Those siblings, July 1st and July 4th, Canada Day and Independence Day are coming up–and because I work for a weekly I celebrate things a bit ahead of time in my column. So Happy Canada Day and July 4th!
What better way to celebrate our national heritage and bring to the fore our pride and allegiance and stand on guardedness than profuse usage of the interjection “eh”? I think the title of our national anthem should be changed to Eh Canada, as it embodies us so much better than O, which merely hails our great country as something to be praised and honoured but does not pay particular tribute to it. “Eh” acknowledges our Canadianess and accords accolades to our uniqueness.
Wikipedia partially defines “eh” as “ascertaining the comprehension, continued interest….and agreement of a subject”, and I think we can all agree that Canada is pretty great. Eh Canada would draw attention to the fact that we are all in this together and we have a consuming interest in our home and native land. By nature, Canadians are generally agreeable, polite and proud of our heritage—past and present.
Sometimes I will rattle off my heritage to my youngest son—English, French, Scottish, Irish, with a bit of Pennsylvania Dutch thrown into the mix and he will look at me somewhat bemusedly and declare, “I am a Canadian”. And he is right—we were both born here and though we have a lot of ancestral baggage—we are Canadian “through and through”.
As a proud Canadian, I do use “eh” on a regular basis. It is second nature. The way I usually use it is to find concurrence with my opinion, as in “Those flowers are pretty, eh?” I am not looking for discord when I use it, and that is another reason why we should change O Canada to Eh Canada—as in “isn’t Canada great?” or “Aren’t you glad you are Canadian?
The Urban Dictionary defines “eh” as the equivalent to the American “huh?” or “right”. A friend of mine (yes, you Dave) was wearing a T-shirt last week which put “eh” in its rightful place. A large “Eh” was emblazoned on his T-shirt, and underneath it was the statement: “so much more polite than huh.” And I think that is what largely defines us, at least when we put on our party faces. Admit it, sometimes we are not as polite as we are made out to be, but when you look at the whole picture, and compare us to most of the others tromping around on this earth, at least we keep our impoliteness under wraps, and put our best faces forward.
One of the best things I like about “eh” is that it makes us less stuffy while still drawing attention to the subject at hand. At times we are mocked for using “eh”, but it is generally in good humour and as a strong and happy and patriotic Canadian, I can take it. I find that I can go days without using the lovely interpolation (yes I looked up interjection in my thesaurus and came up with this) and then it is sprinkled in almost everything I say. I guess some days I am just looking for a little understanding and concurrence—and what is being a Canadian if not understanding and agreeable (for the most part)?
Wikipedia, with its wisdom, coyness and wittiness says that “eh” is part our national identity and that sometimes our Canadian national teams are referred to as “the Eh team”. The “people’s dictionary” also cites this as a classic joke:—“How did they name Canada? The letters were thrown in a bag, and the first one to be picked was a “C eh?” then “N eh?” and finally “D eh?”. If a classic joke is one that is common or standard or typical, then I have been hiding under my bed a bit too much, as I had never heard it—but hey, it is Wikipedia—sometimes they are a little long on explanation, and maybe a little short on accuracy.
So, next Tuesday in honour of our July 1st. Canada Day, throw around our little Canadian word “eh” with abandon and maybe hum a little “Eh Canada” while you are at it.
How do you celebrate Canada Day or July 4th?