September 7, 2021

The Official CELPIP Podcast: Episode 7 – Canadian Expressions

In today’s episode, we explore some common Canadian expressions! Follow along as we guess the meaning of them with Aswathi, Neil, Michelle and Luke, our in-house staff!

Show Notes


CJ [00:00:00] Hello, everyone, and welcome to the Official CELPIP Podcast, where we help test takers get the best possible score they can and also support newcomers building a life in Canada. My name is CJ, and along with my co-host, Chris, we talked to a variety of guests, from test takers, language teachers and test raters to employment counselors, immigration consultants and even our colleagues who help make the test available to you, our listeners. So, Chris, how are you doing?

Chris [00:00:29] Well, I just got my double-double from Timmies and I’m ready to go.

CJ [00:00:35] Um…excuse me?

Chris [00:00:36] You know what I’m talking about.

CJ [00:00:38] Oh, I mean, I totally know what you’re talking about, but I’m not sure all of our listeners do. Care to translate?

Chris [00:00:44] Well, I have a cup of coffee from the famous Tim Hortons coffee shop, and it contains double the milk and double the sugar of a regular coffee.

CJ [00:00:54] Right. And what did you call it at first?

Chris [00:00:58] A double-double from Timmies.

CJ [00:01:00] Ah, a double-double from Timmies. So very Canadian. Well, thank you for that explanation. And hopefully that clears up any confusion for our listeners.

Chris [00:01:10] No problem. But Tim Hortons is all over the world now, so I bet some of our listeners already know about it.

CJ [00:01:17] I guess, but it’s not exactly as famous as Starbucks.

Chris [00:01:20] It may not be as famous, but, well, I don’t mean to cause a big kerfuffle or anything, but I definitely prefer Timmies to Starbucks.

CJ [00:01:28] OK, one: hard pass for me, I’m a Starbucks or homemade coffee kind of girl. But two: you just said kerfuffle really. Do you think everyone knows what kerfuffle means?

Chris [00:01:41] Well, kerfuffle means a heated disagreement or argument.

CJ [00:01:45] Well, you won’t be getting a kerfuffle from me. I do like the word kerfuffle, though, but I don’t think it’s a strictly Canadian expression.

Chris [00:01:55] No, actually, I believe its roots are in Scottish English, but I think you would hear it more often in Canada than in the USA.

CJ [00:02:02] I see. Well, in today’s episode, we’re going to learn more about some very specifically Canadian expressions, aren’t we?

Chris [00:02:10] Yes, that’s right. We’re going to revisit another popular CELPIP Live episode, this one titled “Can You Guess What These Canadian Expressions Mean?” We’re going to hear about a bunch of interesting Canadian expressions from across the country.

CJ [00:02:24] And just to remind listeners, CELPIP Live is our YouTube series in which we cover a variety of important topics for test-takers.

Chris [00:02:32] Yes, and we’re going to listen to just a short selection from this episode. We’ll learn about 10 expressions, but there are more later in the episode. The link to the whole episode will be in the show notes.

CJ [00:02:44] So are these expressions that test takers are going to hear on the test?

Chris [00:02:48] Good question. No, there would never be any regional expressions or slang on the test. CELPIP is a test of general proficiency, meaning it assesses your ability to use everyday English in common situations. It doesn’t require any specialized knowledge of slang or unusual idioms. Consider all the ways we use language in our day: at work, with friends, shopping, going to restaurants. You may hear some slang once in a while, but you don’t need it to be able to communicate in those situations. And I should mention that you don’t need to have any special knowledge about Canada either.

CJ [00:03:26] OK, I see. Good to know. So then if it’s not on the test, what can listeners gain from this episode?

Chris [00:03:33] Well, I think they’ll find it interesting to learn some of these expressions. Some of them are pretty hilarious. It’s also a chance to practice their ability to derive the meaning of a word from context. This is a really important skill in both language learning and performing well on a language test. You may not know the meaning of a particular word, but if you understand all the other words around it, you can figure it out. You understand the situation so you can infer what that word means. This is a really valuable skill to develop.

CJ [00:04:08] And doesn’t it also help learners to understand how we come up with these expressions?

