Once summer starts here in eastern Ontario, Hubby and I try to get out and about on our bikes as much as we can. There are numerous cycling trails and routes to be explored, and lots of local villages to poke around in, or to stop for lunch.
On this particular weekend, we weren’t the only ones doing this. Our little village is a popular destination for cyclists who ride out in packs from the city. We’re 25-30 km from Parliament Hill, depending on the route you choose, and if you’re an avid cyclist, that’s very doable. And I guess the view of Watson’s Mill, or the reward of lunch at the pub, or a pint, or an ice cream cone makes it worthwhile.
Cyclists set off from outside Dickinson House in Manotick
But Hubby and I prefer to ride on less busy roads, or on the cycling paths that abound in our region. Like this woodsy path near Kemptville. Which wends its way behind a few new subdivisions, and eventually takes us out onto River Road, one of our favourite summer cycling routes.
One of our favourite cycling trails, near Kemptville
River Road runs along the Rideau River past farms, old stone houses, the canal locks at the village of Burritt’s Rapids, to Merrickville. Merrickville is another popular local destination for day-trippers. It’s lovely actually. You can watch the boats come through the locks on the historic Rideau Canal. Browse for antiques, or art, or handmade leather goods. Stop for lunch. Or a pint. Or an ice cream cone. Or if you’re lucky, you might be there on the third weekend in August, and take in the best outdoor antique show in the area. An afternoon in Merrickville is time well spent for me.
But yesterday, we were simply cycling. And enjoying the sunshine. And the quiet.
Riding along the lazy Rideau River
And after our ride we drove into Kemptville for lunch. I love Kemptville. It’s much more of a work-a-day village than pretty Merrickville. But it’s just as historic. Apparently it was founded by Lyman Clothier in the early 1800’s as a site for a saw mill and later a grist mill. And was originally called “The Branch” because it sits on the south branch of the Rideau River. Cool. Because we were having lunch at the South Branch Bistro.
The South Branch Bistro, on Clothier Street in Kemptville
That’s what I love about living in this part of Ontario. The history and how it’s all tied into the Rideau Canal. And as we were pedalling, and later eating, Hubby and I got into a conversation about this part of the world. How it differs from places we’ve travelled, and from my native part of the country out east. In particular we were talking about how, even if we’re all speaking English, we’re sometimes speaking a whole other language.
Yep, we were talking about talking. About language usage and accents and how funny we always think other people speak when they don’t speak like us.
And we were laughing about the time we had visitors from England and our friend Abby ordered tuna in a restaurant, pronouncing the “t” and the “u” very precisely, but making it sound like “chew-na” to the poor waitress. Who thought she was ordering some kind of chicken.
Or the time Hubby and I were in a restaurant in Melbourne, and I asked for a glass of water. The waitress looked quizzical. “Wa-ter,” I emphasized. “Wi-ine?” she responded. “No. Waaa-t-er. You know H2O.” “Oh, you mean…. waahd-ah,” she said. “Yeah, wah-da.” Or the B&B host in New Zealand who, in giving us directions, described their house as having “black steers alongside.” And since I grew up on a farm, I just assumed she was talking about livestock. And not the black decorative iron stairs that ran up the side of the house to their front door. In my defense, their home was in the countryside.
And we laughed about the fact that even Canadians from different parts of the country speak very differently. For instance, if Hubby and I are planning a trip, he will refer to our timelines as a “shed-u-ul,” while I call it a “sked-u-ul.” To me my mother’s sister is my “awnt,” but to him she’d be his “ant.” See what I mean? Canadians from the east coast (at least those from New Brunswick) say “tore” instead of tour, and call the people who “come from away” to see our part of the world “tore-ists.” Natives of some parts of New Brunswich speak with such a drawl, they almost sound like they’re from the southern U.S. And don’t get me started on the Newfoundlanders, who even I have a hard time understanding despite being related to some of them.
But I’ve never, ever, been able to understand why non-Canadians always ask Canadians to say the phrase “out and about in a boat.” And then laugh. Apparently most Americans think we’re saying “aboot”, instead of “about.” But I can’t see it. Or hear it, as the case may be. I might say “tore-ist,” but I know I don’t say “aboot.” Or at least I didn’t think I did.
Until yesterday when I started doing a bit of research on Canadian dialect and pronunciation. Most of what I found is way too esoteric for me to even care about. At one point I became totally caught up in this conversation on the website Pain in the English, which is a site for proofreaders. I read all about something called “Canadian raising,” and diphthongs, and voiceless consonants, to explain how Canadians say “about.” And the fact that since we don’t realize we are “raising” our “diphthongs,” we can’t hear that we’re saying what sounds like “aboot” to others. I also read tons of examples of how Canadians speak differently from some Americans, and somewhat similar to other Americans, and altogether different from Canadians from other parts of the country. Phew.
And then I came across this on You Tube. All you ever wanted to know about speaking Canadian. This young guy is pretty articulate, I thought, and his video is very interesting. Especially the examples. In fact, I think the Newfoundlander in the Nissan commercial might just be my cousin Bruce. Ha. Have a listen.
Now you know more than you ever wanted to know about speaking Canadian, raised diphthongs and all. And while I’ve been writing, it’s rained and rained and rained. All day. Again.
So when I have to venture out and about later, to go to the drugstore and the library… I guess I won’t be out and about on a bike. More likely out and about in my boots. And if it keeps raining this way… maybe even in a boat.
Hmmm. So if I say “out and about in my boots in a boat”… I wonder what that sounds like to a non-Canadian, non-Canadian- raising speaker, who can actually hear my weirdly elevated diphthongs?
Guess I’ll never know, eh?
How about you my friends? How do you say “out and about in a boat?” Any other weirdly unusual pronunciations happen where you live?
High Heels in the Wilderness is for women like me. Women who love clothes. And books. Who dream of travelling to amazing places. Who want to explore their own lives, and their own potential, now that they aren't twenty (or even forty) anymore.