Canadian Raising: Nobody says “Aboot”

The Canadian FlagA point of clarification: Canadians do not say aboot.

Canadian English features something called Canadian Raising, which basically means that the diphthong in “now” is raised before t, s or other voiceless consonants (i.e. before words like about and house).

What does this mean?  In most Canadian accents, about sounds a bit like American a-boat (IPA əbʌʊt).  I offer these examples of Canadian politicians with this pronunciation (shortly into each clip):

In younger Canadians, I’ve noticed a variation of this which is a bit fronter in the mouth–something like a-beh-oot (IPA əbɛʊt).  But regardless of the pronunciation, nobody in Canada ever says “aboot.”*

So then, what’s the deal with aboot? Where does this mythological pronunciation come from?

One thing I’ve heard is that aboot is a pronunciation in a particular region of Canada: the Atlantic Provinces (Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, etc).  But I have never found a clip of anybody from that area who says aboot.

So this is probably one of those bits of dialect folklore that survives despite evidence to the contrary.  It’s a bit like New Jersey’s reputation for being pronounced “New Joysey” even though virtually nobody in Jersey says it like that anymore (and even when they did, this pronunciation would have been confined to a small area near New York).

Aboot is a pronunciation in some parts of the UK, of course.  Specifically, you can hear it in some very vernacular, Scots-influenced dialects of Scottish English.  This used to be a common pronunciation in Newcastle as well, but has faded greatly in contemporary times.

But this is for sure:  Canadians do not, probably never did, and probably never will say aboot!

*[Maybe “ever” is too strong a word.]

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About Ben Trawick-Smith

Ben Trawick-Smith launched his dialect fascination while working in theatre. He has worked as an actor, playwright, director, critic and dialect coach. Other passions include linguistics, urban development, philosophy and film.
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97 Responses to Canadian Raising: Nobody says “Aboot”

  1. 'enry 'iggins says:

    I’m glad you mentioned Scotland and northeastern England. I have heard “aboot” from people in those places. I don’t know if it has faded as much as you say it has in Newcastle. It’s still a pretty common pronunciation there among working-class males. Nice post and great examples.

  2. I’ve heard that the “aboot” pronunciation was an Ottawa Valley thing, but haven’t had it substantiated.

    • 'enry 'iggins says:

      Well this guy is from Ottawa and he doesn’t say “aboot”. He uses the a-boat [əbʌʊt] pronunciation that trawicks mentioned, which still sounds pretty distinctive to my American ears.

      • Chris Parker says:

        There is a big difference between the City of Ottawa (Canada’s capitol) and The Ottawa Valley, region along the Ottawa River somewhat west of the City of Ottawa. Towns in the Ottawa Valley include Petawawa, Pembroke, Deep River, etc. I lived in the valley for two summers, and there definitely is an accent that it unique to it, and if I ever heard one of my fellow Canucks say anything close to “aboot”, it was there. “Fishing” also gets skewed into something closer to “feshing”. The only thing that it sounded similar to was the Newfoundlander accent, although the two are audibly distinct.

        • Constance Bay says:

          I grew up in the Valley, you have to go out to Armprior to get the sort of accent you’re talking about (a-bow-T in my accent) in regards to similar sounds of a Newfoundlander.

          But yeah, there’s a Valley accent. Supposedly it comes from the mix of French, Irish, and Scottish settlers who were the original English speakers in the area. Very few old families left from what I understand, but you can certainly pick out the kids who have been there fore generations versus those who haven’t lived there more than five years (namely because you don’t know their middle name or if they have a dog, but the accent thing can be used too).

        • trawicks says:

          Hmm, I recall there being a Kids in the Halls sketch where Mark McKinney spoke with a brogue-like accent. Not sure if he was supposed to be a Newfie or from the Valley, though.

        • Chris Parker says:

          Yeah, I lived in Deep River for two summers as an undergrad working at AECL. You could hear that accent everywhere you went, but you are right, you could tell who’s families had been there a while, and who had just moved in to work at Chalk River (next door).

    • Rob Coulter says:

      Listen to Kate Beirness on TSN say things like “out,” “house,” and “about.” Her “ou” comes out a little like “oo.”

  3. danielle says:

    ha! that’s funny that you described it as ‘a-boat’.

    I’ve always thought they said something like ‘aboot’, and I *think* this is from hearing Canadians rather than seeing written representations or hearing people doing bad impressions. However, when I tried out ‘a-boat’ in my mouth, this sounded a lot more realistic / closer to what they actually say!

