Canada:Linguistic melting pot that would tax the Bard himself

By Beryl Paintin
The Telegraph

When I first came to Canada in 1975, the least of my concerns was having to learn to speak a language other than English.

'Can you imagine how some of the Bard's famous quotes would read using modern day American expressions'?

Big mistake! In my 32 years as a British immigrant living in Winnipeg, Manitoba, I have learned so many versions of my native tongue I'm sure I could compile an entire dictionary on it.

A born and bred Wiltshire lass, I had the Dickens of a time making myself understood in a bi-lingual (French/English) province, among people who have come here from France, Italy, Russia, Poland, Africa, India, Spain, Portugal and almost everywhere else.

Trying to understand the variety of accents and interpretations (or should I say misinterpretations) of the English language became almost a full-time job.

It was difficult enough living in the British Isles and trying to decipher dialects such as Scouse and Geordie, not to mention the Eton and Cambridge way with words, but here . . . what an awakening! But believe it or not, I'm most saddened and frustrated by the American annihilation of the English language, now becoming equally prevalent in Canada.

Even now, 32 years later, I still balk at their re-creation of words - color, humor, favor, program, aluminum - and don't get me started on pronunciation. Instead I retain my eternal hope that they will one day call their language "American", not "English".

But in the interests of fairness, I can't imagine how the locals ever understood my "Ar, Jim lad" accent.

The first realisation that I was in for a bumpy ride along the communication highway came when I went into a butcher's shop to buy some bacon. I was greeted by a pretty young lady with a huge smile, who asked "What can I getcha today, ma'am?" I replied, "Do you have any gammon rashers?"

Talk about a Kodak moment! The smile vanished and a perplexed look crept over the pretty face as she excused herself and went into a back office.

Next, a few inquisitive faces peered round the door to check out the person with a strange accent making an even stranger request.

After a few moments the girl returned and politely informed me "Sorry, ma'am, we don't do gamin' mushers here, but you have a nice day now."

Judging by the teasing I still get about my accent and the expressions I use it seems not much has changed over the years, and I'm glad to say I'm still having a lot of fun with comparing the languages but now with a "Vive la difference" approach.

In fact, I go out of my way to take it to the extreme by using England's favourite bard, the undisputable English language-meister of all time, William Shakespeare, as the crux of my comparisons. Can you imagine how some of the Bard's famous quotes would read using modern day American expressions?

There is no doubt that "To be or not to be, that is the question" would probably never have survived if written as: "Is it or ain't it, that's what I wanna know." And "To sleep, perchance to dream" wouldn't have endured a couple of centuries as: "Can a guy get some shuteye around here?"

And it goes without saying that a guy could be in big trouble asking his new girlfriend: "Y'sure it's mine?" instead of proclaiming: "It's a wise father that knows his own child."

As for: "When the age is in, the wit is out" this could well incur a smack on the nose from your spouse if instead you state: "The older you get, the more dumb you become!"

Or how about: "What time hath scanted men in hair, he hath given them in wit." No doubt Old Will wrote that looking in the mirror, smugly thinking to himself: "Bald guys are so smart!"

So take a tip from someone who speaks with a funny accent - make sure to choose your words carefully, you never know how they'll be translated!