Canadian, Eh?

Screen shot 2021-05-30 at 12.17.56 AM.pngCanadians are known for many unique characteristics; our polite and friendly nature, which endures even under the most difficult conditions; our past association with the British, which is still in existence to this day; our fierce winters and abundance of snow, which restrict us to our homes for most of the year; our dependence upon the American entertainment industry; which occupies most of our television; our love for beer and alcohol, which often replaces our water; our crazed wildlife, which are dangerous and roam free; and lastly our mysterious usage of the syllable "Eh". There is only one Canadian characteristic that beats all others: the syllable "Eh". It is the most distinct and uniquely Canadian element in existence. "Eh" embodies all Canadian traits simultaneously and completely. It was passed down to us from our forefathers and has become apart of the national Canadian identity.


Our sovereigns and forefathers: the British, who often pretend we don't exist, were the originals who gifted us with the expression "Eh". We admired their culture and worshiped their royals. We emulated those proper and respectful Brits and copied their casual usage of "Eh", which they used in their sophisticated discussions. "Eh"has ingrained itself into the Canadian culture, becoming even more famous through Canada than it ever was in Britain. For the British it was just another word, in Canada it is a way of life. We thank them greatly for their precious donation of "Eh". No other country recognizes our ownership of "Eh" more than our fellow New World occupants, the Americans. Who, unlike us, are not buried under snow for the winter and are able to mock us throughout the whole year.


Due to harsh winter storms and layers upon layers of snow, Canadians must remain indoors for most of the year. During these times of hardship, we must look to our continent brothers, the Americans. Throughout the winter, American sitcom serials are what keep us from the deepest of depressions. Occasionally they generously dedicate episodes to documenting the Canadian lifestyle. These episodes generally use "Eh" as a prominent tool for Canadian ridicule. As we are good natured and friendly, we laugh along with our American brothers and share in the joke of the syllable. In honor of America's recognition, we proudly increased our usage of "Eh". However, our American brothers seem confused about the meaning of "Eh", and frequently misuse it. "Eh", in fact, has two main usages.


With all of the beer Canadians drink, we are bound to mishear parts of a conversation. That's where the first usage of "Eh" comes in. We fundamentally need a polite, non-drunken, way to convey our confusion. We need a replacement for the sentence: "What did you just say?" At its very core "Eh" is the sound of a question mark and its simplicity easily covers alcohol induced, sloppy behavior. In comparison to its American counterpart "Huh", "Eh" is proper and respectful. "Huh" needs to be spoken gutturally with a slack jaw. "Eh" does not require such a strenuous effort from our facial muscles, which makes it easier to smile at the same time. The sentence "Huh, What did you just say?" which sounds rude and aggressive, is replaced by a short "Eh?" and a smile. In Canada where the wildlife is free and dangerous it is important to know how to smile, much as it is important to speak quickly and with purpose.


With a wild animal about to attack at any moment, a Canadian must insure that they have a quick way of encouraging a response during a conversation. This is the second usage of "Eh". It is the sound of the desire for feedback. "Eh"is a fast way of alerting someone to his or her turn to speak; basically it replaces the question: "What do you think?" By adding an "Eh", a simple statement such as "The party was really great last night." can be turned into a question. "The party was really great last night, eh?" Now the statement merits a response. With the small addition of a single syllable, a one sided statement has now become a conversation. Canadians value their friends and strangers, who are potential friends. We want to hear their opinions, so we speak with "Eh".


The syllable "Eh" is the only Canadian way to speak. It is a single representation of all that is Canadian. It represents our British past and association. It displays our un-reciprocated trust and respect for our New World brothers, the Americans. It is how we remain polite, even while under other influences. It is our mark of friendliness, even to those we do not know. Every time it slips from our tongues, it is an embrace to our culture and to those around us. So go forth non-Canadians and use our expression, because it will change your lives. For it is good to live the Canadian way, Eh?

Image source: Flickr


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