    Is it possible that this rumour is due to an error in hearing/producing precisely? I can obviously hear the ou/oo distinction, but if I didn’t need to be precise about it (no change in meaning), I guess I might lump the two together. I’m not too good at imitating accents, so I guess if I was trying to do ‘Canadian’ I might go for the more exaggerated ‘boot’ rather than the more complex diphthong, ‘boat’.

    or… is this what you were suggesting, in fact?

    (I’m native Southern-British, fyi. I also say ‘aboot’ when trying to imitate my Scottish relatives. I wouldn’t be the person to ask about the success of these imitations either, though.)

    • trawicks says:

      I could actually see how somebody from Southern England might hear “a-boot.” Around London or thereabouts the “oo” sound is more of a diphthong. We Americans, though, don’t have as much of an excuse for mishearing!

      @Helen,

      I don’t know much about the Ottawa Valley accent, but I wouldn’t be surprised if there were some kind of “aboot”-like pronunciation. It’s supposed to be rather brogue-like, although I’ve never heard an actual sample of this accent. I get the sense it’s one of those North American dialects that has quickly receded in modern times. Although you still have the wonderfully quirky Newfie accent.

      • kimikg says:

        As someone hailing from Ottawa (the city), I’ve never heard anyone use the ‘ab-oot’ pronounciation. We say “a-boat” or a-‘bowt’. It’s funny though, many of my American friends hear “aboot” when I say “about” but I think that that is only what they want to hear. When I actually listen to myself speaking and imaging myself saying “a boot” versus “about”, the word sounds more like “a-boat” than “a boot”.

        I’m living in Europe at the moment and this topic is making me homesick. ;)

    • Sean Culligan says:

      You are in fact correct in that it is the hearer who makes the dstinction. “To American ears, the Canadian pronunciation of about often sounds like aboot, but this is only an illusion. Because the more familiar pronunciation of /aw/ is articulated with the tongue in a low position, and because it raises to a mid position in Canadian English when the vowel precedes the voiceless obstruents listed above, speakers of other varieties of English will immediately detect the vowel raising, but will sometimes think that the vowel has raised farther than it actually does, all the way to /u/, which is a high vowel–hence the mishearing (and not-quite-right imitation) of this pronunciation as aboot.

      • Glen says:

        As a Canadian, I would say that describes it perfectly. But it’s worth pointing out that the vowel raising doesn’t only affect the “ou” vowel. It applies to all the vowels. Thus we have vowel pairs like loud/lout, ride/right, made/mate, cued/cute. Notably, the American rhyme “I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream” doesn’t quite work in Canadian English, because “I scream” doesn’t sound like “ice cream”.

        • Peter says:

          Is the made/mate, cued/cute difference a difference of vowel quality though? Because all native speakers of English have a difference of length in those pairs, with the vowel in cute being shorter than the vowel in cued, etc.

        • Glen says:

          I don’t have a technical answer for that, just that to my ear what Canadians do with “about” sounds like part of a larger pattern: loud/lout, dies/dice, etc.

  4. Ryan says:

    My grandma is from Scotland and says “aboot.”

    Wait, what the hell am I doing on a “dialect blog”? Is that even a thing?
    Damn twitter

    Boomshakalaka,

    Ryan,
    Toronto,
    Penis

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  6. Stplll says:

    The issue is compounded by the fact that most Americans don’t have the Canadian short “ow” sound in their vocab – most tend to put a “a” sound into “ow”. Given this, they have a hard time imitating Canadians – “oo” is as close as most can get.

  7. Dai Dempsey says:

    a-beh-oot (IPA əbɛʊt) sounds pretty similar to to the way people in Newport, South Wales pronounce ‘about’. The accent is similar to Cardiffian with a stronger West Country influence (plus around there was large scale Irish immigration during the late 19th/early 20th century).

  8. Kate says:

    How do Americans say “about” then? “Abawt”? Does anyone have a clip of it?

    • trawicks says:

      It depends on where in America you’re talking about. “Abawt” is a fairly good approximation of General American. That being said, the pronunciation of “about” can sound like “abaht” (Pittsburgh), “aboat” (the Northern Midwest), “abeh-uht” (Philadelphia), and any number of other permutations. It is perhaps the least stable diphthong in English.

    • Bob says:

      Here in Michigan we say it pretty much how it’s spelled – “a-bout”. We definitely do not say “abawt” or “abaht”.

      • Laurie says:

        Obviously you think you say it exactly how it’s spelled. I say it exactly how it’s spelled too – but you and I say it very differently. The SOUNDS of the vowels are different in different accents. The sound that you associate with those letters (ou) may very well be the sound other people associate with aw.

