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Where can I find Canadian cussing?
May 21, 2007 8:52 AM   Subscribe

I'm working on a book of international curses and insults and I'm supposed to write a section on the U.S. and Canada. Now, I have no problem finding examples of invective by Yanks, but (like a typical Yank) I'm completely at a loss when it comes to the Great White North. I'd appreciate any pointers to good use of wicked language by Canadians (doesn't have to be obscene; cf. Twain's "Harte is a liar, a thief, a swindler, a snob, a sot, a sponge, a coward..."), old or new, online or off. Thanks!
posted by languagehat to Writing & Language (43 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
 
Definitely include a section on Quebecois cusses which are based on blasphemy -- wikipedia has a good basic guide.
posted by girlpublisher at 9:00 AM on May 21, 2007


What Americans call a "shit stirrer", we call a "shit disturber".
posted by rosemere at 9:13 AM on May 21, 2007


"Excuse me, would you mind fucking your mother, if it's not too much trouble? Thanks."
posted by Pollomacho at 9:20 AM on May 21, 2007 [1 favorite]


Take off, you hoser!
posted by Lucinda at 9:41 AM on May 21, 2007


Oh, I forgot to mention I'm not interested in Quebecois curses (I mean I am, very much, but they're easy to find material on and they're covered in the French chapter). And yeah, I guess I have to include hoser, but I was hoping for more interesting material. Have there been any good political slanging matches? Didn't the frontier days produce any Deadwood-style repartee?
posted by languagehat at 9:46 AM on May 21, 2007


Typing as a Canadian, I'd love to see what you come up with... I can't think of any uniquely Canadian curses. And I've never, ever heard anyone call anyone else a hoser except as a direct reference to the Bob and Doug McKenzie characters from SCTV.
posted by onshi at 9:49 AM on May 21, 2007


Have there been any good political slanging matches?

Former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau mouthed the words "fuck off" to a political opponent in the House of Commons.

Subsequently questioned about it by reporters, he claimed he'd said "fuddle-duddle."

Does that count?
posted by ewiar at 9:53 AM on May 21, 2007


Video of the interview with Trudeau.
posted by ewiar at 9:57 AM on May 21, 2007


They call it a "shit stirrer"??? Ha! I never knew that.

Stereotypic Canada is that we're too polite to cuss and direct insult. I've never thought this to be true (being somewhat of a shit disturber myself), until I sat here trying to come up with examples. On the other hand, it is true that in general, Canadian norms are that, unless pushed, we are to keep our (especially negative) personal opinions to ourselves.

I think it would be fair to say that most of what's in the US media is fairly accepted and used here (but perhaps more tentatively).

But, I'm sure this, like everything else Canadian culture, is likely to have regional flavours.

I don't know any (like the typical Upper Canadian that I am), but I'm sure that the Newfoundlanders have a very well developed and distinctive lexicon.

I'm not sure how many are specifically Canadian (as opposed to American too) but:
Hoser
dumber than a post
flake
fuck-head
jack ass
not playing with a full deck
idiot
Newfie or Newf
Bloc-head - yes, spelled like that- Does NOT mean Block-head, but refers pejoratively to a supporter of the Bloc Quebecois

keener
brown-noser

Upper Canadian- used in the maritimes, to refer negatively to someone who comes from Ontario (especially Toronto), arrogant, ignorant and full of themselves.

scum
moron
Come-from-away- again from the maritimes, sometimes used descriptively but often with a negative connotation

piss-off!
bastard
short on IQ
bitch
slut
fag (not always indicating that the person is homosexual)
gay
stupid

on-the-dole (maritime) sometimes used descriptively as in: he's on the dole, meaning he receives unemployment insurance (what in a true ironic turn, the Cdn govt changed to 'employment insurance') payments, but sometimes with a negative connotation of receiving handouts.

a loon is not used to mean a crazy person. It's a bird, and a loonie is a dollar coin.
sick- is not bad, it's good.

I'll keep thinking about this and paying attention. I'll email you if I come up with anything else. Feel free to email me.

It's too bad you posted this now. If it had been in April I'd have taken the question to my sociology classes (and I'm on sabbatical this next year). Actually, if you email me, I'd be happy to link you to several Canadian sociologists across the country who could take the question on personally/academically, and/or to their classes. Let me know.