Chris [00:04:13] Oh, yeah, totally. It helps them to get into the psychology and culture of the language. As you learn about these expressions, you’ll get a sense of how people, at least Canadian people, think about language and how new expressions are formed. This will broaden your understanding of English and make it easier to learn new vocabulary as well as improve your ability to use it correctly.

CJ [00:04:35] Right. So this is a chance for learners to really get in the heads of native English speakers from Canada.

Chris [00:04:42] Yeah, that’s right. And hopefully have some fun learning English. Learning a language shouldn’t be all drudgery.

CJ [00:04:49] Excellent. And who have we got on this one?

Chris [00:04:51] Well, we’ve got Aswathi, our Social Media Specialist, Michelle, our manager of Test Centre Operations, Neil, our Content Marketing Specialist, and we also have Luke, an ESL teacher with years of international teaching experience.

CJ [00:05:12] Oh, that sounds like it’s going to be fun. Let’s jump in then.

Luke [00:05:19] All right. So my first word is: if I were to ask you what a “chesterfield” is…?

Aswathi [00:05:27] OK. I maybe need a minute to guess, so I’m going to see what Michelle has to say, and then you can come back to me.

Michelle [00:05:44] Chesterfield… I have no idea. It sounded like a town name, but it could also be something related to like a field, a lawn…like a sports game.

Aswathi [00:05:55] Yay, that’s what I thought! Is it like a team, like Liverpool or something like that? Yeah, that is my guess. I think it’s a sports team.

Michelle [00:06:02] Like the Maple Leafs.

Luke [00:06:05] If I were to narrow it down a little bit and say it’s an item of furniture that you probably have in your house.

Michelle [00:06:12] Chesterfield, is it some kind of sofa?

Aswathi [00:06:16] Is it?

Luke [00:06:16] It is! It is a, it’s a sofa. It’s a couch.

Michelle [00:06:20] Oh, yes.

Aswathi [00:06:22] Wow. Couch to sports. OK.

Luke [00:06:27] To be fair, I’m not sure how pervasive it is now. This is certainly an older word. So I grew up with my mom using that, my grandparents using that: “No feet up on the chesterfield.”

Aswathi [00:06:44] Is it a is specific sofa, like is it like an L section or…?

Luke [00:06:48] No. No, this is probably long before L-shaped couches existed.

Michelle [00:06:54] What is the etymology of that? Is it because there was a brand of Chesterfield in Canada previously?

Luke [00:07:02] Now, Neil, correct me if I’m wrong. My guess would probably be that since a lot of—a lot of these sort of specific terms would come from sort of the British, Irish, Scottish immigrants.

Neil [00:07:17] Yeah, very much so.

Aswathi [00:07:19] So Valerie guessed it right? Thank you so much, Valerie, for letting me know, but I wouldn’t have guessed it. I genuinely thought it was a sports team. We also have in India, we call center tables as CDs, which is, I think, the British word, which is like SDWW. I never knew that it was a British word. I just thought it was something that people use in India. Interesting. OK, I am excited now. What is your next word, Luke?

Luke [00:07:46] OK, so now my next expression would be: if somebody were to tell you or to invite you to “fill your boots.”

Aswathi [00:07:55] Fill my boots?

Luke [00:07:57] Fill your boots, what would you be, what would they be asking, or what would they be offering?

Aswathi [00:08:06] Sorry, Michelle, if you if you have a good guess, please go.

Michelle [00:08:09] Does it mean that they want you to work, like work and work to your, the best of your ability or to the level of expectation?

Luke [00:08:21] Good guess. But…

Aswathi [00:08:23] I feel like, Luke, since you mentioned invited, I feel like it’s something to do with eating or drinking. Like, does it mean that you have to like eat your fill or drink your fill?

Luke [00:08:35] Yeah, yeah, that you’re welcome to. Have as much as you want, go nuts…fill your boots!

Aswathi [00:08:41] So it doesn’t matter what it is like, could be food or drink or cake?

Luke [00:08:45] Yeah.

Aswathi [00:08:45] OK, wow great expression. Love it.

Luke [00:08:49] Yeah. You guys are better at this than you think.

Aswathi [00:08:51] Oh my god. We just have one right though.