    • Eric says:

      An a way that rhymes with “how” or “now” or the “bow” of a ship. In other words, a soft “a.” That is especially true here in Texas.

  9. Stealth- says:

    Wait, what?

    Lol, I’m Canadian and the rumor here has always been that the *Americans* are the ones who say “aboot”, not us! I think there has definitely been some confusion along the lines here o.0

    • But aren’t you Americans too, though? That’s the thing that always bothers me aboat [sic] Canadians. They say things about the “Americans”, but aren’t Canadians Americans too? Granted, Canadians are NORTH Americans, but doesn’t that make them Americans by definition?

      • marie says:

        well, what would YOU call people from the United States? They got stuck with some lousy options. United Statesians? USer? That sounds stupid, so we’re stuck with what we got. Besides, we can say “North American” instead! Or “from the Americas” if for some reason you need to reference the whole shebang.

        You will notice however, that most Canadians will refrain from calling the country “America” and will use “United States” the US” or “the States” instead. We have our limits.

      • Eve says:

        Canadians are NOT Americans! Both Canadians and Americans reserve that word for people in the US. There are strong cultural differences between the countries. People from Canada are Canadians, and people from the US are Americans. If you want to generalize about both countries, or about people from both countries, use the terms North America/North Americans. But because of our differences, this umbrella term is rarely useful or accurate.

  10. Josh says:

    Don’t be so quick to pull the trigger there, my family from Northern Manitoba DO say aboot, nearly as stereotypically as what’s portrayed in American media!

  11. Brock says:

    I was tree planting in British Columbia with a Newfoundlander. He most definitely said “aboot”. And then I laughed at him.

  12. Michael says:

    I’ve been saying this for years. Whenever I’m in the US and someone brings up the word “aboot” I tell them that Americans made it up to make Canadians look stupid. I’ve never heard anyone say “aboot” in my life. Most of which has been spent in Atlantic Canada.

  13. Kendra says:

    I wouldn’t even say we pronounce “about” like “a-boat”. When I purposefully pronounce it as “a boat”, it sounds like I’m speaking with an accent. The ‘ou’ in “about” is a diphthong, so it is pronounced “ow” (as in “Owwww!”) by nearly everyone I know and not as ‘oa’ in “oat” or ‘oo’ in “boot”. Sort of like “a-bow-t” (bow of a ship, not a bow tie).

    • 'enry 'iggins says:

      Yes, but you have to remember that the vowel you use in words “oat” and “boat” may not be the same as the vowel many Americans use in those words.

  14. James H. says:

    I’ve had Americans say to my face that I just said “aboot” when I certainly did not, so that’s pretty good evidence that it’s categorical perception. I did a post on it myself a while back: http://sesquiotic.wordpress.com/2010/07/01/oot-aboot/

  15. romo says:

    It was South Park’s depiction of Canadians that really popularized this ‘aboot’ thing. Their Canadians also say ‘buddeh’ every two seconds and have two half circles for heads, but somehow only the ‘aboot’ thing seems to have stuck.

    • trawicks says:

      I actually think it was before South Park, though. I remember people talking about Canadians’ “aboot” even when I was a kid. Although South Park probably didn’t help.

      • Randy E says:

        South Park debuted in 1997. The movie Canadian Bacon is from 1995, 2 years earlier than South Park. There’s a scene in the movie where a Canadian mountie, portrayed by Steven Wright, says, “I don’t know what you’re talking aboot, eh?” And the “Oot and aboot” stereotype was pretty old by then already. So South Park can only be credited for making it more popular.

        Incidentally, most of the time when I or a fellow Canadian say “out and about” or “oot and aboot” it’s when we’re trying to impersonate an American impersonating us.

        In general, I have to laugh when my fellow Canadians say “I don’t say aboot!” after an American says something about it, jokingly or otherwise. Of course we don’t. The point is that when we do say “about”, it doesn’t sound like we’re saying “about” to (at least some) American ears.

        In general, the accent that gets used on TV is not typical of a Canadian, but I think that’s because they’re hamming it up for comedic effect. But that doesn’t change the fact that we do pronounce it differently.

        Conversely, I can often pick out an American by the way they say “about” and other words with an “ou” sound before a voiceless consonant. I wouldn’t say the overall sound is different (to my ears), but it’s a noticeably longer sound than when a Canadian says it.

        The Scottish band Franz Ferdinand has a song called Take Me Oot. When they sing it, though, it definitely sounds like Take Me Out.

