Learning Spanish and Teaching Canadian English

The Panamanian school year goes from February to December with generous breaks for statutory holidays, and Carnaval of course.  Families will take their summer vacations this time of year often traveling to see relatives in far off places around the country.  We’ve also taken a break from teaching English as the children that stay in town aren’t that interested in sitting in a classroom while their friends are out playing.  But that doesn’t mean that there aren’t any opportunities to teach English.  Only this time it’s to explain to our maestra de español some of the Canadian words that we sometimes use and that our maestra doesn’t understand.

Every language has its own slang and Canada is no exception.  Canada is officially bilingual and our language reflects the history of the country beginning with the First Nations Peoples through to the Norse Seafarers and the French and British that landed on the shores.   The slang is so diverse that someone in Newfoundland might not understand a word used in British Columbia and vice versa.  In fact Newfoundland is the Canadian Champion of slang.

I’ve spent some time compiling a mini dictionary for our maestra of a few words that either I or SU sometimes use or words that I have heard my Canadian friends use:

Number 1:  Brutal Bad/ horrible/ tough, excessively harsh or unfair.   (I’ve put this number one because this is one of SU’s favorite words.  He uses it to describe a multitude of things from food to traffic often repeating it two or three times.  What a Drama Queen!)

Number 2:  Kerfuffle – A crazy or messy/chaotic situation. (To be fair, one of my favorite words.)

Number 3/3a: Loonie – The one-dollar coin.  Toonie – Pronounced “too-nee”, the two dollar coin.  (In Panama there is also a one dollar coin nicknamed “The Martinelli”.)

Number 4:  Homo Milk – Homogenized whole milk, not anything derogatory towards a person’s sexual orientation.

Number 5: Toque – Pronounced like “Luke” with a “t”, a knit cap worn in winter; or any time of year by younger brothers trying to hide a bad haircut.

Number 6: Skookum – Strong/great, big, mighty.  Usually used by people in the province west of Alberta.  And often by Dusty.

Number 7: Chinook – Shinook a warm, dry wind blowing down the eastern slopes of the Rockies across Alberta and the prairies.  Mostly to melt the snow in the southern part of the province, it totally skips Edmonton.  Chinooks can cause the temperature to rise by –7°C to +5°C within 15 minutes.  (Do the math, that’s 12 degrees.)  Also is a harbinger of migraines and colds viruses.

Number 8: Ginch, gonch; gitch or gotch – Underwear.

Number 9: Eh -Pronounced “ey”, as in “hey” or “hay”.  This is a word many Canadians add to the ends of sentences, meaning “don’t you think” or “right?”

Number 10:  The Island – Vancouver Island, BC or if you’re in the Maritimes (NB, NS, etc.), either PEI(Prince Edward Island) or Cape Breton Island.


Number 11:  Serviette – A paper napkin.  “Napkin” in French.

Number 12:  Two-Four – A case of 24 beers.  (Have I mentioned a two-four is only $11.00 here including $3.00 deposit for the case?)

Number 13:  Mickey – A flask-sized bottle of hard liquor.  It fits nicely inside the pocket of our down jackets in the winter time.  What, you think that pink cheeked glow is from the cold?

Number 14:  Poutine – Poo-TEEN, french fries served with cheese curds, and covered in gravy. Invented in Quebec but now widespread across Canada.(A delicious heart attack in a bowl that will raise your cholesterol level at least 50 points.  Especially delicious with fresh-cut french fries from the chip truck.)

Number 15:  Klick- Kilometer.

Number 16:  Pencil Crayon – A coloured pencil.  This is a word that I didn’t know was uniquely Canadian until I moved to Panama.

Number 17/17a:  The Rock – Newfoundland.  Newfie of Newf – Resident of Newfoundland or person whose birthplace is Newfoundland.

Number 18:  BunnyHug – Hooded pullover/hoodie.  (Mostly used in Saskatchewan, which we also sometimes call Saskabush.)

Number 19:  Back bacon – Referred to as Canadian Bacon in other countries. Bacon from the back of the pig, it is pickled in brine and then rolled in cornmeal.

And finally, Number 20: Canuck – A Canadian!


There are a lot more typically Canadian words out there. If any readers feel like they’d like to add to the list (it doesn’t have to be Canadian it can be a slang word from your region) please comment with the word and meaning.  Because sometimes it’s not just about learning español in the campo it’s about helping others to understand the crazy words we sometimes use.


About indacampo

You'll find me at https://indacampo.wordpress.com/ blogging about Panama...and other things.
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20 Responses to Learning Spanish and Teaching Canadian English

  1. Carol says:

    Amazing we Canucks have sooo many unique words, who would have thought that. Eh 🙂

  2. Karen T. says:

    What a fun post! Being from Wisconsin I recognized a lot of the slang and some are used here in the midwest also. I really enjoy you sharing your experience in Panama with us. It’s helped me learn a lot about the people and culture of Panama. So thank you

    • indacampo says:

      De nada! I like to think of myself as a participant/observer and it’s always interesting to find contrasts in how people live, talk and act.

      Thank you for reading!

  3. danjan66 says:

    How about the word “chillax” a cross between chilling and relaxing. I am not sure if this is just western Canadian or not but when we were there in December i used this word in a conversation with a gentleman from Ontario and it was new to him. Glad to have you back in the blogging world ☺

    • indacampo says:

      Oooh, that is a good one. Thank you for participating and thanks for reading, and I send you sympathy as you “chillax” in the zillion feet of snow. 🙂

      Waiting for next installment of the trip by the way.

  4. Laughing! Very enlightening! Thanks for the lesson! Seriously..I had never heard many of those words!! (shaking my head and smiling!)

    • indacampo says:

      LOL! We co mingle French, Irish, Scottish, First Nations in one big pot and come up with some interesting words. Glad you enjoyed it. 🙂

  5. Loca Gringa says:

    OMG this article is totally SKOOKUM! (I almost peed!)

  6. Hilarious!! Very good. 😊

  7. Thanks, I’ll have to revisit this post before I head North to Canada!

    • indacampo says:

      And it depends on where you are going. The Newfies have so many different palabras especial that the list would have been too long to read!

  8. shellmcc1106 says:

    Great list. I never knew pencil crayon was a Canadian saying. What about how we use hassock instead of footstool or ottoman

  9. OldTimer says:

    How much was your hydro last month?

    • indacampo says:

      Wish I could tell you but they never delivered our December bill, we got someone else’s. We average about $40.00 to $45.00 a month. We usually run the air-conditioning in the bedroom at night a couple of times a month during Wet Season when it gets too stuffy, otherwise we run the ceiling fans. Our water bill was delivered today and it was only $2.16. I guess Mr. Martinelli is giving everyone a subsidy for December.

    • indacampo says:

      And hydro is something we Canadians use also…interesting.

  10. Pingback: More Canadian Stuff | In Da Campo

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