Stefan Dollinger, editor in chief of the Second Edition of the Dictionary of Canadianisms on Historical Principles. (Octavian Lacatusu/Oak Bay News)

Oak Bay resident revises grand dictionary of Canadianisms

Stefan Dollinger spent a decade updating the Dictionary of Canadianisms on Historical Principles

Oak Bay resident Stefan Dollinger always loved languages. He spent hours and hours in the depths of the Vienna University Library, studying the origins of modern language, and more specifically, English.

In early 2000 though, the Austrian-born lexicographer and University of British Columbia English department professor stumbled on what seemed to be a bible – or more so a linguistic map – of the Canadian language: the Dictionary of Canadianisms on Historical Principles (DCHP) circa 1967.

“Lots of people who are in languages and literature, they don’t really know about it yet,” said Dollinger, adding that as it happened, he was also writing his PhD dissertation on early Ontario English, (ironically not on lexicons). It wasn’t until 2005 conference in Toronto when the idea of someone revising DCHP surfaced.

Dollinger eagerly stepped in, and Nelson, DCHP’s original publisher, approached him for what would take nearly a decade, $300,000 and 43 talented students to create what is now known as DCHP-2. And, unlike online sources telling the origins of Canadianisms, Dollinger and his team’s approach is meticulously processed.

“There are lots of lists online that talks about Canadianisms, Canadian words and meanings, but they’re not very good… this has been a scientific approach towards geographical variation in English,” he said.

They didn’t just look at Canadian sources, either, but at American and British, New Zealand and Australian language pools for reference. Dollinger added 1,002 new head words and roughly 1,300 new meanings, with a total of around 11,000 head words and 14,500 meanings. The first ‘67 edition of DCHP was also digitized for easier access.

DCHP is not necessarily for immigrants and newcomers either, but a lingual source rich with history.

“It’s mostly for Canadians who really need authoritative information about what it is that makes their English special,” Dollinger said. “We did a tenth of what the original team did, but when you look at the new entries, they are 10 times as long than the old ones.”

There are some revealing, if not startling, entries. For example, the term “canuck” originates from the Hawaiian kanaka ‘man’ and was used in discriminatory and racist contexts, as well as describing a French-Canadian individual. Canuck took a lighter meaning in 1945, when a Vancouver hockey team, the Vancouver Canucks, was formed, and remains today as the most frequent use of the word.

Still, the reality is that language, and indeed Canadian English, is constantly evolving.

“It’s just logical development of linguistics and the way people speak,” Dollinger said, adding each community develops its own linguistic features and cultures. “In the old European context, the longer a particular area has been there, the more diverse it is in terms of dialect. In the last two or three centuries, that has been counterbalanced by the influence of standard languages.”

The project doesn’t stop here, either. Dollinger is planning on a possible DCHP-3, and mulling to maybe fundraise a print edition of DCHP-2. This year, he will work with University of Victoria’s archives of the first-edition of the English dictionary to compile a book on the making of Canadian English.

octavian.lacatusu@oakbaynews.com.

Just Posted

Car crashes through Whitehorse school fence

2 people taken to hospital, no kids hurt

Tagish dog rescue owner asks for court order to get rid of dogs to be put on hold

Shelley Cuthbert argued forcing her to get rid of all but two dogs would cause ‘irreparable harm’

No vacancy: Whitehorse family spends five months seeking housing

‘I didn’t think it would be this hard’

Bedbug situation in Whitehorse building becoming intolerable, resident says

Gabriel Smarch said he’s been dealing with bedbugs since he moved into his apartment 15 years ago

Yukon government transfers responsibility for Native Language Centre to CYFN

‘At the end of the day the importance is that First Nations have control of the language’

The week in Yukon mining

Goldcorp re-submits Coffee plans, Mount Nansen sale looms, Kudz Ze Kayah comments open

Ice, ice, baby: scaling a frozen Yukon waterfall

‘There’s a really transformative affect with adventure’

Says Marwell is problematic, requests council further hash it out

You can buy alcohol and tobacco on Main Street in Whitehorse —… Continue reading

Yukon history is picture post card perfect

The most interesting gift I received at Christmas this year was the… Continue reading

Contentious Whitehorse quarry proposal raises city hackles

‘We’ve had concerns from the get-go on this one’

Whitehorse time machine

Yukon’s capital added 10,000 people over the last three decades, no YESAB application needed

How to make sure your car starts in the cold

It’s about more than just making sure your plug works

Whitehorse fuel delivery company fined $1,100 for Rancheria crash

The Crown stayed two other charges against the company related to the Aug. 7, 2017, crash

Most Read