        • accent dude24 says:

          “The Scottish band Franz Ferdinand has a song called Take Me Oot. When they sing it, though, it definitely sounds like Take Me Out.”

          Maybe so, but I don’t know anyone who sings with the same accent they speak with. Most people change their accent when they sing without even thinking about it. Most people don’t realise they do this though.

        • Randy E says:

          Yep. There are some exceptions (Billy Bragg, I think, is one), but for the most part, it’s hard to tell where a group is from by the singing, or even whether or not their native language is English. For example, Phoenix, who are from France. I would never have known if I hadn’t read or heard it.

        • trawicks says:

          Damien Depsey sings in a strong Dublin accent. The UK Punk movement in the 70’s also had a lot of singing in strong British regional accents, probably as something of a political statement.

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  18. simon b says:

    I was intrigued to read that young Canadians are saying əbɛʊt as opposed to the traditional Canadian raising əbʌʊt. Im from Vancouver and I’m certain that young people from here say əbʌʊt and definitely not əbɛʊt but I do notice əbɛʊt a lot when I talk to people from Ontario, I also noticed that people from the Prairies pronounce about more like “a boat.” As for “aboot” the only time I think I’ve heard it is watching Ricky from the Trailer park boys, I don’t know if it’s a Nova Scotia thing but if you fast forward to 1:21 it sounds like he says it: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jtOr65jRm0w&NR=1

  19. Christopher Perez says:

    Anecdotally, when I lived on the New Brunswick border (Campebello Island) I heard the pronunciation frequently; maybe 1 out of 8 times.

  20. yup says:

    Dude, Canadians totally say aboot.

  21. Cory says:

    I live in Halifax on the East Coast of Canada and have definitely heard people, particularly from the South Shore, pronounce ‘about’ almost like the stereotypical “aboot” from South Park.

    • Maria says:

      I’m from Montreal and I have definitely never heard anyone here say aboot or aboat. We pronounce it as “abowt”… Maybe “aboot” is more of a Halifax accent than a Canadian one, though personally I think regions that have heavy Scottish influence are much more likely to pronounce it that way. Just a theory.

  22. Dax from Los Angeles says:

    The truth about it is that it’s hilarious to see a Canadian get so riled up and explain that they actually pronounce it this or that way, as if we are really stupid enough to think that we are being accurate by reproducing it as “aboot”. If Canadians would adopt the Americanism “whatever, man”, and tell us to screw ourselves, we might stop laughing at them. The more annoyed they get, though, the funnier the stereotype seems to get. Furthermore, South Park’s rendering of “aboot” for their Canadian characters is only funnier because we know how inaccurate and stereotypical it is!

    Diversity of dialects is not unique to the States, and any educated American knows this. So of course there are a variety of pronunciations for the same word. We are quite aware that it is not actually “aboot” but rather “abot” or some crap like that. The thing that makes it so funny to me is that Canadians pronounce most everything else very similarly to our own pronunciation, yet this one sound is so alien and bizarre to us that we can spot a Canadian in 3 seconds of dialog and vice versa.

    That being said, when I hear a Canadian say “about”, I gotta admit that I would only reproduce it as a flat “aboot”, not the foreign sounding diphthong that everyone is trying to reproduce here in text, even though I know it has a more complex sound. It’s just a good ol’ fashioned stereotype, though fortunately I find this one rather harmless and a good way to jive each other without getting too serious.

    • Maria says:

      Dude, get over yourself. Did it ever occur to you that we like talking about it because it interests us to hear what other people’s accents are across Canada? Not everything is about you, oh great American one. Sometimes, we just want to have a conversation aboot it for our own benefit and entertainment….

  23. think says:

    I was watching a documentary where they had “polar bear” patrols in a Canadian town which has lots of polar bears that wander into town. What I can remember about the show is that they followed a polar bear patrol officer as he drove his 4×4 around looking for any sign of polar bears. It was a dramaticized scene during halloween when kids were going trick or treating so there was a high chance of polar bear attack happening but the residents still did it. Also in the show, there was a clip showing how they have a meat raffle and if you’re lucky, you win some meat for the weak. The show was about how fewer and fewer bears came into town because they were being affected by ice melting etc. Those who did wander into town were carefully tranquilized and helicopter lifted out of town when they were caught in a big bear barrel trap. Anyway, the point is that the polar bear patrol officer was canadian and he said that there were “polar bears abooot” to one of the kids or the cameraman during his night rounds in his 4×4 car.

