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Only in Canada, You Say - Book Review

One important question that inevitably comes up when Canadians talk about their culture is language. Does Canada have its own brand of English, an official dialect, like Australia, or is our English simply American with some British thrown in to keep things interesting? According to Katherine Barber, in her book Only in Canada, You Say: a Treasury of Canadian Language, Canadian English is unique and Canadians can proudly proclaim that it is a distinct dialect.

Katherine Barber, who is the Editor-in-Chief of the Canadian Dictionary Department at Oxford University Press, and has been since 1991, is so recognized as the Nation's expert on our language that she is called "Canada's word lady". Her book Only in Canada, You Say, offers a list of over 1200 Canadianisms. Each word included in the book was chosen "based on whether the word reveals something about Canada, when seen with other semantically related words, or whether the word would evoke a 'Who knew that was used only in Canada?' reaction." The book is organized into categories of words, based on various themes, such as "What we wear", "Who we are", or "Where we live". Each section has an introduction full of interesting facts about Canadian English, written in a jovial, funny style that is a wonderful representation of both the author's and the Canadian sense of humour.

This book proves that there is more to Canadian English than the word "Eh" and adding a "u" into the spelling of "humour" and "colour". Many of the words in the book are regional, such as Burlington bun, bismark, and jambuster, which mean jelly doughnut in Nova Scotia, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba respectively. There are also plenty of words that are recognized and used nation-wide for Canadians to gloat over, such as the old stand-bys toque and poutine. And, perhaps the most fun, the book contains an abundance of words that Canadians will, indeed, be surprised to find are theirs alone, such as bachelor apartment and Duo-Tang.

This book is a fun and interesting read, and a must for anyone interested in Canadian Language.

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