That Classic Canadian "Eh" is Dying Out, In Favor of "Right," "Stuff," "And Everything"
Ever heard the one about how they named Canada? Well, first they pulled out a C, eh? Then an N, eh? And finally a D, eh? Well, sadly for all of us, that joke could be under threat. A linguist says the Canadian "Eh" is dying out among the country's urban youth, and as we all know, as go the urban youth so goes the culture. To put it more bluntly, the Canada you know and love is dead. I'm sorry.
The Canada you get instead is a Canada full of cool teens who, instead of deploying the familiar and much-lampooned "eh," tend to end their sentences with words like "right," "and stuff," or "and everything," according to Sali Tagliamonte, a University of Toronto linguist who spoke to The Province in December. Her dire warnings have only become more urgent, though, in light of Tuesday's celebration of Canada Day. How do we celebrate Canada Day without "eh," eh? HOW?
Here's Tagliamonte describing the problem:
Eh is this quintessential thing that we think of as being so Canadian. In Toronto, and I would expect other cities like Ottawa and Vancouver; there’s a massive decline in the use of ‘eh.’ My kids don’t use it. They just don’t. They use something else. Eh was the one that kind of identified Canadians for the longest time. But when I talk to my kids (they say), "I don’t want to sound like an old man!"
"Eh" actually has a purpose in speech; it's used to help make sure the person you're talking to is listening, and might be responded to with a nod or other affirmative sign. Its versatility is one of the many things that make "eh" so charming. A 2006 survey by Canadian researcher Elaine Gold asked respondents to talk about how they used it. Here are the options they had:
So "eh" is versatile. It is more versatile than "right" — you can't use "right" as a pardon, for example. And who do Canadian kids think they are, Brits? Just because you share a queen doesn't mean you need to share your interjection. Meanwhile, "and stuff" and "and everything" are way too American to be gaining so much purchase among Canadian youth.
So let this be a call to verbal arms. If the youth is reliably good at anything, it's rebelling. Canadian teens, this is your chance for glory. Do it for yourselves. Do it for Canada, eh?