    • think says:

      Could’ve been on BBC Human Planet episode that I saw that Canadian example btw. I think the Canadian words sometimes sound the way I’d say them in my Scottish accent. Hoot the noooo

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  25. Zach says:

    I hate American TV shows’ interpretation of Canada. For example, in the 2nd episode of Showtimes’ “Shameless” (a great show btw) , the main character (William H. Macy) wakes up in Toronto. He’s spotted by a fully decked RCMP officer on horseback (something I’ve never seen in Toronto in 20 years), and gets put into a drunk tank. He has no passport, and claims of being American fall on deaf ears. The actor they chose for the invigilator of the drunk tank is also wearing RCMP clothing (even though RCMP is a federal protective force, and he would be in a municipal police station), and speaks in a very strong central Canadian accent (seemingly putting it on too).
    Fact is, that cop would be made fun of by me for his over-the-top accent, leading me to believe the actor is probably American. He says ‘aboot’ very clearly in a wrong way. In order to drown out Macy’s pleas of being returned to the US, he begins to sing the Canadian national anthem. Who in their right mind would just begin belting our national anthem!!?!?! In a prison?
    The cops in Toronto are nearly indistinguishable from police in say, New York or Detroit. They are large, intimidating figures with guns, who don’t take sh*t. This is Toronto, not Prince Edward Island; we have gun crimes, murder, rape, all the newsworthy crimes. And we don’t say ‘aboot’, it definitely sounds more like ‘a-boat’.

    • Mike S says:

      I couldn’t agree more Zach – what I find astounding is that there is no shortage of american television shows using what they have somehow come conclude is a ‘Canadian’ Accent. Where did they ever get this idea? I don’t know a single soul who talks that way, so how did they come up with this? Or are they just plain making shit up? Probably the latter.

      As for run of the mill americans, it’s a bit sad to think they swallow this hook, line and sinker, and just assume that if they saw it on TV, it must be correct – not even current TV shows at that – a few months ago there was a crowd in Seattle forming the beginnings of a riot – they spotted a canadian license plate on a car – as the driver entered his car to leave the growing disturbance, some of them shouted at him ‘yeah, get out of here you hoser!’. Apparently Bob and Doug Mackenzie have had a lingering impression on the Americans.

      Even 30 years after Bob and Doug, present day cartoons in the form of the simpsons, american dad, etcetera, still use these created ‘canadianisms’. It’s sad to think that everything americans know (or think they know) about their neighbours to the north is based on something they saw on a cartoon. Tells you something about theit intellect though.

      • Bob says:

        The “Canadian accent” you hear in Hollywood is often more of a Minnesota/Wisconsin/Upper Peninsula accent. There are real people who sound like that; they’re just not actually Canadian.

    • Maria says:

      Same thing in Quebec….our RCMP’s are just as mean and scary looking as our provincial police and I can attest to the fact that there are no red jackets or horses anywhere in sight. And we don’t say aboot or aboat here…sounds more like “abowt”. I wish people would take the time to learn our differences or at least understand the concept that there WILL be differences from province to province, just like in any other country.

  26. Mike S says:

    (dammit – I hate spotting the typo after it’s already posted – In the opening paragraphs, that should have said “what they have somehow come TO conclude”.)

  27. Aboot enough of this says:

    You Canadian cats need to chill. Americans don’t believe everything they see on television. That’s a stereotype about Americans (!), Mr. Righteous. ^

    Scottish people don’t often utter “hoot the noo”, but I’ll be a monkey’s uncle if I haven’t heard about a million people say it while impersonating a Scot. Scots don’t get all bent when you poke fun at them, though.

    To infer that all Americans are puerile, impressionable fools who believe everything they might see or hear on television, is far more injurious than Americans jokingly saying “aboot” to mimic a Canadian accent.

    Canadian television probably abounds in what Canadians would not even notice as false Americanisms. I was recently watching a Canadian public service announcement, depicting a 19th-century Mountie arresting an American for crossing the border and claiming land. The American was depicted as a drunken, illiterate brute who was threatening the Mountie with a pistol. Now, I laughed and laughed and laughed, but I’ve gotta admit, this was pretty over-the-top. I know the PSA was meant to cast pride and glory on the time-honoured institution of the RCMP, but I’ve seldom seen such stereotyping outside of 1950s westerns. And this PSA was less than 10 years old!

    Just once, I want people to realize that American film/television does not even depict Americans correctly. Can you understand that? Stop watching T.V. and pick up a book.

    BTW, Don’t y’all have spell-check in Canada?

