What do you call a small residential building in the woods, typically used to get away from the city for a weekend or vacation? If you said camp, then you’re either from the northwestern regions of Ontario, or you’ve been spending too much time with someone who is. I grew up in this region, living between Terrace Bay and Thunder Bay. Before dating someone from southern Ontario, I had no idea that there were such remarkable linguistic differences between the two regions. In fact, I only realized this when I complained about my packsack being broken. My partner gave me a confused look through Skype. “What on Earth is a packsack?” I was equally confused and offered another word: knapsack. Still nothing. Frustrated, I lifted up my bag and showed him. “Oh!” He said, “a backpack!” That was my introduction to regional language differences, even in the same province.
I still get funny looks when I talk about camping in the winter. People get very concerned for me, when they shouldn’t. Instead of camping with a tent/tenting, I’m cozy in a bed. Regardless of what you southern folk say, camp is camp and cottage is for the hoity-toity.
Jambuster: dʒæm bəstər. A jelly filled doughnut covered in powdered sugar.
Bonbon: bɑnbɑn. Breaded pork spareribs. Native only to Thunder Bay and surrounding area.
Persian: pərʒən. Sweet roll similar to a cinnamon bun with strawberry frosting. Native only to Thunder Bay and surrounding area.
For the most part, I do not have troubles with the language here. I knew beforehand that my bonbons and persians were native to my hometown, and no one here would know what they were. However, let me tell you, they are absolutely delicious and everyone should come visit if only to try the local cuisine. An old favourite way to eat a persian is to fry it with butter. Other words, however, can present a problem. I still say jambuster, regardless of how silly it may sound. I just refuse to call it a jelly filled doughnut. It creates a small impasse between myself and the listener, but I’m too stubborn and proud to change my speech.
Hooks: hʊks. To pass something. “Hooks me that beer”. Native only to Thunder Bay (usually just high school).
Janky: Weird or out of place.
Mudding: mədɪŋ. Driving off road in muddy areas for fun.
Sometimes, I find myself using old sayings or made-up words that are typically only used up North. They can absolutely exist here as well, but I hear them much more often back home. Typically, I get a slightly confused look with a polite smile. It’s an incredibly bizarre feeling to go from a place where people understand every word to here, where I find some of my words, my sentences, and my meanings lost in translation.
On the flip side, however, Toronto and its surrounding areas have equally confusing words and pronunciations. For my entire first year, I refused to say any of the stop names on the subway station. Names like Spadina and Eglinton were the absolute bane of my existence. Spa-die-na? Spa-dee-na? Egg-ling-ton? Eeg-ling-ton? Even now, I don’t know how to pronounce most stops. My friends will tease me if I pronounce something wrong, which is still pretty often.
And yet, at the end of the day, I continue to largely keep these dialects separate. I use my “Thunder Bay voice” all around Toronto and back home, even if it confuses my peers. Why? I do it because I’m proud of where I am from, and because I like having my own little special language. Mostly, however, it lets me keep a piece of home with me, even in a strange and foreign place.