Sunday, December 30, 2012


I lived in Montreal for over 30 years, but I still remember the adjustment to the local (anglo) dialect when I moved there. I heard terms that had been borrowed from French like “depanneur”, and terms that had been partially translated like “javel water” (from eau de javel or “bleach”), and terms that had been literally translated like “file” (dossier). A twelve-pack became a “case of 12”, and a two-four a “case of 24”. I'm still not sure what a six-pack is. Adjusting culturally wasn't just a matter of mastering the two-cheek kiss, it also involved learning a new dialect, Montreal English.

Now, I have the same challenge. Coming to Edmonton, I knew I would no longer find any depanneurs, even if there is a convenience store on every other corner. Store names, even of familiar chains, are different. Here Couche Tard is Mac's, Pharmaprix is Shopper's Drug Mart, and Dix Mille Villages is Ten Thousand Villages. And the Metro is the LRT (though outside of downtown it's a surface rail system, not a subway).

We've encountered some unfamiliar geographical features such as hoodoos and badlands and coulees and buffalo jumps. And we're becoming accustomed to hearing (and one day doubtless will be saying) some unfamiliar terms. Here are a few:

Lodge – a residence for autonomous or semi-autonomous elderly people in which each individual or couple maintains a private residence but benefits from some communal activities and services such as meal service, though not generally nursing care; not to be confused with a nursing home.

Patio – an outdoor section of a restaurant enjoyed during summer; a sidewalk cafe; what is referred to in Montreal as a terrasse.

Lounge – a drinking establishment where one might also eat a snack or a meal; not really a bar, although there will be a bar in the lounge; similar to, but perhaps quieter and perhaps more posh (or pretentious) than a pub.

Suite – an individual dwelling in an apartment or condominium building.

Parkade – no, not a cool drink enjoyed in a park – a structure for indoor parking which may be one or more levels at, under or above ground level; could be a whole building or part of a building which has other purposes on other levels.

Stall – a space for parking a vehicle, either in a parking lot or in a parkade; (perhaps a re-purposing of the same term for a space for parking a horse?) We have a stall in the parkade of our condo building.

Blading – scraping snow on the street using heavy equipment such as a grader; the goal is not to remove the snow, but rather to scrape the frozen snow-pack to remove ruts and leave a smooth surface, which may be several centimetres above the street surface, and may also be much smoother than the street surface below.

Acreage – a sizable plot of land outside the city on which (usually) a sizable house is built.

Pedway – an indoor pedestrian walkway which may take the form of an underground tunnel or above-ground bridge between buildings, or a thoroughfare through a building, LRT station or parkade; there is a whole pedway network through downtown Edmonton, similar to Montreal's underground city except that parts of the pedway are at or above ground level.

A Pedway
I'm sure my lexicon of the Alberta dialect will expand over time. As it does I'll try to add other interesting terms.

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