    -Scott Fullerton, Los Angeles, California USA

    • Frank Schoenmann says:

      Spell check is for the ‘righteous’ who compose a script on a word-processing platform before they post it, Scott. Didn’t “Y’all” know that?

      Many Americans that I have met personally, both those that were visiting Canada, as well as those I’ve met while visiting the USA, have in fact displayed the very stereotype you decry. Interestingly, while taking this position, you then go on to describe mimicking a ‘Canadian accent’ with ‘aboot’ – It would therefore appear that you are one of the very same people we are discussing, who has been influenced to believe that this is an accurate pronunciation of an English language word spoken North of the border. But then, since you aren’t influenced by TV, perhaps you read it in one of the books you are advising people to read. Surely other puerile, impressionable fools would follow suit however. You fail to recognize these errors in your own argument, such as your example of ‘impersonating a Scot’, as you put it. Impersonation, which a well-read fellow such as yourself would surely know, is ‘to imitate the appearance, voice, or manner of, to mimic’. It naturally follows that it must be an accurate representation of that which you are attempting to mimic – and since these pronunciations or expressions do not exist in Canada – except of course for when it’s seen/heard on American TV, it is therefore not an impersonation. Can you understand that? And in the absence of basing what you call an impersonation on fact, what other source might they have taken it from? Ah, yes, we’re back to TV again – that which does not influence you.

      These people that I’ve met in person as I mentioned above are not TV personas, either real or animated. Some of them think they’re being funny, others genuinely believe they’re ‘speaking the local lingo’. Neither group is correct. Having said all that, it certainly begs the question with regard to the ad hominem attack on a post because of a typo. But at least that provides something for you to ‘chill’ on, Cat. ;o)

    • Laurie says:

      1. no one is inferring (or implying, which makes more sense in that sentence) that all Americans are impressionable fools. But there are plenty who know little to nothing about Canada, and claiming otherwise isn’t going to give you much credibility with Canadians – we’ve met them.

      2. You may think yourself above the influence of TV, but you apparently still make large-scale assumptions about Canadian attitudes on the basis of one PSA you saw. TV and people’s reactions to it, do actually provide a fairly useful view of how people see its subjects. Being on TV does not make something true, or widely assumed, but multiple people expressing shock when you tell them it’s not true tends to indicate that it’s a common belief.

      3. re. your gun-toting illiterate, the stereotype is a joke, but it plays to real distinctions – that’s what makes it funny. American gun-rights proponents often say things that would cause most Canadians to view them as dangerous maniacs who have no business owning a salad fork, much less a gun. Incredulity at their real-life quotes and actions plays into the joke of the exaggeration, similar to poe’s law – how far do you have to go before it’s no longer believable?

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  29. Bee says:

    I’ve heard someone say ‘aboot’ several times. My bf is native and I’ve heard people on his reserve say aboot. When I was watching the news about the attawapiskat issue that started in the winter there’s an interview with the chief and he also says aboot. I think that’s where it started. With the First Nations.

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  31. David says:

    This is absolutely false. I listen to pod casts all the time, and almost every Canadian says “aboot”.

    In fact, I had never heard of this before until I listened to these Canadians talking. Then I started hearing it all the time.

    • Shauna says:

      I am Canadian and I can verify that you are right except mostly it’s something closer to aboat, depending on the strength of the diphthong.

      Most Canadians perceive themselves as talking the same as “Americans on T.V”(I used to as well) because the simply don’t notice their Canadian Raising or they’re ashamed to admit that they do indeed have an accent.

      The “Bob and Doug Mckenzie accent” is not stereotype folks, it’s a solid reality. This is how we sound to American ears. It’s just the way it is, you can accept it or deny it. We DO have a rather strong accent and I’ll be the first to admit it.

  32. Mary says:

    David, “podcasts” is a bit vague. Can you give a list of these podcasts, please — I’d like to hear a Canadian say “aboot.”

    In 50 years in Canada, I never once heard a Canadian say “aboot,” other than to demonstrate the difference between “aboot” and the way the Canadian actually pronounces “about.”

    • Joe says:

      Go watch the final episode of Smallville. Laura Vandervoort clearly says “aboot” at one point, and she is definitely Canadian.

      • Maria says:

        Okay but she’s one person, she doesn’t represent all of us, especially those of us from different provinces. I’m from Quebec and no one in this province pronounces it “aboot” or ” aboat”. Either Laura is from a region/province that does, or (as I suspect) her pronunciation has more to do with her ancestors and how they spoke, and the accent that was subsequently passed down.