Luke [00:08:58] All right, so my, my last one for this round, this is hard to maybe express, because it’s a word that’s used in a lot of different forms, but if I were to talk about a “click” or a number of “clicks.”

Aswathi [00:09:19] Clicks.

Luke [00:09:20] OK, good.

Aswathi [00:09:22] I’m ready. I’m going to guess because I thought you said you knew, so I was going to guess it. Is it like a crew or like a group of people, like…?

Luke [00:09:32] That, again, that’s one of the ways that we use it. It would be generally spelled differently.

Michelle [00:09:38] Let me, let me guess. Is it when you’re driving and it’s kilometer per hour, or is it…?

Luke [00:09:45] Yes.

Michelle [00:09:46] Yeah.

Luke [00:09:47] Yeah. So if you wanted to talk about how—a distance, how fast you’re going, like 10, 10 kilometers an hour, but “50 clicks,” if you wanted to describe how far away something is or how fast somebody was going.

Aswathi [00:10:04] So one kilometer equals one click?

Luke [00:10:06] One click.

Aswathi [00:10:10] Very interesting. Coming from a country that talks about it in miles, I really like that we’re back, I’m back to a place where you can refer to it as kilometeres. Super cool. OK, so I think it’s Neil’s turn next.

Neil [00:10:25] All right, round two. So the words that I have prepared are—I’m trying to be as prairie-centric as possible because I’m from Alberta. So I lived in Alberta for the better part of 30 years. So my first word is “May Longy.”

Aswathi [00:10:46] What?

Michelle [00:10:48] What?

Neil [00:10:51] OK May, M-a-y, longy,  l-o-n-g-y.

Aswathi [00:11:00] What?

Michelle [00:11:01] Can we ask our, our viewers?

Neil [00:11:04] I’ll give you a small hint, it just happened on Monday. This previous Monday.

Aswathi [00:11:10] Is it rain?

Michelle [00:11:10] Oh, it’s a May holiday.

Neil [00:11:16] Yeah, Michelle’s right. It’s the May long weekend here in Canada, so Victoria Day.

Aswathi [00:11:22] Oh wow, that is cute. Yeah. OK, that one’s really cute. I’m going to use that.

Neil [00:11:26] Yeah. Yeah. That’s how Albertans refer to the May long weekend.

Aswathi [00:11:29] Can we use it for any other long weekend? Like, like can we use it for like Black Friday.

Neil [00:11:34] Only in May. Only in May.

Michelle [00:11:37] So there’s no June Longy or September Longy?

Neil [00:11:39] That the weird—right? So you’d think that like maybe other months that have a holiday weekend in them would be referred to that way. No, no. Only May.

Luke [00:11:49] And that one changes a lot depending on the province that you’re in so uh…

Neil [00:11:53] Very much so. Other provinces might say “May long” something like that.

Aswathi [00:11:56] Yeah. Oh, but it’s only May though.

Neil [00:11:59] Correct.

Luke [00:12:00] It is the Victoria Day weekend.

Neil [00:12:02] Exclusively Victoria Day.

Michelle [00:12:03] The weather is really nice in May. That’s certainly something to celebrate.

Neil [00:12:09] Exactly. Yeah.

Aswathi [00:12:10] Actually we have some really good guesses. A lot of people were able to guess this. So I’m the only person I guess. Cynthia, Anna, well, [name] get that, but yeah, a lot of people were able to get it right. So thank you for that.

Neil [00:12:24] Good, good, good. All right. So my second word is a little more difficult. It’s skookum. Skookum. I’ll spell for you guys. S-k-o-o-k-u-m.

Aswathi [00:12:39] Um, gosh, is it like a way you call your loved one?

Neil [00:12:44] You could, but it’s not necessarily a term of affection.

Aswathi [00:12:48] Oh.

Michelle [00:12:49] But it is a term, right? It is term of a person, to address a person.

Neil [00:12:56] An aggressive person?

Aswathi [00:12:58] Like is it like a person, like “this skookum here” or “that skookum there”?