Oh, and post when the book comes out, eh?
posted by kch at 10:13 AM on May 21, 2007


You should check out some back issues of Reinhold Aman's linguistic and sweartastic journal Maledicta.

Issues three, six, and nine contain what you need, as well as thousands of other cursiful blasphematics from around the world.

I know you said you had sufficient sources for French-Canadian terms of abuse and damnations, but issue 5 is spectacular on that topic.

On another note, if you need an illustration, photos exist of the time the Prime Minister (Trudeau) gave the finger to the town of Salmon Arm, B. C.
posted by Sallyfur at 10:19 AM on May 21, 2007


If you're looking for Mark Twain style Canadian sass, you could check out the works of Mordecai Richler. I've never read any myself (so, it might not pan out), but he didn't shy away from pissing people off.

Bloc-head - yes, spelled like that- Does NOT mean Block-head, but refers pejoratively to a supporter of the Bloc Quebecois

Hm... Never heard that one. The slur I'm more familiar with is calling francophones Peppers or Pepsi. Somewhat explained here.
posted by CKmtl at 10:33 AM on May 21, 2007


I've never, ever heard anyone call anyone else a hoser except as a direct reference to the Bob and Doug McKenzie characters from SCTV.

See, this is why I need feedback. If this is true, I'll mention hoser only to debunk it.

Issues three, six, and nine contain what you need

I don't have time to wait for the Athenaeum to get them for me—I'm up against deadline. Please, pretty please, pick out a few good ones and either post them here or e-mail them to me? You can get your name in the Acknowledgments!

I don't suppose anyone has A. J. M. Smith, The Blasted Pine: An Anthology of Satire, Invective and Disrespectful Verse, Chiefly By Canadian Writers? That sounds like it might have some good zingers...
posted by languagehat at 11:23 AM on May 21, 2007


There are lots of quotations to wade through here (too many! The site needs editing badly.)
This book looks like it may be useful.
Pierre Trudeau - "I've been called worse things by better people." (upon being called "that asshole" by Richard Nixon.)
posted by fish tick at 11:27 AM on May 21, 2007


That quotation site looks useful, but the only political quotes seem to be from 2006—can that be right?

As for the book, the fact that it's for "Grades 9 and up" suggests that it may be on the milquetoast side (even for Canada! *ducks*), but googling the title got me to this page, which looks promising ("You little fat little chubby little sucker!" —Reform MP Darrel Stinson, referring to Jean Charest).

Which is good, because this was making me think I should just leave the Canada section blank:

An example of the invective comes from Prime Minister Paul Martin who said at a campaign stop in Atlantic Canada today: "What's going to happen after the election? Are these social conservatives going to stay in hiding ... (or) are they going to come out and start expressing their views, advancing their causes?"

Call that invective, eh?
posted by languagehat at 11:54 AM on May 21, 2007


Look under "Prime Ministers"
John Diefenbaker - "John Lesage is the only person I know who can strut sitting down." - former Canadian prime minister, mocking Jean Lesage, former premier of Quebec.
posted by fish tick at 12:05 PM on May 21, 2007


Seconding the "hoser is derivative of Bob and Doug".

It's surprisingly difficult to think of unique Canadian insults, modern or historical. I believe the phrase 'Corporate Welfare Bums" was coined and used to great effect in a Canadian Election, some time ago. Some Canadian Political Insults here; including the recent bruhaha over referring to Belinda Stronach MP as a "dog". By her former boyfriend. The Foreign Minister. In the House of Commons.

Then there was the "Evil Reptilian Kitten Eater from Another Planet" incident.

There are a number of insulting nicknames for Canadian Cities:
Hogtown (Toronto)
The Centre of the Universe (Toronto)
Winterpeg (Winnipeg)
Saskabush (Saskatoon)
Edmonchuck (Edmonton)
Cow Town (Calgary)
Hongcouver (Vancouver)
Slurry (Surrey)
etc.

Some mild curses I've never heard elsewhere, but who knows:
- fiddlefart
- fuckstick

"bag of antlers" for a skinny person

"fucking the dog" for wasting time

"weaned on a pickle" for a sourfaced fuckstick

And, as noted, Newfies are the butt of a whole genre of jokes.

