Are we quietly losing our Canadian language? Would we even notice if we were?
If I were to rewind all the way back to my first English 102 class, would I have recognized the difference between American English spellings and Canadian English? Probably not.
But after years of looking up words in the Canadian Oxford Dictionary and the Canadian Press Caps and Spelling handbook – the difference between Canadian spellings versus those of the spellings down south are numerous.
Now more than ever before, I see American spellings creep into government documents, the average Canadian’s social media post and even advertisements targeted to Canadians.
Are we forgetting that we Canadians have our own unique linguistical differences from our southern neighbours.
Did you notice that? Canadian write neighbour while Amercian English drops the ‘u’ and writes neighbor.
While Canadians use of the English language combines both British and American conventions, it does have some of its own domestic idiosyncrasies known as "Canadianisms.”
Canadian spellings mirror British spellings when it comes to words such as realize and organization. The American version swaps the ‘z’ for an ‘s’.
When it comes to honour and colour, Canadians again follow suit with their British counterparts, whereas Americans shorten these French-derived words as honor and color.
Canadians write fibre, sombre, kilometre, and centre, while Americans write fiber, somber, kilometer and center.
Canadian and British spellings include cancelled, counsellor, fuelled and travelling compared to the American canceled, counselor, fueled and traveling.
Although it must be noted that in other cases Canadian and American usage differs from British spelling. For example, Canadians write curb and tire of a vehicle, which in British English are spelled kerb and tyre.
How weird would it be to read “Canadian Tyre” instead of “Canadian Tire.”
While I recognize language evolves over time to meet the needs of daily conversation and correspondence, I worry that Canadians are losing their linguistic identity without even knowing it.
I would argue that in recent years there has been a pervasive and silent introduction of American English spellings that has infiltrated our lives without our consent and often times without our ability to change it.
The realization first came to me when I was watching Netflix with the subtitles on – once I noticed the American spellings, I couldn’t stop. Word after word was a non-Canadian spelling of commonly used word.
These nuances can be barely noticeable for the casual reader, but the repetition of reading American English more than Canadian English will have an impact.
There is no doubt in my mind that this will impact the next generation of Canadian writers and spellers.
But this goes beyond just TV subtitles. Our phones regularly autocorrect to American English and so do our computer programs. Repeatedly informing us that Canadian English is wrong.
If someone lacks confidence in their spelling, will they trust their gut or a computer-generated recommendation once a red squiggle line pops up under their text?
The question is, does preserving Canadian English matter? And if it does, whose responsibility is it to ensure that our linguistic intricacies will be passed on to the next generations?
I believe if we don’t actively protect Canadian spellings and language usage, we can expect continued homogenization of Canadian culture with American culture.
Policymakers should ensure that the inclusion of Canadian English is available when using streaming services or broadcast.
While Canada’s language differences seem minute when compared to England and the USA, we are different. Imagine if Dutch audiences only received foreign media with German subtitles? Over time that would have a serious linguistic impact on the following generations of Dutch youth.
Without embracing and maintaining Canadianism, we might lose things that are deeply rooted in our cultural identity. We might trade in our Canadian words like mukluk, toque, eavestroughs, chesterfield and toboggan for winter boots, beanie, gutters, sofa and sled.