7 more quintessentially Canadian words

A lot of our readers loved our first batch of words you’ll only hear in Canada, so we thought we’d bake up a second batch. But first, we should clear up a couple of questions brought up by the first list.

Kinder eggs

Kinder eggs (formally known as Kinder Surprise), as far as we can tell, are still not legal in the United States, and importing one into the country can get you walloped with a $2,500 fine. But our neighbours to the south aren’t completely bereft of toy-filled eggs: a New Jersey-based company has developed the Choco-Treasure, which resembles a Kinder egg but (apparently) doesn’t carry the same choking risk. Whether the chocolate’s any good is debatable, but at least American children everywhere can now find toys in their eggs too.

Back bacon vs. peameal bacon

We said back bacon and peameal bacon were interchangeable when, in fact, they’re two different things. You’re right—they are different. Here’s our best explanation (and trust us, controversy abounds): Traditional Canadian peameal bacon is pork loin brined in a sweet mixture, then rolled in cornmeal. Back bacon is not brined, isn’t rolled in cornmeal, and according to the English Breakfast Society, consists of the loin with a fatty, delicious piece of pork belly attached. It is NOT, though, American-style “Canadian bacon,” which is what you get on an Egg McMuffin, resembles ham, and is almost impossible to find in Canada. Confusingly, many Americans say “Canadian bacon” when what they actually mean either back bacon or peameal bacon. More confusingly, in many parts of Canada, people say back bacon when they mean peameal bacon.

Can we just agree that it’s all delicious?

And now the list:

Klicks

How many times has a passenger in your car whined, “How far is it noooooooow?” and you answered, “Just another 30 klicks or so”? Klick, meaning kilometre, is unique to Canada—mostly because our American neighbours don’t use kilometres in the first place.

Robertson screwdriver

Invented by P.L. Robertson in 1908 and patented in 1909, the square screw driver wasn’t widely used outside of Canada because Robertson refused to license its use beyond our borders following a debacle with an English manufacturer. Subsequently, the cross-shaped Phillips head screws gained popularity south of the border, leaving Robertsons a very useful Canadian oddity.

Pencil crayon

Down south, they’re coloured pencils. Which, if you think about it, actually makes more sense.

Kraft Dinner

Yes, good ol’ KD is a Canadian thing. That’s not to say it doesn’t exist in the States—but it’s called Kraft Macaroni & Cheese, and it lacks the Canadian version’s iconic status. Whatever its moniker, Canadians eat a lot of it: 1.7 million boxes worth every week. Per capita, we eat 55 percent more KD each year than Americans.

Housecoat

This word is generally meant as a synonym for “bathrobe,” although purists might argue that a bathrobe is something that you wear after a shower, and a housecoat is what you put on late at night when you don’t want your teenager’s visiting friends to see your jammies. Most people, though, have one all-purpose robe—and north of border, we tend to use the word housecoat to describe it.

Knapsack

It’s a backpack or bookbag south of the border, and a rucksack across the pond—but in Canada, it’s usually called a knapsack, taken from the German knappsack or Dutch knapzak, which literally means “snack bag.” Where better to keep your also-exclusively-Canadian Coffee Crisp, ketchup chips, and Smarties?

Running shoes

In the States, they’re tennis shoes or sneakers (and very occasionally gym shoes). Up here, we’re very specific about our athletic footwear, and we call them running shoes.

And finally, a word about pop and soda, which comes up a lot in suggestions for Canadian words. According to common wisdom, Canadians say pop; Americans say soda. Except when they don’t. Folks from the Midwest and many border states say pop, just like Canucks. (Check out this linguistic map to see a) usage broken down by American county, and b) evidence of what happens when you have way too much time on your hands.)