Neil [00:13:03] No, not necessarily, no. I’ll help you guys out a little bit. So it’s derived from the Chinook language. So that’s a group of Indigenous people in Alberta and it means strong or brave. So you could refer to a person as being skookum or a thing as being skookum.

Aswathi [00:13:21] Oh, that is so cool.

Neil [00:13:23] Yeah, it’s an adjective for you.

Aswathi [00:13:25] So what thing could you, I’m just curious, what thing could you describe as skookum?

Neil [00:13:29] So like if you had a, you had a very strong set of arms on you, you could say skookum arms.

Aswathi [00:13:35] Oh. Nice.

Neil [00:13:39] There you go.

Aswathi [00:13:40] I love it. I like these words, these are all really new words that I’ve never, ever heard.

Michelle [00:13:45] Yeah same here.

Luke [00:13:46] That one’s a new one for me.

Neil [00:13:48] All right. There you go. There’s some some Western slang for you. OK my last word is also pretty prairie specific. It’s “stubble jumper.” Stubble jumper.

Aswathi [00:14:02] Michelle, what do you think?

Michelle [00:14:03] Is it a kind of jumper? That’s for sure? Right?

Neil [00:14:07] Ironically, nothing to do with jumping at all.

Aswathi [00:14:09] Is it a razor, like a, like a trimmer? I don’t know, because he said “stubble.”

Neil [00:14:15] Stubble. That’s right. But no, it’s not a razor.

Michelle [00:14:19] Is it a kind of clothing at all?

Neil [00:14:23] No, I’m afraid not. It’s not clothing. Alright. So a stubble jumper would be a slang word for a farmer on the prairies.

Michelle [00:14:30] Oh, wow. Stubble jumper.

Neil [00:14:35] But the thought is that because so much grain is grown on the prairies, so things like wheat, so you cut the—

Aswathi [00:14:41] Sorry guys. Krishna thought that your “stubble jumper” meant a kangaroo.

Neil [00:14:49] I mean that’s a good guess.

Michelle [00:14:51] I really like that.

Luke [00:14:52] Should be.

Neil [00:14:53] It should be, maybe from now on. But it refers to when a stalk of wheat gets cut across your field, it looks like stubble. So a farmer who’s walking through a field of cut wheat would be a stubble jumper.

Aswathi [00:15:03] Oh, wow. That’s really perceptive and nice, that’s a very interesting word.

Neil [00:15:12] There we go.

Aswathi [00:15:14] So I learned “skookum,” I learned “stubble jumper,” I learned “May Longy,” and I learned “chesterfield.” Yes, I am getting there. OK, so do we—I think we’re going back to Luke now.

Neil [00:15:29] Luke’s turn.

Aswathi [00:15:31] OK.

Luke [00:15:32] Think so. Are we doing a, like a check in? How are we doing for score at the end of round two?

Aswathi [00:15:39] I’m going to wait for my producer to tell me that, but I think we got three right between Michelle and I.

Luke [00:15:48] Good.

Aswathi [00:15:48] Yes.

Neil [00:15:49] Doing well.

Luke [00:15:53] All right, so this next word is anyone’s guess, it might actually not be that hard, but if I were to ask you what a “serviette” is.

Aswathi [00:16:05] It’s French for plate, or tray, or table.

Luke [00:16:15] So, so close.

Michelle [00:16:17] Napkin. Napkin.

Luke [00:16:19] Yeah.

Aswathi [00:16:20] Oh my god, so it’s a French word though, like it’s an actual French word.

Luke [00:16:23] It is, yeah. It is. But again, growing up that was, uh, “Pass me a serviette.” “Napkin” was seldom used.

Aswathi [00:16:34] Wow. So, like, even if you’re not—are you, are you French, Luke?

Luke [00:16:39] No. No.

Aswathi [00:16:40] So even if you’re not French, it’s just a word that they… Is it, even though you—it’s not anything related to Montreal or anything.

Luke [00:16:47] No. So and again, Neil, I’m not sure if that’s something that you had ever heard or if that’s something west coast… 

Neil [00:16:52] No no, absolutely. That’s something that’s used in the West for sure.

Michelle [00:16:57] Yeah, I’ve heard of it.

