Canadian, eh?

My nationality is never a conscious part of my identity until I’m away from Canada, or dealing with an international audience over the Internet. For example, I get a kick out of discussions poking fun at Canadian accents. For the record, we don’t have an accent. Everyone else in the world does.

Actually, there are a variety of regional accents in Canada, but I’m always pegged as American by Americans. That is, until I say “zed” instead of “zee” or “tuque” instead of … well, I don’t know, what else do you call the knitted winter hat?

But I do have an “accent” in writing. One great thing about being Canadian is that we can pretty much spell however we please, picking either the American or British standard depending on our mood. I grew up spelling colour and centre and defence and cheque, but tyre and programme are just wrong. I should be used to switching allegiances since I’ve had to use Canadian Press style with some jobs, American Press style in others. Problem is, the more I switch between the two, the more I get confused. The -our and -tre endings are easy, but organize or organise? Gray or grey? I don’t know anymore what’s natural for me, which means that nothing’s natural anymore. I’m grateful for Canadian broadmindedness, which extends beyond gay marriage and decriminalizing marijuana possession to encompass something close to my heart – institutionalized lax spelling.

“Exile gives perspective, making every emigrant an anthropologist and relativist. To have a deep experience of two cultures is to know that no culture is absolute, to discover that the seemingly natural aspects of our identities and social reality can be arranged, shaped, or articulated in another way.”
Eva Hoffman, Lost in Translation: A Life in a New Language

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