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 on a leafy street, with historic buildings
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.
cycling trail through a hardwood bush
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.
sunny day, trees, slow-moving river
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.
outside of a restaurant in a historic stone building
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?


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32 thoughts on “Out and About on a Bike. Speaking Canadian.”

  1. Owt and abowt in a bote. 😉 That video was very entertaining! I'm envious of your lovely bike paths; our nearest one goes along a concrete culvert. But at least you end up at the beach.

  2. I don't think we say "aboot" either. I also do not say "eh" (ay). I agree with the "tore", as I spent a year in Nova Scotia. I actually enjoyed hearing stories of "me and buddy were saying how she got bet up after drinking a whole point". I remember my fellow classmates laughing at myself and other Ontarians when we told them we went to the beer store. Yes, we were definitely "from away". However, my cousin from "out west" has a whole other way of speaking, not sure I can even describe it. Language and dialect is so interesting. -Jenn

    1. "Point" as in how many "points" of brew did you have? Love that. It's funny that the men in my family have a stronger accent than the women. Wonder why that is?

    1. Hubby and I spent our summer holiday on PEI for ten years… couldn't tear ourselves away. Our favourite thing was "Old Home Week" and the harness racing at the Charlottetown Driving Park. And Boomer Gallant calling the races. It was aboot the best time ever!

  3. So interesting to see your local area with beautiful open countryside & attractive little towns , yet you have a city nearby if you want it . Loved the accents video & I learnt a lot . Aboot sounds really Scottish to me ( my dad was Scottish ) , which makes sense as the Scots flocked to Canada in the old days . We in Yorkshire have lots of little idiosyncrasies , as you probably remember from your visit , for instance ' tintintin ' – for ' it isn't in the tin ' & ' tinternet ' – I speak perfect Queen's English of course 🙂
    Wendy in York

    1. Oh Wendy… thanks for that. I've been saying "tintintin" all morning, and laughing. Love the Yorkshire dialect and the lack of some prepositions and most articles.

  4. Yes, although I haven't heard Canadians much so haven't heard your definitely Scottish "aboot" before but I have noticed Canadian blogger's Scottish words coming out in their posts, like "wee". Quite charming to note as it shows the language of immigrants endures if they settle in sufficient numbers.
    I say "awt and abawt in a bowt". However, I found "tore" interesting as on our island we Sarnians have communication issues with the English as we pronounce our "u" as "o", as some Canadians do, it would seem. So we also say tore. I wonder if its because we are both fundamentally french speaking peoples speaking English. Our pronunciation frustrates the English and when my hubby picks me up on one of my tore-like pronunciations, I annoy him by overstating my "u"s for hours after!
    Anyway, lovely bike ride, made me feel like getting mine out. Hope you got an ice and a pint as well as lunch !

    1. Much of the dialect in New Brunswick where I'm from has Irish roots. But my step father was of Scottish descent and he always said things like the "river is cam (rhymes with lamb) tonight." Jenn just reminded me that many Maritimers would say they were having a "point" of beer. Not me, of course:)

  5. Me again! FTS, we island people also say, eh, at the end of a huge amount of sentences, which the English tend to tease us about, sorry, aboot. Didn't realise Canadians use eh too. I tend to write my blog as though I am chatting to my reader, so I sometimes can't help myself finishing a sentence with "eh", despite knowing that English readers will find it perhaps strange. I've now learned from your post that Canadian readers will feel at home reading me! And if they know that when I'm writing tourist I'm thinking toreist, they are going to feel like they haven't left the country!!!
    Just watched the video, BTW, so interesting and so funny.
    P.s. don't you just love language?!

    1. That's probably the most common Canadian thing… to say "eh" at the end of almost every sentence. I remember once when my cousin who was raised in Detroit visited. He and his girlfriend remarked that we always said "eh." And I guess I turned to my boyfriend at the time and said…'We don't say that, eh Brian?"

  6. I love the post and the video-isn't it amazing? So,there must be a place in English speaking part of world where my pronounciation is just right-have to ask Frances where could it be :-)?
    We have a lot of dialects and sometimes it is hard even for me to understand some of them- I'm now reading a book in the dialect and it helps when I read it aloud
    I must admit that I found Chris Brookmyre's books sometimes a wee 🙂 bit difficult to read (it helps reading aloud,too)

    1. My husband has trouble reading many Scottish writers, including Brookmyre, who at times use local slang and dialect. And reading out loud does help. Either that or he shouts to me…"Suz…what the heck does this mean?"

