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Oh Canada!

I’ve noticed from reading the comments on my interviews and guest posts that some people are surprised to realize I’m Canadian. It’s true! I’ve lived here (in the city of Toronto), quite happily, my whole life.

You generally won’t be able to tell it from my writing, though. I learned way back when I first started submitting short stories to US magazines that it was much easier to use US spellings than to worry that an editor would think I didn’t know how to spell. These days I switch back and forth almost automatically: when I’m writing prose, or writing for a general audience (like here on the blog), I type “center” instead of “centre” and “color” instead of “colour” automatically.

There are also a bunch of US-isms that are different from Canada, some of which I already knew and some of which my editor and copy-editor caught. A few that come up frequently:

-Eh. Yep, Canadians say this all the time. It’s a very handy syllable that turns any sentence into a question, inviting the listener to agree. “Quite the storm, eh?” “Wish you’d thought of that earlier, eh?” I still get the urge to have my characters use this in dialogue.

-Money. We haven’t had one dollar bills in Canada since… I can’t even remember when. And our two dollar bills were discontinued back when I was in high school. These days we have coins called loonies and toonies. So when writing a story theoretically set in the States, I have to remember to switch back to bills.

-Grades. Here in Canada (at least, any part I’m familiar with) we don’t use freshman/sophomore/junior/senior to divide up the grades in high school. “Freshman” gets used occasionally in university/college but nowhere near as often as in the US. When we say “juniors” and “seniors” it usually refers to a wide segment of the school (e.g., in an elementary school grades 1-3 will be primary students and 4-6 junior students; at my high school students in grades 11 & 12 were all called “senior students”).

I would also say “grade one” or “grade eleven,” whereas I’ve learned from the editing process that apparently you all south of the border would say “first grade” and “eleventh grade.”

-Non-class periods. Around here we have “spares” or “spare periods” in high school. If you don’t need a full course load in a given year (usually your last) to graduate, most people would choose to have a spare. During your spare you could go wherever you wanted (in or out of the school) and do whatever you wanted. If it was the last period of the day, you could head home.

Is there an equivalent in the US? From what I understand, the closest is study hall.

You might wonder, why do I bother to go to the trouble of swapping phrases and spelling? Why not just write all my stories set in Canada?

I’ll talk about that tomorrow. :)

Second post is now up!

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Originally published at Megan Crewe - another world, not quite ours. You can comment here or there.



( 12 comments — Leave a comment )
Oct. 5th, 2009 05:24 pm (UTC)
It's true that you've 'acclimated' your writing very well -- I had no idea there were so many differences :)
Oct. 6th, 2009 03:22 pm (UTC)
It's made easier just because I'm exposed to so much US media--most of the TV shows I watch and books I read are set in the US--so I'm a lot more familiar with US-isms than you would be with Canadian-isms. :)
Oct. 5th, 2009 05:37 pm (UTC)
Good post, eh!

Oct. 6th, 2009 03:22 pm (UTC)
Thanks, eh! :D
Oct. 5th, 2009 06:37 pm (UTC)
Fascinating. After asking a published Canadian writer about this, I did two spelling versions.

I'll be interested in tomorrow's post. :-)
Oct. 6th, 2009 03:23 pm (UTC)
You mean two versions for your stories? I used to do that, when I was still subbing short stories. I'd write with Canadian spellings, send that version to Canadian magazines, and do find and replace to create a US version for US magazines.
Oct. 5th, 2009 09:51 pm (UTC)
Which is funny because I live in Tennessee and automatically spell things "colour" and "centre" (and theatre)contributing to my reputation for being the world's worst speller.

The non class periods are not often allowed. I had one my senior (grade 12) year in high school by dent of taking "journalism" for which there was no teacher and no real class room- just the journalism room where we put together the annual and the school paper.
Oct. 6th, 2009 03:30 pm (UTC)
Interesting about the spelling! Obviously you are a Canadian (or a Brit) at heart! :D
Oct. 5th, 2009 10:28 pm (UTC)
Loonies and toonies? That is the best thing EVAR.

Of course, being Australian, I still think both of you guys are crazy. ^^ But at least you spell right.

*scratches head* And over here we call spares 'frees'.
Oct. 6th, 2009 03:30 pm (UTC)
Yes, I am fond of our coins. :D And we are crazy, but only about as much as you lot are.
Oct. 5th, 2009 10:38 pm (UTC)
I loved my two spares in the second semester of Grade Thirteen. Now I'm all nostalgic...

I must say it was fun setting my latest ms. in northern Ontario. Whether editors will think it's quite as much fun is another question... but really, I don't see why it's any more problematic than setting it somewhere in the US. Regional differences there can be just as profound as any differences between the US and Canada.
Oct. 6th, 2009 03:32 pm (UTC)
Spares were awesome! Especially when one was at the end of the day so you could leave early. :)

And yeah, I wouldn't think it'd make much difference, since things are pretty similar in Canada... It's not as though it'll be terribly confusing or hard to follow with "all" the cultural differences, heh. But you never know.
( 12 comments — Leave a comment )

My Books

Earth & Sky
(Earth & Sky #1, science fiction YA)
Skyscape/Razorbill Canada, 2014

The Clouded Sky
(Earth & Sky #2, science fiction YA)
Skyscape/Razorbill Canada, 2015

A Sky Unbroken
(Earth & Sky #3, science fiction YA)
Skyscape/Razorbill Canada, 2015

The Way We Fall
(Fallen World #1, apocalyptic YA)
Disney-Hyperion, 2012

The Lives We Lost
(Fallen World #2, apocalyptic YA)
Disney-Hyperion, 2013

The Worlds We Make
(Fallen World #3, apocalyptic YA)
Disney-Hyperion, 2014

Those Who Lived: Fallen World Stories
(Fallen World #3.5, apocalyptic YA)
self pubbed, 2014

Give Up the Ghost
(paranormal YA)
Henry Holt, 2009

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