Just a thought… My motto? Time spent laughing at yourself is time well spent. [Jim Carrey]
In reading all of the Canada Day greetings on social media on the weekend, I couldn’t help but notice all of the mentions that ended with the cute suffix “eh?” and I was reminded of an interesting post a little while ago as to WHY Canadians say “eh.” I thought you might be fascinated too.
Long before Bob and Doug McKenzie were plaid-splattered hosers on SCTV telling everybody to take off, Canadians were ending our sentences with that two-letter question. And thanks to the TV series and the subsequent movie’s international success, we began to get as sick of other nations using it endlessly when referring to Canadians as I’m sure Australians came to be with the Crocodile Dundee movie and Aussie tourism board’s familiar greeting “G’day, mate.”
I had a fascinating exchange with a woman who actually had a brilliant take on why we do use those two little letters with frequency – some more than others. Me? I tried to put the brakes to it when I realized so many of my American peers were just waiting for it so they could jump right on it. How would I ever get a dream job sharing a stage with Oprah if I didn’t curb my Canadianisms? LOL
So, because I’m me and have three or four different ways to chat with people, I lost the thread that this woman sent. But here’s the gist. We say, “eh?” to add a soft up-ending question to a statement. Rather than sound pushy or definitive, we make it something that the listener can agree with. Take this example:
Me: Traffic is horrific today.
You: Yes. Yes it is.
Me: Traffic is horrific today, eh?
You: It sure is…doesn’t help that there’s construction.
Now, I don’t know if you can sense a difference there, but in the first one, I’m making a hard and fast statement. A FACT. Traffic’s horrific. But in the second, I’m offering you a chance to agree/disagree and add your own perspective.
It’s not scientific, but it really does kind of summarize who we are: polite, open to correction or expansion, and less likely just to come out and make a statement than to say, “This is what I think, but I could be wrong; what do you think?”
The woman who communicated with me had more of an academic take on it, but these are the gems that I gleaned from what she sent. It made total sense. It’s just the way that we as a people communicate and it’s less “in your face” than some other folks’ style of conversation.
I like that there’s a question at the end that invites interaction. I like that we end with a vowel sound that one almost has to accompany with the raising of eyebrows or the hint of a smile.
And oh – by the way – those two letters are for US to say. We’re the Canadians, we get to say or not say “eh?” if we want. Anybody else is: a) trying to dig up that one thing they know about Canada or its people, b) making fun, or c) trying to be clever because they think no one else has ever thought of the N-B-EH!
Maybe I’m oversensitive. Or…they can all just take off, eh?