How to Spot a Canadian

Tracking down Canadians one toque at a time.

About this Site...

Canadians are a tricky people to distinguish. They are often able to blend into a society and appear to be American, British, French or any other number of nationalities. This site will provide you with some tips and tricks to help you recognize a Canadian no matter where you are.


This site is for entertainment purposes only. "How to Spot a Canadian" is filled with humour, satire, hyperbole, parody and sarcasm. All statements here should be taken with a grain of salt or a bottle of maple syrup, whatever the case may be.

A Prejudiced Sports Commentator is a National Icon

If you know anything at all about Canada, you know who Don Cherry is. For those who don't, Don Cherry is a former NHL hockey coach who now provides commentary during the first intermission of CBC's Hockey Night In Canada program. The fact that a former coach is now working on television isn't strange or unique to Canada at all. Many coaches and players take up broadcasting positions at the conclusion of their sports careers.

What is unique is that Don Cherry is incredibly controversial. He has called Russian hockey players cheaters and quitters. He's insulted French-Canadians and Europeans do for wearing visors. And he does all of this on the country's national public television broadcaster: the CBC.

Don Cherry definitely isn't politically correct. He was on a seven-second delay for a while due to his comments. He has been investigated by the Commissioner of Official Languages. He has been criticized frequently by pretty much everyone.

You would think this sort of attitude would be frowned upon in Canada.

You would be wrong.

Most Canadians love Don Cherry. He came in seventh in a recent "Greatest Canadian in History" poll. He beat out Sir John A. Macdonald (Canada's first prime minister), Alexander Graham Bell (one of the inventors of the telephone) and fellow hockey icon Wayne Gretzky.

It's strange.

Canadians are generally very polite. They are very accepting. They don't like to create controversy. And yet Don Cherry, a man who breathes controversy, is a hero. A man who goes against the very Canadian idea of celebrating the differences of the country is, for some reason, loved.

In 2004 rumours that he was not going to return to the CBC drew huge complaints from the Canadian public. For some reason this man is incredibly popular. But why?

We've already mentioned how Canadians take on completely different personalities while watching hockey. Even the most gentle Canadians cheer at the sight of a fight. Polite Canadians forget their manners when they're screaming at referees. Their culture of acceptance and tolerance disappears while watching hockey.

That probably explains why they like Don Cherry.

Average Canadians do not insult other cultures. They do not typically request more violence and less art. They don't take shots at people based on their names or their appearances. But while they're watching hockey they do. And so does Don Cherry.

And most Canadians love it.
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They Say "Eh"

This is the big one.

Outside of hockey, and possibly beer, the main way to determine a person's "Canadianess" is their usage of the word "eh." And it's not even really a word, is it? It's only two letters in length and it's really more of a sound than a word.

But, despite this, it is central to the Canadian identity.

But what does it even mean?

In general, "eh" usually means "do you agree?" For example, a Canadian would say "It's pretty nice today, eh?" But, like all iconic slang, the Canadian "eh" has many meanings.

For example, a Canadian might say "That's really far, eh?" In that case the Canadian isn't asking if a person agrees, they are using the word to emphasize what they just said. The common Canadian response to "That's really far, eh?" is usually "I know, eh?" Again, it's used more for emphasis in this case.

Confused? Well, hold on, because it gets even more complex.

Canadians have managed to include the word "eh" into pretty much every sentence. It's quite common for a converstation like the one above to degenerate into a series of "ehs" that become increasingly meaningless but still important.

"That's really far, eh?"
"I know, eh?"
"You should leave now, eh?"
"I guess I should, eh?"
"I've been there before, eh?"
"Yeah. It's really nice there, eh?"
"Maybe I should take a camera, eh?"
"You should, eh."
"It's a nice day, eh?"
"We've had a nice week, eh?"
"I said 'we've had a nice week, eh?'"
"Oh yeah."

A non-Canadian looking at the exchange above would consider the usage of "eh" ridiculous and unnecessary. A Canadian would wonder why there weren't a couple more "ehs" in there.

Now, this is important. As prevalent as the word "eh" is, it cannot be used in every sentence. It does have a correct and an incorrect usage.

