An American will say, “Hot day!” A Canadian will say, “Hot day, eh?” meaning “It’s a hot day, isn’t it?”
This is something deeper than spelling or pronunciation. It goes to the heart of the less-assertive Canadian character. The United States was born when Americans revolted against King George III and asserted their independence. Canada never came to a similar point of self-assertion and that little word “eh?” is their refusal even to assert that it’s a hot day without inviting somebody else to verify it.
One definition of a Candian is “a North American who refuses to join the revolution”.
Another way to tell the difference between a Canadian and an American is to invite the suspected Canuck to lunch and watch him eat. If he’s really upper crust, he’ll eat like an Englishman, with knife and fork held firmly in his right and left hands. He’ll cut with his knife, pack the results on the back of his fork and convey the food to his mouth with the fork still in this left hand.
Many an American eats with knife and fork, too, but in a different way. He takes the knife in his right hand and the fork in his left to cut up the food. Then he puts the knife down and takes the fork in the right hand to convey the food to his mouth.
A common garden-variety Canadian does the job differently. He doesn’t use his knife at all, except for particularly stubborn steaks and other such tough foods. Instead he takes the fork in his right hand and leaves the knife beside his plate. Then he cuts the food with the edge of the fork and feeds himself with the fork held in the same hand.
But suppose all these tests are inconclusive. There’s one more, rather dangerous, way to tell a Canadian from an American. Just remark to the suspect that Canadians and Americans are so much alike that it’s hard to tell one from the other. If the person involved is an American, he’ll probably agree.
But if he’s a Canadian he’ll let you know, in no unterms, that you’re wrong. And that stubborn sense of difference is one main reason why the two countries, despite similarities, remain separate.
(I’m pretty sure I agree with the last statement, but I’m not too sure if I like being called a wimp that doesn’t even dare to assert that it’s a hot day. (Which it is today.) And I’m tremendously relieved to know that I’m upper crust when it comes to eating. – KO)