One I remember as a kid, "you're so pied" for "uncool".

Otherwise, well, apparently the Inuit have 29 different words for "muthafucka".
posted by Rumple at 12:19 PM on May 21, 2007


Those nicknames for Canadian cities hardly are “insulting.” Except for Hongcouver.
posted by joeclark at 12:27 PM on May 21, 2007


The CBC link from Rumple answers your political slagging question. Unfortunately, they don't mention the time when one of the Liberal MP's called former environment minister Rona Ambrose a potted plant, which I enjoyed.

Re hoser: I don't know if I've ever heard it used as an actual insult. I think that now it's more of a jokingly-embraced stereotype.

There's lots of inter-regional rivalry which colours a lot of our insults, so finding pan-Canadian insults might be a bit difficult, unless you look to our tendency for American bashing.
posted by carolr at 12:32 PM on May 21, 2007


Hongcouver more commonly refers to Richmond, a suburb of Vancouver, that to Vancouver itself.
posted by solid-one-love at 12:36 PM on May 21, 2007


Hongcouver more commonly refers to Richmond, a suburb of Vancouver, than to Vancouver itself.
posted by solid-one-love at 12:36 PM on May 21, 2007


Foreign Affairs Minister Peter MacKay called his politician ex-girlfriend Belinda Stronach a "dog" in some committee meeting this past year.
posted by Lieber Frau at 12:50 PM on May 21, 2007


I've never, ever heard anyone call anyone else a hoser except as a direct reference to the Bob and Doug McKenzie characters from SCTV.

See, this is why I need feedback. If this is true, I'll mention hoser only to debunk it.


Well, I'm young enough that they could be *only* derivative of Bob and Doug, but where I grew up (rural Ontario) we insulted people with "hoser" and "nob" all the time. On the Bob and Doug two-four anniversary special on CBC last night there was a linguist who seemed to indicate that hoser existed before Bob and Doug, but that it didn't have the same widespread popularity.

I bet you could find some clever insults with a particularly Canadian/maritime twist (a la Twain the example you listed) in Rick Mercer's rants. In the latest one, he describes the Conservatives as "spending like drunken Liberals. Stephen Harper is like Paul Martin on three bottles of rye." I'm pretty sure he gets more colourful than that on a regular basis, and all his archives are online if you feel like perusing.

And if you check out the best of, there's a segment with Harper where I think Harper gets a few good digs in. I'm not sure, and my internet's acting slow so I can't check for you, but if you find the rants interesting, then that's something to check as well.
posted by carmen at 12:59 PM on May 21, 2007


In the "fuddle duddle" clip Trudeau says "I used my hands in a gesture of derision," which sounds like it's Canadian for the jerk-off gesture (as illustrated by a young Tony Blair).
posted by kirkaracha at 1:11 PM on May 21, 2007


"knob" means a nerd/weenie/uncool person. (Ontario) It's insulting but not too vulgar, as I've heard it used; not strictly a curse but definitely Canada-specific.

The Atlantic coast is definitely the place to look; I will consult my sources.
posted by LobsterMitten at 1:12 PM on May 21, 2007


SOL: Shit out of luck?
posted by louigi at 2:18 PM on May 21, 2007


I don't know if these are necessarily insulting, but Torontonians have some interesting names for two of their suburbs - "Etobichoke" (for Etobicoke) and "Scarberia" (for Scarborough).

There's always the ever popular "couple of beers short a 2-4" type insults ("couple of Timbits short a full box" etc etc.).

kch's got a great list of suggestions, and yes, I hope someone will pipe up with some Atlantic provinces related insults.
posted by rmm at 3:43 PM on May 21, 2007


I don't know if these are necessarily insulting, but Torontonians have some interesting names for two of their suburbs - "Etobichoke" (for Etobicoke) and "Scarberia" (for Scarborough).

