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11 new English words

by Catherine Jan on August 17, 2014

new Canadian words

I have learned many new English words since I resettled in Toronto a year and a half ago.

When I lived in France (my source language culture), I took yearly flights from Roissy Charles-de-Gaulle to Pearson. But these summertime visits to Canada (my target language culture) didn’t turn me into a 100% full-on native speaker of Canadian English. Neither did my daily reading of English-language press.

English immersion

Being exposed to English a few hours a day isn’t the same as interacting in English for twelve hours a day with all kinds of Toronto souls — coworkers, neighbours, seniors, new graduates, schoolteachers, sales clerks, bus drivers and everyone else.

So I’ve pumped up my vocabulary.

I think I’ve figured out the following words.

1. Meet ‘n’ greet

You choose someone to become your doctor. Then you make an appointment a month later to do a “meet ‘n’ greet.” You shake hands with your physician, talk about your medical history for 15 minutes, and fill out administrative papers.

2. Pay it forward

You do a good deed. The receiver of the good deed will “pay it forward” and do another good deed for a different person. So your good deed will not get “paid back” to you, the original do-gooder. Instead, it gets “paid forward” to the third person, the do-gooder in the making.

3. Senior moment

You have a few white hairs and you’ve lost your keys, forgot the punchline of your joke, put on mismatched socks, or committed some other embarrassing offence. Congratulations, you’ve had a “senior moment.”

4. Swag

Free stuff! This is usually branded merchandise that you get at an corporate event. Swag could be a free T-shirt, keychain, hat or some other thing that the company’s logo can be printed on.

5. Campy

From my understanding, “campy” is used to describe something that has been taken to an extreme, but is amusing. For example, a play could be “campy” if the story is unbelievable, the actors are overdoing it, but the audience enjoys the whole experience.

6. Ridiculous (and terrible in French)

Revelation: “ridiculous” can have a positive connotation. Your friend calls an action movie “ridiculous” and says you have to see it.

“Ridiculous” = really, really good.

“Ridiculous” reminds me very much of “terrible” in French.

Terrible” = really, really good.

A French friend recently said, “Le logo de Roger Federer est terrible.” Could we say that Federer’s logo is “ridiculous”?

Roger Federer logo

7. Ugly laugh

“That story was hilarious! I did an ugly laugh and almost peed my pants!”

8. One-trick pony

You’re good at only one thing. You make delicious banana bread, but you make horrible cookies, pies and squares. So you stick to the banana bread and become a “one-trick pony.”

9. Poutine

I lived in Montreal in my early twenties, so poutine and I are buddies. Poutine is an unhealthy mix of fries, gravy and cheese curds. I’m including it on my list of new words, because back in the day, poutine belonged in Quebec, not in Ontario.

10. Push back

Warning: corporate-speak. You “push back” when you are asked to do something at work and you don’t think you should. So you say, “Our web design department wants me to call our client. But that’s not my job. Why doesn’t Customer Care do that? I’m pushing back.”

11. Millennial

You’re a millennial if you were born between the early 1980s and the early 2000s. Toronto’s The Globe and Mail publishes articles about “millennials” ad nauseum:

The Globe and Mail writes as if everyone over 35 thinks of young people as entitled brats. I work harmoniously with many “millennials” who have proven to be a generous, hard-working bunch.

Keeping up with ever-evolving English

Personally, I never felt that living outside of North America made me less of an English-speaking translator. I always did my research and tried my best to use the right words and capture the proper tone for each industry.

I didn’t understand “selfie” and “twerking” at first, but these words never found their way into my translations.

Expat translators, how do you stay on top of your target language?

Comments welcome.

And if anyone would like to correct me or add clarification about the newly learned words above, please chime in.




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