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  34. Maria says:

    First of all, can we stop calling it the “Canadian Accent”?? Last time I checked, we were made up of 10 provinces and 3 territories. Anyone who thinks we all sound the same and/or have the same dialect/accent is clearly an idiot and has probably never stepped foot in Canada. I’m from Quebec (though I’m English) and have never heard anyone from here say “aboot” OR “aboat”… we pronounce it more like “abowt” which isnt very different from the way most Americans from nothern states pronounce it. People need to stop lumping us all together and try to remember that pronunciation and accents differ from region to region. Shocking, I know.

    But we all definitely say “eh” though… I’m not even gonna try to deny that ;)

  35. Hcat says:

    The television personality Pat Robertson pronounces “about” the same way as Canadians. There’s a whole pocket of eastern Virginia and eastern Maryland where they do this.

  36. NorthOfEdward says:

    It’s true that nobody says “aboot”, and yet this peculiar myth nevertheless exists. I suspect that the myth’s origins are somewhere to be found in the roof/ruff thing. Canadians typically pronounce “roof” as “rooof” and “room” as “rooom”, whereas many Americans pronounce “roof” as “ruff” and “room” as “rum” (you hear the latter pronunciations on US TV shows all the time). I’d wager that this distinction was recognized a long time ago, but (as irony would have it and for reasons unknown) the common word that ended up serving as the ultimate demonstration of the difference was in fact a word that didn’t demonstrate the difference at all.

  37. Ryan says:

    It’s pretty insane how much mudslinging is going on over whether or not canadians say “aboot” or not.

  38. Rachel says:

    Since you mention Scotland… weren’t a lot of the original (English-speaking) Canadian settlers from Scotland? Perhaps, to start off with, a lot of Canadians did use the more classically Scottish pronunciation of the word, aboot with a short ‘oo’, and that stereotype has just stuck?

  39. Shauna says:

    I see some comments from deluded Canadians saying that “you can’t classify the Canadian accent as a single accent as we have so many dialects” — FALSE!!!!! . There is basically only THREE Accents in Canada – Newfoundlander, French Canadian and the Standard Canadian accent which most English speaking Canadians have.

    There is NOT that much variation of the standard Canadian accent across the country, it’s basically the same with only slight nuances in between Provinces. There is no drastic differences between someone from B.C and Ontario except the person in Ontario has slightly more pronounced Canadian Raising.

    I Am from Ontario and I spoke to a woman last week from British Columbia and our accent was very similar except her “about” was slightly more Americanized sounding (though she still had a tad of “raising”) and her intonation was a little less sing-songy than mine. But otherwise it was very close.

  40. Nathan Brown says:

    I was once talking to a girl from the Adirondacks, and somehow this came up. I told her that nobody in Canada really says “aboot,” that what they do say is something closer to an American pronunciation of “a boat,” and that most of the people in her town (I had spent a good deal of time in the town and was familiar with it) say it the same way as Canadians. She wasn’t having any of it.

    NorthOfEdward: I always thought “ruff” and “rum” (with the BOOK vowel) were older Northern pronunciations in the U.S. They’re not uncommon (I use them), but I think the versions with the GOOSE vowel are more common.

    • Gary says:

      Here’s a map (p. 292) of where people say “roof” with the vowel of “good”. The red circles are the people who say it with the vowel of “good”. I found that map on Professor William Labov’s homepage. He’s a well-known linguist at the University of Pennsylvania.

  41. Peter says:

    I am Canadian. Have lived in several provinces, and work in the oil patch with people from all over the country. I have never ever once said or heard another Canadian saying “oot and aboot” unless it was as a joke relating to this topic, or an obvious attempt to play on it.
    Perhaps some Canadians say it in some random section of some valley somewhere, but generalizing saying we all pronounce it that way is a farce and complete joke.

    I’ve only ever heard it as ‘ow’t and ab’ow’t. As in “Ow, I hurt my spleen laughing at how Americans pronounce roof and creek”

  42. Glen says:

    The way Montreal Anglophones say “out” and “about” sounds like “eh-oot” and “a-beh-oot” to me. I would say it’s distinctive. (I’m from Vancouver and I’ve lived in Montreal.)

  43. Gary Dell'Abate says:

    But this article completely reinforces that Canadians have no sense of humor (yes, humor. Not humour. Stop trying to be European, you unoriginal faggots.)