Non-Canadians don't understand this. They don't get where "eh" is appropriate. In an attempt to fool the Canadian spotters they will throw in too many "ehs" into awkward points of the conversation. A faux-nuck would say something like "I gotta go out there, eh? It's really cold, eh? And I need to eh outside eh Thursday, eh?" That person is clearly not Canadian. No Canadian EVER needs to "eh outside eh Thursday." True Canadians ALWAYS eh outside eh Monday. It's a known fact amongst Canadians.

So, if you're trying to spot a Canadian you'll need to be careful. You will need to learn correct "eh" placement and hope that you have learned it better than your subject. Of course, since "eh" isn't really a word, it's difficult to learn about its usage. One will typically need to immerse his or herself into Canadian society for several years in order to learn proper "eh" usage. Only through putting in a great deal of time and effort will a non-Canadian learn the correct "eh" usage that all true Canadians have known since birth.

Fact: 98% of Canadians admit that "eh" was their first word. The other 2% state that "eh" was their second word, after "Mama."

"Mama, eh?" is a popular sentence among Canadian babies.

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Tim Horton's Victory Tracker Wrap Up

Well, it looks like Roll Up The Rim is done for another year.

As you may have noticed from the giant graphic on the right side of the page, we have been keeping track of our victories on this site. Is that sad? Probably. Was it fun? Definitely.

Our final score: 9 for 65. That's right, a whopping 13.8 percent!
That's actually better than the posted odds (one-in-nine.)

We have officially beaten the odds! Take that Tim Hortons! We claimed an extra coffee-and-a-half that we shouldn't have won! WE WIN!

Now comes the point where we're confused as to how we should feel.
In once sense, we beat the odds, which is a great feeling.
In another sense, we bought way more coffee during Roll Up The Rim than we usually do. The fact that we fell for a corporate marketing plan so badly is pretty sad.

We're settling with feeling happy. Of course, the fact that we're pretty happy about winning free coffee is, in itself, a little sad.

However, like we've said before: winning free Tim Hortons' coffee is a great accomplishment for a Canadian. It's right up there with the Stanley Cup and free beer.
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They Want To Be Their Own Country

Canadians are a very proud people. They show their pride quietly, but they are still very proud. And while they are very proud of being Canadian, they are also quite proud of themselves and their own accomplishments.

That's probably why so many of them want to form their own countries.

The most famous of these movements to leave Canada and form an independent nation is Quebec. It seems like Quebec has wanted to leave Canada since the minute Canada was formed. In fact, when Canada created a new constitution in 1982, Quebec refused to sign it. They still have not signed.

There are numerous, significant reasons for Quebec wanting to separate from the rest of Canada. Most of these reasons are far too complex to be discussed on a humour website. It just wouldn't seem right for a complex discussion on Quebec sovereignty to take place here, beside conversations on Canadian Tire money, chocolate, Tim Hortons and Nickelback.

Of course, Quebec is not the only part of Canada that wants to separate from the rest of the nation. Alberta, the West, Newfoundland and the East have wanted out at times as well.

It seems that there is something distinctly Canadian about wanting to leave Canada.

That is the great irony of Canada: People are proud of the nation, but they think they could do better on their own.

Of course, this love for separation doesn't stop with provinces wanting to leave Canada. No, some cities have actually wanted to leave provinces. Most famously there has been a movement to form a Province of Toronto. This movement even has its own website, which certainly makes it legitimate. Once you spend the money to buy a domain name, you're serious.

Maybe Toronto realised that the rest of the country hates it and decided to leave. Could a movement to form a new Nation of Toronto be far behind?

The bottom line is that Canadians are so proud of themselves that they want to run their own lives. They don't want to be told what to do by anyone. They want their own countries.

A good way to identify a Canadian is to place the suspected Canadian in a group of people. If that person is Canadian, he or she will quickly begin to negotiate their way out of the group. Of course, they won't use violence. That's not Canadian.

While many people want to separate from Canada, they want to do it the Canadian way: through negotiation and compromise, rather than armed combat. Perhaps this similar way of doing things is what keeps Canada united after all.

Once your suspected Canadian has successfully managed to leave the group, they will likely head off to buy beer. Then you can be certain the person is a Canadian.

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Do you have your own unique way of spotting Canadians? If you'd like to share it with us, please contact us by email. We're always looking for new tips!