints of the antional character. Eh?, as you may have noticed, is always followed by a question mark, and thus, although it is essentually good-natured, it is also a bit insecure. It is an agreement looking to happen.
The move towards a common North American dialect: natural lingustic evolution or nefarious American plot to destroy the Canadian way of life and pillage our land and culture?
Nefarious American plot. Why not, eh?
Well thanks you explained very well and long to.
Another question how old do you have to be to Drink up there?
18 is the drinking age up here...
Yes, and in Quebec it's just a suggestion.
It varies from province to province. In B.C., the drinking age is 19, not 18.
I have yet to hear ANY Canadian use the word "aboot" instead of "about".
same here. well, actually, i have heard it said like that, once, but only because my friend had a speech impediment.
If you don't mind a little snow , you're more than welcome to come for a visit...
I stand corrected, thanks Rani
LOL where do you live, CrazyMike? Because last I checked, drinking age in Ontario and everywhere else except Quebec is 19. Hehe, maybe it was so long ago you don't remember!
Actually, I don't say "eh"...and I've rarely heard anyone say it...*shrug* And I've never said "aboot" either. The accents across Canada vary just like they do in the US so a lot of people you meet won't speak stereotypical Canadian.
I've heard Americans say "huh" in place of eh, Aussies say "yeah", and french "no".
Its almost like it needs to be said
The french say nothing like that. There isn't an "eh" like word.
If we're talking about the French from France, then yes there is. That word is "hein".
Short anecdote, with a bit of background.
I was born, raised and live in St. Catharines, a city in Southern Ontario about 15 km straight-line from the US. Growing up I was just as likely to watch Commander Tom from Buffalo as I was to watch Mr Dressup.
Being in a border town, and with the prevalence of so much American television you would think that my natural "accent" might come across as closer to US, expecially for someone in say, Ottawa.
Now here is the bit I think is funny.
Back in 1981, I joined the Niagara Frontier L-5 Society in Buffalo and started to make almost weekly trips for meetings and the like. People from Buffalo would ask me about my British(!) accent!!
The only thing I could chalk it up to is that the Ontario school system emphasized enunciation more strongly than the equivalent American system, and to US ears it made me seem more British!
Now, mind you, even Chris (YoungJediNiagara) here likes to make fun of my ability to speak English properly.
Ask him sometime to tell you the joys of my proper, two-syllable, pronunciation of the word "button", eh?
19 in Ontario is the drinking age ??? I must be getting old I am getting the
driving and drinking ages mixed up...
Well, dearest CrazyMike, I would agree with you about getting the two mixed up, except that across Canada you can be driving on your own as early as 16 years, 8 months.
I give up
In the U.S. the age to drink is 21!
Okay what about gambling eh....
Hey was that good or should I never say that again.
Atlantic Canada= drinking age is 19.