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multiply by your mother’s maiden name

January 18, 2011

Immigrating/emigrating is a lot easier when your new home features the

same language.  There are some differences, of course.  Canadians use a long

“o” for words like “product” and “process”.  I’m accustomed to saying “pra-“.

They also use a flat “a”, as in “flat”, so I had to relearn how to pronounce

“drama” and “pasta”.  I can tell if I’m watching an American or Canuckian

TV network by the way a Mazda ad enunciates its product.  Sorry.  I meant

to say “product”.


I’m also learning the nuances of my new language.  If you ask to use the

bathroom or toilet in a public place, the employees will know you’re from

the U.S. if you say “bathroom”.  (Not that they’d be so forward as to mention

it.)  Say “washroom” and kindly flatten your “a”.  I lived many years in

Louisiana and I still sometimes pronounce it “worshroom”.


If something is sturdy or well-built here, it’s skookum.  If things are fine

or matters resolved, Bob’s your uncle.  And our neighbours do not say

“eh” nearly as much as the McKenzie brothers would have you believe.


The metric system wasn’t that difficult to learn.  Most of it is straight

conversion.  Multiply kilometers by .6 to get miles.  Multiply liters by

four, then subtract 10 percent to get gallons.  This is helpful when

you want to tell your friends in the states the price of gas, which

averages about $4 a gallon.


It doesn’t matter too much, however.  Folks here know the U.S. system

well.  No one, in fact, ever says “my truck gets crappy kilometerage”.


The one exception to easy conversion is that from Fahrenheit to Celsius/

Centigrade.  There’s no simple factor or formula.  No logic, even.   32 degrees

Fahrenheit is zero Celsius, but -40 F. is -40 C.  It’s like “multiply by your

mother’s maiden name, carry the ampersand…”


So I’m learning it by rote.  I know that 10 C. is 50 F., 16 C. is 61 F. and 37 C. is

98.6 F.  I can extrapolate from those points.


My most difficult adjustment has been the change in latitude.  I’ve spent

most of my life between the 32nd and 38th latitudes.  So here above the 49th

Parallel, sunrises and sunsets vary much more.  On the December solstice,

there’s 90 minutes less daylight than I’m used to.  The beautiful flipside

of that, however, is the 90 more minutes of light on the June solstice.  I

love staying outside until dark near 11 pm in the summer.  And I’m quite

willing to go inside at 4 pm in the winter.


Oh, and it’s impossible to make decent sun tea here.


P.S.  I’m having a technical problem answering some of the comments

you folks have been so thoughtfully providing.  I truly appreciate the

support.  Even my mentor hasn’t been able to figure it out.  Please bear

with me as I make my rookie mistakes.


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6 Comments
  1. January 18, 2011 11:03 am

    I love it! Years and years ago, I noticed that 16=61, and that has been my reference point ever since!

    • January 19, 2011 2:39 pm

      Braingerbil, 16=61 was the first conversion I learned. I was in Seattle watching the weather report on a Vancouver TV station. The WeatherLady said “it’s going to be a balmy 16 tomorrow”. I said “no way is 16 balmy”, and my Seattle host explained the difference.

  2. January 18, 2011 1:57 pm

    Welcome to Canada! I got here via Kathy, who by the way is one funny chick.

    Nice to meet you. Don’t worry you will get the lingo down soon enough. Also thanks for clearing up that our affinity for saying “eh” is greatly exaggerated.

    I’ll be sure to check in on your adventures.

    • January 19, 2011 1:56 pm

      Thank you, Joan. It’s very nice to be up here. Do please check in often.

  3. January 18, 2011 6:40 pm

    I’ve lived in Canada all my life and never heard anyone say “product” with a long O. Must be a west coast thing (I’m in Sask). We don’t use a long O for “process” either — here, that is. And out here we only say “washroom” for bathrooms in public places; at home, it’s a bathroom. “Skookum” we definitely don’t say in Saskatchewan — that’s a new one, to me — but we still shake our heads about what the whole point of bringing in the metric system was, again? We still think in miles and pounds and Fahrenheit, at least those of us over 50 do. And you’ll have to explain what sun tea is.
    I liked this entry; language is fascinating.

    • January 19, 2011 1:53 pm

      These could well be just B.C. things. We have yet to venture east of the Rockies, which according to one of Harper’s higher ups, is where Canada ends. Sun tea is made by putting tea bags in a gallon jar of water and placing it in the summer sun. In Northern California it takes about 15 minutes. In Kansas, ten. In Lousiana, it’s pretty much instant tea. Thank you for your comment on the metric system. I had planned to show both types of measurement, but now I don’t think it’s that important.

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