I've heard "Scarlem" a lot for Scarborough, too (reference to Harlem)
posted by saraswati at 3:53 PM on May 21, 2007


I couldn't think of any unique Canadian insults (Newfie jokes aside); although you could probably insert the word "arse" into an insult and call it Canadian...stupid arse; silly arse; get your head out of your arse; arsehat (umm, no reflection on you Mr. Hat).
posted by BozoBurgerBonanza at 5:21 PM on May 21, 2007


Thought of another one:
That's dumber than a bag of hammers
the dad of a friend of mine (from the maritimes) used to say that all the time.
posted by kch at 5:47 PM on May 21, 2007


As a Canadian (Torontonian) living in America the only two pieces of slang that I use that get strange looks are SOL and shit-disturber. "lord thundering Jesus" also comes to mind as an example of Newfoundland slang.
posted by goingonit at 6:04 PM on May 21, 2007


ah, so *that's* where Gord Downie gets it from! (re: "lord Thundering Jesus", which was sampled from a Tragically Hip concert and is found at the beginning of a Change of Heart song). < / obscure canuck music filter> Now I just have to find the story behind the 'Killer Whale Tank" monologue, and I can die a happy kid.
posted by rmm at 6:45 PM on May 21, 2007


Try watching some episodes of the Trailer Park Boys!
posted by meringue at 8:02 PM on May 21, 2007


Hoser has ~only~ been used with a sense of irony around me, even in the heyday of SCTV. A lot of my personal insults tend to have an English accent, wanker, cake-hole, bugger off, etc, or else are in a completely different language (with all our wonderful multiculturalism I can swear in a dozen languages!) As someone who went to a Catholic Secondary School I heard the term mangia-cake but never understood exactly what it meant - it was an insult from Italians to English Catholics. If someone is acting wacky around me I usually say "Dr Penfield, I smell burnt toast!" to everyone's amusement.

What about the insulting term we use for Americans - Yankees; and we use it for the southerners too - even though we know they are doubly insulted by it. "We'll explain the appeal of curling to you if you explain the appeal of the National Rifle Association to us." CBC's Andy Barrie

Would you consider it insulting that over one million Canadians signed an online petition to have a referendum-happy politician (Stockwell Day) change his first name to Doris? He also was insulted with a barney doll during a debate (he is a creationist, which in most of Canada = stupid). Oh, and the party he was leader of was a new political party that arose when the Canadian Alliance/Reform Party (CA/RP) merged with the Progressive Conservatives (PC) to become the Canadian Conservative Reform Alliance Party (CCRAP). One or two jokes might have been made at their choice of acronym. Former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney called them "Reform in Pantyhose".

Canadian politicians are always insulting one another during Question Period in the House (basically a free-for-all in Parliament). And they get pretty lippy during the scrum after as well. Our first PM, John A. MacDonald, was known to be fond of the drink and when he threw up during a debate and was accused of being drunk he replied "I get sick ... not because of drink [but because] I am forced to listen to the ranting of my honourable opponent." John Crosbie said of Trudeau "It is better to be sincere in one language than to be a twit in two"; at another point he crooned the song "pass the tequila Shelia and lay down and love me again" about another Member of Parliament. Shelia "nobody's baby" Copps was frequently heckled in and outside of Parliament, but she also gave pretty good. Hmmm, in the 1930's the large number of broken automobiles that were towed by horses were called Bennett Buggies in (dis)honour of PM Bennett. The much hated PM Brian Mulroney (leader during and thought to be the cause of Canada's recession in the early '90's - lots of insults about him floating around) recently had a book published about himself called the Secret Mulroney tapes. Basically he said a lot of ill-advised things on tape to the well-respected author Peter Newman and then tried to prevent the book from being published. It was, and the following year Brian Mulroney gave a speech at the Press Gallery Dinner in which he formally acknowledged the esteemed audience and then launched into his speech: "Peter Newman: go fuck yourself. Goodnight."
posted by saucysault at 10:28 PM on May 21, 2007


Those nicknames for Canadian cities hardly are “insulting.” Except for Hongcouver.
posted by joeclark at 3:27 PM on May 21 [+]


Hongcouver is insulting, but Edmonchuk is not? Curious.

I'm from the Maritimes and nobody uses hoser there except as a reference to the McKenzie Brothers. I understand it to be actual Ontario slang though.

I've been known to use "come-from-away" and "Upper Canadian" quite often and at least in my experience, they are merely descriptive or even affectionate, but become insults by adding the prefix "fucking" and/or the suffix "arsehole."