  44. jan says:

    what! what are you talking aboot?Apparently no one has recorded Halogonians and Dartmouthians, especially from Woodside area. My mother (from England) frequently corrected me when I pronounced “about”in the vernacular. However the most amusing local pronounciation is an “ea”sound for “ah”. As my father ,sighing ,once corrected my brother who was calling to him “I might look it but I am not Dead, yet. :)

  45. ACanadianGal says:

    I’m glad this article tries to clear things up for non Canadians!

  46. Pat Kitteringham says:

    Born in Winnipeg, grew up in Creighton, Sask on the northern Saskatchewan/Manitoba border: pronounced a-b-out. No boats or boots, just a strong “out” sound.

  47. Ellen K. says:

    Interesting that the orginal post and most all of the comments ignore that there are TWO “oo” vowels in English, the boot vowel, and the book vowel. And some one who writes “aboot” as how they hear the Canadian pronounciation of about might now mean that they hear it as sounding like “a boot”. They make be hearing it with the vowel in book.

  48. Jonathan L. says:

    The word “about” is pronounced just the right way in Canada. The real mocking here is not on the word “about” but on the way Canadians pronounce the sound “ou” generally.

    You won’t hear a Canadian say: “you have to follow this first route, and at the fork, take the left route…” as American folks say. You will hear instead: “you have to follow this first [root], and at the fork, take the left [root]…”.

    So basically Americans are just making fun on how Canadians usually pronounce the sound “ou”. They took an usual word, about, and created an urban myth with it!!!

    Canadians don’t pronounce about [aboot]
    Canadians DO pronounce route [root]. I start laughing everytime I hearing a Canadian saying [root] instead of route. “What?!? I have to follow the root…the root of this tree here or the one of the tree over there?”

    • Glen says:

      You’re right about “route”, but Canadians pronounce “rout” with the same “ou” sound as in “out and “about”.

  49. Alan Barbour says:

    Many thanks! I am now confused at a much higher level…

    I visited my mother’s ancestral homeland in Ontario last year, and heard an old Scot immigrant saying something that I perceived as “aboot;” the sounds others used were different, and in any event there was no difficulty discerning the meaning–which is the basic function of language. BTW, my father referred to the large upholstered piece of furniture as a “chesterfield,” and I read one place that the term is unique in such usage to Ontario–but neither he nor his ancestors had ever lived there. Carrying on, in the area where I now live supposedly the vowels in “pen” and “pin” are pronounced the same, but I have never heard it–surely because I expect to, and consequently do, hear the vowels as different–as where I grew up. Currently I am working on undoing the “Mary, marry, merry” merger in my speech; I think I shall also start working on Inland North pronunciation of “root” of a tree (pron. as foot, soot). I may have pronounced it that way at one time (the change seems too easy), but I have been pronouncing the vowel as in “shoot” for some time. Gotta keep ‘em guessing…

    • Pete says:

      Can I ask why you are trying to undo your Mary-merry-marry merger? That merger is very widespread and standard in North America. I also imagine that it would be very difficult (if not impossible) to undo it successfully.

  50. Sammy says:

    I just wahted to say I an from southern Ontario and I’ve heard several variations of the “ou” diphthong in “about”.

    Something a long the lines of “a-beh-oot”. It’s an extremely difficult sound to reproduce, but basically it’s a quickly raised diphtong closer to the end of the word. It is what I believe to be what is thought to be heard as “aboot”. I hear this version in men over the age of 35 typically of lower evonomic status.

    The Other variant is “aboat” (possibly the most common form) and even this prononciation varies by the strength of the person Canadian Raising. I have heeaed it said exactly like “a boat” as though they were saying just that, and then I have heard another type of version thst’s a bit weaker. It sound only like aboat towards the end but their is still an aspect of an “ow” sound. This version is more common in women and those with post secondary education.

    There is another form of “about” that sounds vagguely british, it’s neither aboat or aboot but “about” pronounced in a fancier, dare I saw haughty way. Very lilted sounding. I hear this version mostly in elderly women.

    The last form is the weakest. It sounds like an american “about” but with slight raising in the middle of the word (barely detectable, but still there) and lilted very quickly. I hear this mostly from wealthy to upper middle class young women.

  51. Holly says:

    I have multiple friends from the Toronto area and they actually DO say “aboot” It might be somewhere between aboat and aboot, but in some areas it’s much stronger than the video examples you’ve listed.

    • Bruce says:

      I’ve never heard anyone from Canada who said “aboot”. Even people from Newfoundland, who are the ones who really say “aboot” according to many Canadians I’ve talked to online, don’t say “aboot” in my experience. What I have heard, however, is pronunciations like “a-beh-oot” and “a-buh-oot”.

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