Word Wonders: Canadian English’s confusing eh Part 2

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Continued from Part 1… This understatement is a very Canadian trait. In Canada, showy displays of confidence or success are often met with a resentful “Who does he think he is?” attitude. We tend to dislike bragging, pushiness or outward confidence that approaches arrogance. Where an American or an Australian might use words like “terrific” or “fantastic” or “the greatest,” a Canadian might describe the Beatles as “a pretty good band” and say that caviar and an expensive bottle of Champagne are “not bad.” We will often boast or praise through this kind of reversed language and mock humility: “She won the Nobel Prize for curing cancer and making peace in the Middle East — that’s not too bad, eh?” Sometimes “eh” can make a statement more forceful, as in: “It’s minus 30 degrees outside, I’m freezing, eh!” “Eh” can also be used like the tag “ne” in Japanese to confirm that the listener is paying attention and understanding the conversation. “There I was face to face with this moose, eh? And it looked angry, eh, so I ran to the canoe and paddled away. It was a close call, eh!” These Canadianisms are rarely used in writing (except ironically, to identify something as Canadian) or in formal situations. You wouldn’t expect to hear the prime minister greet the queen with “How’s it going, eh, your majesty?” or to tell Parliament “the state of the economy is not bad, eh?” And now you can speak Canadian. Not too confusing, eh? (Kevin Wood) This article was provided by The Japan Times Alpha.

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