Do you know what a “bunnyhug” is? How about the Big-O?
They’re just a couple of Canadianisms – words with their own specific meaning in Canada, and both found in the soon to be released second edition of the Dictionary of Canadianisms.
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Margery Fee is an English professor at UBC, and an associate editor on the dictionary – a project that’s taken 10 years to come to fruition.
She says it’s the first time the dictionary has been updated in five decades.
“Of course since 1967 there are all sorts of Canadianisms that have emerged out of the woodwork, either because they’re new words or because we didn’t know about them before.”
That includes brand names that have taken on a larger meaning for us Canucks, like Cheezies and Gravol, or historical buildings like Montreal’s Olympic Stadium, better known to locals as the “Big O.”
“No single Canadian knows all of these words because they often occur in different areas of the country, and even when people are using them like washroom, you just think it’s your word, it’s what you say,” Fee says.
That regionalism can create pocket Canadianisms, like “bunnyhug,” a word used almost exclusively in Saskatchewan. To you and me, they’re “hoodies.”
“You can go into a department store in Saskatoon, and they’ll have a big sign saying ‘bunnyhugs on sale.'”
In the Maritimes, she says locals call shopping bags Sobeys Bags, based on the large grocery chain.
Alternately, many Canadians across the country use the term “All Dressed” for much more than chips.
“It just means a hot dog or a pizza or some other, like potato chips with everything. With the works, I think we would say out here anyway.”
Fee says the team has added 1001 new Canadianisms to the dictionary this year, a long and laborious process.
“Every single one takes a lot of time to check, we have to look in our database… we had to make a database to kind of support the process, and now we kind of use digitized newspapers and magazines, and other sources.”
Old classics like “Eh,” and “toque” are of course present.
But Fee says there are other words that didn’t make the cut, despite some Canadians being sure they unique – like the popular Maritime “friendship cake.”
“We couldn’t really find enough evidence that it was distinctively Canadian,” she says.
The dictionary will go live online on Friday, and Fee says they hope to bring on some new blood for the next edition to make the job a little easier.
“When [our new editor] turned up in our department we said, oh good, you’re nice and young… you can work on a dictionary until you die. But he’s smarter than that.”
You can still search the first edition of the dictionary here.