I'd say most uniquely Canadian insults are regional, and therefore self-directed. I mean we might talk smack about Americans but we don't use any uniquely Canadian terms to do so, whereas we've got nicknames for practically every city in the country, and many of them are insulting or at least not flattering. To the list above I'd add Redmonton or Deadmonton (Edmonton), Hellifax (Halifax), Darkness or The Darkside (for Dartmouth NS which is across the harbor from Halifax), Gasoline Alley (Red Deer), Blahttawa (Ottawa), and Upper Rubberboot (any very small town, like "Podunk" in the US).

Here's a uniquely Nova Scotian insult: Goler. There was this family that had generations of child abuse and incest and inter-marrying, in the Annapolis Valley, and they were on the news a lot when I was a kid, like early '80s. So it became an insult (used in the same kind of context as retard). Probably people under 25 and over 40 wouldn't know it.

Do Americans say dickweed? cougar? puck bunny or puck fuck?
posted by joannemerriam at 5:27 PM on May 22, 2007


Do Americans say dickweed? cougar? puck bunny or puck fuck?
joannemerriam: IME, "dickweed" sometimes, the others no. Define?
posted by LobsterMitten at 5:46 PM on May 22, 2007


Try watching some episodes of the Trailer Park Boys!

Why didn't I think of this? Although I'm not sure how true-to-maritime-speech the scripts are, they have some of the funniest and most creative invective ever (and more fucks-per-minute than Scarface, probably).

If you can't see any televised episodes, you could grab them off pretty much any bittorrent site if you're down with Teh Piracy, LH.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 9:34 PM on May 22, 2007


Brian Mulroney gave a speech at the Press Gallery Dinner in which he formally acknowledged the esteemed audience and then launched into his speech: "Peter Newman: go fuck yourself. Goodnight."

Sorry for chat, but I'd never seen that before, and much as I hated Mulroney, that launched a swell of Canuck Patriotism in my breast the likes of which I've rarely felt. So good.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 9:39 PM on May 22, 2007


Cougar is Canadian for MILF except the L doesn't stand for "like" but rather "might get really drunk and"
posted by Pollomacho at 5:49 AM on May 23, 2007


I disagree that MILF and cougar are the same. I think of MILF as a label by younger men and applied to women in their late thirties/early forties that have higher status in society and who are not neceaarssily interested in having sex with the young boys. Wheras cougars are in their late forties/ fifties and tend to be divorced and in charge of their own sexuality and enjoying no-strings-attached flings with younger, more energetic men. I have only heard it used pejoritively by men that are afraid of ANY women's sexuality; buying into the myth that women only have sex looking for love. Man, I'm looking forward to my cougar years, prowling the taverns, teaching the young-uns a thing or two.
posted by saucysault at 9:19 AM on May 23, 2007


Cougar is Canadian for MILF

Not really. A Cougar is more like the female equivalent of a Dirty Old Man, in the "~50yo. who seeks out nubile college flesh for sex" sense. MILFs are usually young (but not shockingly young) mothers, whereas a Cougar is more into possible grandmother territory.
posted by CKmtl at 3:26 PM on May 23, 2007


I've heard cougar used to refer to women as young as 35. The key is that they have to be quite a bit older than the people they're hitting on. (Remember the drinking age is 19 in most of Canada and 18 in some places.)

A puck fuck is a hockey groupie who's an easy lay. A puck bunny is basically the same thing, but a slightly more polite (sounding) version.

stavrosthewonderchicken: I think Trailer Park Boys is true to Maritime speech (of the class the characters represent). I'm from Halifax, where it's filmed.
posted by joannemerriam at 3:35 AM on May 24, 2007


Report from a friend teaching in Nunavut, with Newfie colleagues:
Here's a good newfie insult: "yer stunned, by! stunned as me arse."
(translation: you're stunned, boy - stunned as my arse! That is, you're as stupid as if you had sustained a head injury)

She says the standard insult in her small Nunavut town is "fucking qallunaaq" - ie, fucking white person who has come from the south and doesn't know how things work up here.
posted by LobsterMitten at 11:09 PM on May 27, 2007


Follow up at MetaTalk.
posted by deborah at 12:13 PM on December 18, 2007


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