Language Matters April/May 2006: Canadian Etymology

Dear Language Friend,

Welcome to another issue on the HOW, WHAT, WHERE, and WHEN of languages. Find out HOW much you know about Canadian etymology, WHAT other names were considered for “Canada and WHERE the nickname “Canuck” comes from. Also, discover what happens WHEN animals speak different languages.

Please note that I will be out of the office from May 15 to May 29 for a translation conference in Europe. During this time our services are still available, but with a slower turnaround time of about a week. Excuses for any inconvenience!

Lenka de Graafova, Managing Director. Thanks for reading.

How Much Do you Know About Canadian Etymology ?

Take our quiz and find out! See if you can answer these four questions about etymology…. Then find the answers below. But remember, no cheating!

1. What is etymology? a) the study of insects with six eyes b) the study of the origin of words c) the study of bilingual countries d) the study of small barnyard animals

2. Where did the City of Vancouver get its name? a) Ms. Ophelia Vancouver, first woman to sail the west coast b) Captain George Vancouver, the 18th century Explorer c) a Dutch word meaning “very beautiful place

3. What is the origin of the Vancouver family name? a) it evolved from the village name “Coevorden” (meaning “cowford” or the place where cows cross a river) b) from the city Vancouver, Belgium c) it was made up by Mr. Scott John Vancouver, who was on the run from the law

4.Why is Canada called Canada? a) the name comes from the Mohawk word kanata, meaning “green and fertile” b) the name comes from the Huron word kanata, meaning “beaver” c) the name comes from the Iroquois word kanata, meaning “village

Answers: 1.b) 2.b) 3.a) 4.c) Source: Wikipedia

More Fun Name Facts

Here are some other names that were, briefly, considered instead of “Canada“:

  • Albionoria – “Albion (England) of the north”
  • Efisga – an acronym of “English, French, Irish, Scottish, German, Aboriginal”
  • Mesopelagia – “land between the seas”
  • Tuponia – derived from ‘The United Provinces of North America’
  • Ursalia – “place of bears”

Imagine that Ursalia had been chosen – we wouldn’t have the RCMP but the RUMP!!!!

ALSO – rumors exist that Spanish explorers reached our shores first, but, not finding them to their liking, sailed off again, writing “acá nada” (“nothing here“) across the northern part of their maps, giving us the basis for the name “Canada“.

We’re CANUCKS! Thank you very much! Why? Um… Well… Uh…

Good Question!

Some say that the nickname comes from a cross between “Canada” and “Chinook” and was first used to describe the native peoples who lived in the Columbia River region in the 1800s.

The Iroquois had a word “kanuschsa” meaning “one who lives in a kanata, or village“. It is possible that this had been adapted to “Canucks” being “those who live in Canada“.

Either way, the nickname was put to good use in 1941 when cartoonist Leo Bachle created the character “Johnny Canuck“, a Captain in the Allied air Forces, who used his super powers to fight Nazi oppression and the evil Hitler in his various comic book escapades.

Fun with foreign animals

Have you ever noticed that no matter where you go in the world, the sound a pig makes is always the same?

You wouldn’t get that impression from the range of ways that we represent that sound in different languages. Judging solely on popular kids songs in different languages like “Old MacDonald had a farm” and its foreign equivalents you would think that animals too speak different languages depending on their nationality.

Animal sounds are written differently in different languages as well. A cow, for example, goes “moo” in English, “muuu” in Spanish, and “meuh” in French. Go figure!

If you have a group of friends of different nationalities and languages, a fun exercise is to get them all together (preferably at the pub on a Saturday night) and to compare animals noises in each language. It will not only entertain you and your friends, but also everyone within earshot in the pub!