A Surfeit of Canadian Slang

There is a particular genre of news article in which a columnist attempts to pack in as many slang words into the available space as possible. The news “value” of such an article is that it supposedly shows “how weird our language is” or “what the cool kids are saying.” In actuality, there is little value in the articles. They’re usually written by going through lists of slang terms and constructing sentences that use as many of the words as possible, so language researchers find little value in them. And, since no one in the real world ever uses so many slang terms at once, these articles give a false impression of how slang is actually used. In real speech, when one comes across an unfamiliar slang term, it’s meaning can usually be deduced from the context. By packing in as many weird words as possible, all context is lost. If there was any context to begin with, since, after all, the point of the article is to make use of random words.

Yet, these articles can be fun.

One such appeared yesterday in The National Post by Dave Bidini that features Canadian slang and regionalisms. A sample from the opening paragraph:

I got off the chesterfield, threw on my old housecoat and thongs, hucked a forty pounder, half-sack of swish and mickey of goof in a Loblaws bag over my shoulder before leaving my bachelor apartment to head due west past fire halls and hydros and parkades and corner stores in the direction of Dead Rear, Oilberta looking for some kind of joe job — cleaning eavestroughs; stitching hockey sweaters; packing Smarties; anything! — although damned if I knew whether I would find work once I got there.

I’ve been living in Canada for almost three years now. I can understand roughly half of the article.

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