  7. A lovely post! I'm a transplanted Canadian, living most of the year in North Carolina but blessed to return to Ottawa for significant chunks of the year, mostly June through August. This past year I spent ten months in Ottawa, caring for my mother who was being treated – very successfully – for breast cancer. People on both sides of the border were greatly concerned about how I was faring with my first Canadian winter in nine years. I did just fine, thank-you. In fact, I loved every minute of it. I'm Canadian through-and-through. If anything, my enthusiasm for Canada is stronger than when I lived there full-time, and apparently I'm not alone in this. I read recently that people frequently identify more strongly with their homeland when they leave. That's me, for sure! Happily, my husband and I will pack our car and head north again in just a few weeks. Our house is in Westboro (Sue will know where this is), so we ride our bikes and walk the dog along the Ottawa River trails. We frequent the Carp Farmers' Market at least twice a summer and always make time for a picnic on the banks of the Mississippi River in Almonte. This summer I think we'll take your advice and head to Merrickville for a lunch date. I can't wait!

    And one last thing … during the nine years I've lived in the US I've developed a sharp ear for Canadian accents – I can even tell which part of Canada someone is from – but the whole "oot" and "aboot" thing remains a mystery to me.

    1. I love Westboro. For lunch, or shopping along Richmnond Rd. The trail along the river is lovely too. When I worked in that neighbourhood, I used to run on the cycling path during my lunch hour.
      I haven't "done" Merrickville for a couple of years. I see on the town website that there are some new artisan shops. Maybe I'll run into you there:)

  8. I'm not sure why folks find "out and about" strange. It's just a way of saying that you are running errands – here…there…everywhere. I believe it describes one's day perfectly. As for the pronunciation, that is our Scottish heritage. I moved from NS thirty five years ago, but it still pops out of my mouth. "You can take a girl out of the Maritimes, but you can't take the Maritimes out of the girl."
    The small towns outside of Ottawa are very charming. It's a great way to spend a weekend.

  9. In my working days I spoke daily to people from all over the United States, and got to the point where I could just about always tell where they were from – Alabama differed from Georgia, Virginia had it's own accents, as did Baltimore, Pennsylvania, Chicago, even Indiana. Some areas even used their voices differently and spoke in sort of gravelly tones. I loved this post!

    1. I love all accents and dialects. Travelling in North and South Carolina and Georgia a couple of years ago was a constant pleasure to hear the accents and the different expressions.

  10. Oh Sue…the River Road to Burritts Rapid and Merrickvill….one of my favourite drives. Whenever we return to Ottawa for a visit Merrickville is always on the agenda….nostalgia trip…In Kempville there was a restaurant called Point Zero, or Zero Point. I love living on the West Coast, but the old stone house in these towns and along the Rideau River are beyond charming. Sometime you and your Hubby should spend some time in Prince Edward County and share that beautiful area with your readers.


    1. The old stone houses were astonishing to me when I first moved here from New Brunswick…where the big colonial houses are all wood, and shingled. I've heard that Prince Edward County is wonderful. Must convince Hubby that a road trip is in order.

  11. I always love it when you show those photos of your river. We don't have slow deep rivers where I live, they are either dry come summer or rushing over rocks. An"eh?"d the Canadian accent – yep;). Also, the

  12. I grew up in Ottawa and know many the places you mentioned very well–in fact, the nostalgia I felt at reading your blog brought tears to my eyes. My dear sister, who was also a teacher (with the Carleton board) still lives there. I've been living in Boston for the past 32 years, and many of my clients, upon meeting me, have commented on my Canadian accent. Of course, I think I sound just like everyone else around here so it surprises me when people pick up on my Canadian accent. Thanks so much Sue for stirring up those old memories of "home".

  13. Love this post! I'm a self professed word nerd and I find things like this weirdly fascinating. I also enjoyed learning a bit more about your part of Ontario (I said abowt, not aboot!) It looks like you're not far from our friends who live in Russell.

  14. After living in Atlanta Georgia for almost 38 years I've lost my Canadian accent, but occasionally an "eh" will slip out, much to the delight of friends and family. I'll be returning to Canada to retire in 4 years and I can't wait!

  15. I have been getting really into biking these days and I am with you I prefer the less busy roads. The paths you went on look lovely and just so peaceful. Thanks for sharing on #TheWeeklyPostcard.

  16. Such beautiful trails! I still say that if we had trails that pretty – and it wasn't hovering around 100F all summer – we would definitely take our bikes out more often. Perhaps a Canadian biking trip is (or should be!) in our future. Thanks for sharing on #TheWeeklyPostcard!

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