Luke [00:17:00] Cause I would have guessed, you know, Nova Scotia, east coast is a lot closer geographically to Quebec. There is a lot of French presence in the province in Nova Scotia. But yeah.

Aswathi [00:17:13] Nice, OK.

Luke [00:17:14] Good to know that that one’s all over.

Aswathi [00:17:16] I was in the ballpark. I would’ve guessed napkin next.

Luke [00:17:18] You absolutely would.

Aswathi [00:17:20] Because I went from table to plate.

Michelle [00:17:23] Everything, everything on a table.

Aswathi [00:17:24] Something to do with food. OK, next word. A lot of people were able to guess this very well, and Celia says that it’s similar to the Spanish word, which is—

Luke [00:17:36] Yes, “servietta.” Yeah.

Aswathi [00:17:38] Oh, Luke, do you speak Spanish as well?

Luke [00:17:40] I absolutely do. I lived in Ecuador for six years, so Spanish is amazing.

Aswathi [00:17:47] Nice.

Luke [00:17:50] OK, my next sort of question or expression would be if somebody were to ask you, “Hey, what are you sayin’?” What would they be, what kind of response would they be eliciting?

Aswathi [00:18:03] I think this is similar to the American expression “What’s good?”, which means what’s up or how are you? Something like that.

Luke [00:18:14] Yeah, yeah, so..

Aswathi [00:18:15] Nicki Minaj! Yeah! Nice, I got this one.

Luke [00:18:24] That one’s at least nice because your, your answer is the same, so even if you don’t fully understand what somebody’s saying, like, “Oh, what are you sayin’?” “Not much.” It’s the same answer for “What’s new?”, “What’s going on?”, “What’s up?”

Aswathi [00:18:42] Do, is there, is there a point of origin for this? Like I know that “What’s good?” is like black culture, like that’s where it came from in America. But is there a way of—

Luke [00:18:50] Right. I did a little bit of reading about this because, again, you, you don’t often think about where the expressions come from, you don’t think about them as being unusual or abnormal because that’s just part of your vernacular, your vocabulary. So when I was trying to compile this list, one guess was that smaller sort of communities where not a lot happened, but a lot of gossip happened.

Michelle [00:19:22] Oh, wow.

Luke [00:19:25] And so it wasn’t like… Yeah, so it was less about like, “Oh, what have you done?” No: “What, what are you saying about other people?”, or “What are you saying?”

Aswathi [00:19:36] That is very interesting.

Luke [00:19:38] Yeah. So again. Not 100 percent sure, but that’s what I read.

Aswathi [00:19:46] No, that’s an interesting origin, and I hope that like, I could learn, research more about that, but it sounds like it would be, that’s the case.

CJ [00:19:57] And we’re back. OK, I have to ask, did you know all of those expressions? Because some of those were new to me.

Chris [00:20:05] Nope. I grew up in Ontario. So anything prairie related is a mystery to me. Stubble jumper. I had no idea.

CJ [00:20:14] Yeah. I’m also from East of the prairies. Skookum was a new one for me.

Chris [00:20:19] Just goes to show, even though Canada doesn’t have a large population, we’re a big country with lots of diverse regional communities.

CJ [00:20:27] That’s true. And to learn more about expressions from across Canada, I encourage everyone to listen to the rest of this CELPIP Live episode. We’ll add the link to the show notes. And Chris, what’s going to happen next in our podcast?

Chris [00:20:41] Well, next week we’re going to revisit another popular CELPIP Live episode. This one deals with workplace communication.

CJ [00:20:48] Oh, that’s going to be so interesting. So many good CELPIP Live episodes. This is going to be a good follow up to our podcast on Episode 4, all about newcomers finding a job.

Chris [00:20:59] Yeah, that’s right. Well, until then, we wish you all the best with your test preparation.

CJ [00:21:05] Bye everybody!

I had taken other English language proficiency before, and CELPIP was more relatable to me. All of the questions were situations I was familiar with from daily life, and were like conversations I had experienced personally.
- Chrisna D., CELPIP Test Taker
When I took CELPIP, I found it was like speaking English in real life. You speak every day with your boss and with your friends, and the CELPIP Test represents those every-day, real-life language situations.
- Rafaela B., CELPIP Test Taker