Don't Be Such A Hoser, Eh?

by Joanna D'Angelo

In honour of Canada day I thought I'd have a bit of fun with this post and share some Canuck culture and some of my favourite Canadian-isms with you.

Favourite Canadian word or phrase:  I have a couple that I like - "keener" - which technically means "brown-noser" but I like to think it's someone who is really committed to doing a good job - not sucking up - just really working hard. 

I also like the word "kerfuffle" - which means an awkward situation. Translation - a polite way of saying "a mess".  And Canadians are nothing if not polite. For example when right wing pundit Ann Coulter was supposed to speak in Ottawa back in March and then cancelled her engagement after she received a letter from the president of the University of Ottawa warning her about Canada's hate laws - the  press called it a "kerfuffle". See what a nice way we have of putting things? Much nicer than saying "what happened to freedom of speech?"  (and no, I don't agree with her politics).

Probably the most famous Canadian word is "eh"  which really isn't a word. I generally don't use it unless I'm speaking with old people about the weather. Don't ask me why - I just do. But Italians also use it when we're with family and someone says something and you didn't hear what they said - you say "eh?" but I guess that's a variation on "che'.

This is how the Canadian Slang Dictionary defines "eh":

Eh: It can mean "huh?", but it is not terrible common. We usually just say "huh?" in Canada. "Eh?" is a word you add to the end of a sentence, to ask for a response of agreement or disagreement, similar in meaning to "don't you think?" ex. "Looks like a storm comin' in, eh?" It is also sometimes used with "I know", and in that case it doesn't really mean anything. -"Wow, the Flames really kicked ass tonite!" -"I know, eh?" Good luck trying to use it properly if you're not Canadian. Trust me Americans, we can tell the difference! You're not foolin' anybody.

I'm sure you're familiar with the term "hoser" which became popular in the Bob and Doug McKenzie sketches on SCTV.

But just so you know - I have never called anyone a "hoser".  I have however used the term "hosebag".

Here's the definition for "hoser" from the Canadian Slang Dictionary:

What you call your little brother when your Mom isn't around. Also, a stereotypical Canadian male, typically lower to middle class, white and English Canadian. He is especially concerned with drinking beer and watching hockey. The hoser is understood as a product more of rural, suburban or smaller city Canada than of the cosmopolitan larger cities. He's often imagined wearing heavy winter clothing, usually a flannel lumberjack shirt, Kodiak boots and a toque.


Calling someone a "hoser" is really calling someone a loser. In the old days the team that lost the game would have to hose down the rink, and hence the reference "hoser".

By the way - many of our Canadian slang words are connected to Hockey - here are a couple of examples:

Jerseyed: as in we Jerseyed (him). Pulled the jersey (hockey sweater) over his head and whaled on him (pounded, beat up, punched in the head).

Canucklehead: A noun used, somewhat derogatorily as a term for a fan of the Vancouver Canucks ice hockey club. Mostly used by fans of other Canadian clubs but also used in general terms to describe someone stupid.  

Also - some other popular slang phrases are:

Double-double - two creams and two sugars - most likely heard at Timmies. (Tim Horton's) cultural landmarks across Canada. We have a winter culture - we have long, cold winters and it's the thing to do - to stop off at Tim's to get your double double on your way to work.

Two-four - case of 24 (cans or bottles of beer).  In Ontario if you want to buy beer you go to The Beer Store.  If you want wine or spirits you go to the LCBO (Liquor Control Board of Ontario) stores. 
Okay back to my list:

Favourite Canadian fashion:  the toque!  I wear one all winter long- even indoors. In addition to keeping you warm I think they're cute (and not just relegated to "hoser" fashion ;) See how adorable Hockey Commentator/Former Hockey Coach and all-round beloved Canadian Don Cherry looks)!

Favourite Canadian TV show of all time:  SCTV - and I would say it's definitely up there as a favourite TV show period! I loved that show. I think one of my particular fave sketches was their spoof of the Canadian classic "Goin' Down the Road" (1970) - about two friends who leave Nova Scotia for Toronto and a better life - only they don't find it.  The movie is required watching in any film studies class or Canadian culture class in university. But I wish they'd show the SCTV parody along with it - because I think it reflects our Canadian mindset better than the movie did.  The parody featuring John Candy and Joe Flaherty shows two numbskulls as they embark on their great adventure to Toronto pronounced "Tarana" to get lawerin' and docterin' jobs. What they end up doing is hanging out on Yonge Street - and at Sam The Record Man in particular (by the way - the flag ship Yonge St. store closed shop in 2007 after 70 years in business but the other locations across Canada had gone under years before. Sad to see it go). 

Favourite Canadian Movie: This is a toughie - I like the work of Atom Egoyan, David Cronenberg, Denys Arcand and many other Canadian filmmakers - but I cannot pick a favourite. It's hard to do that because -well - to be honest Canadian films don't really inspire that kind of feeling in me. While I am proud that we have accomplished so much in our cinematic history and while I can appreciate many of our films I find that they don't inspire devotion. Sorry. That's just how I feel. For that I look to the Italians and the Americans - also French cinema, Spain (Almod√≥var) and Latin American cinema. If that makes me a film snob so be it. Overall, I find Canadian films to be disconnected emotionally from la vita.  A few years ago I went to a screening of a Canadian film at a film festival and afterward I met one of the stars of the movie - and we kind of joked about his role in the movie - he played a seriously disturbed jerk. And that's the role he always plays in every Canadian movie he does. He seemed embarrassed by it - but hey - he has to work.  I remember when I was at a screening for the The Red Violin - a film that I really liked  - a series of vignettes that followed the life of a particular violin around the world and to Canada.  It's a beautiful film.  I told the writer how much I liked it and added, "So nice to see a Canadian movie that's not - well Canadian." He just laughed and agreed.

Favourite Canadian Band/musical artist: too many to number - this is one area we really excel in - in fact I tend to listen to Cancon artists more than any others.  Jane Siberry, k.d. Lang, Joni Mitchell, Leonard Cohen, Ron Sexsmith, Sarah McLachlan, Loreena McKennit, Amy Millan, Stars, Broken Social Scene, Feist, Tegan and Sara and on and on...

So that's it for now - I won't bore you all with any more of my Canada-love-fest - at least not until next year. ;)

Happy Canada Day!


  1. very informative - I have to add Rush to that musical lineup - truly innovative and who could forget Geddy Lee's "Great White North" song for Bob and Doug - BTW, I saw the Rush documentary -Beyond the Lighted Stage- at the Tribeca film festival and it was amazing - check it out if you have a chance.

  2. Hey Squozed - oops - forgot to add Rush - also forgot to add Tragically Hip - so many great bands. I've heard that doc is great - I will definitely check it out! ;) Rush makes me get all choked up and nostalgic.

    Thanks for stopping by! Cheers!

  3. What fun! I also love Neil Young. Canada also produces hysterical comics and amazing writers (Alice Munro, Margaret Atwood just to name a couple). Happy Canada Day!

  4. Hey Cate - agreed! I could have gone on forever with that list. ;) Next year! Thanks!

  5. -"I know, eh?" -

    LOL! Exactly - the nuances are there.

    Happy Canada Day, Joanna! I know what you mean about Canadian film - it tends to be cerebral rather than emotional. Personally, I'm all about being a film snob, so go ahead and adore your Italian and American cinema.


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