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Casselman's Canadian Words

Bill Casselman is the world's greatest Canadian word expert. Below you will find some teasers about all of his various books. Please click on one of the titles to read about a particular book, or just start scrolling down the page to read them all!


Casselman's Canadian Words

Casselman's Canadian Words In this #1 bestseller, Bill Casselman delights and startles with word stories from every province and territory of Canada. Did you know that...?
  • Scarborough means "Harelip's Fort"
  • The names of Lake Huron and Huronia stem from a vicious, racist insult. Huron in old French meant "long-haried clod". French soldiers labeled the Wendat people with this nasty misnomer in the 1600s.
  • To deke out is a Canadian verb that began as hockey slang, short for "to decoy an opponent".
  • Canada has a fish that ignites. On our Pacific coast, the oolichan or candle fish is so full of oil that it can be lighted at one end and used as a candle.
  • "Mush! Mush! On, you huskies!" cried Sergeant Preston of The Yukon to 1940s radio listeners, thus introducing a whole generation of Canucks to the word once widely used in the Arctic to spur on sled dogs. Although it might sound like a word from Inuktitut, early French trappers first used it, borrowing the term from the Canadian French command to a horse to go: marche! marche!. Yes, it's Québécois for giddyap!

All these and more fascinating terms from Canadian place names, politics, sports, plants, animals, and clothing. Everything from Canadian monsters to mottoes is here.

Casselmania: More Wacky Canadian Words & Sayings

Casselmania Should you purchase a copy of Casselmania? Below, dear reader, is a quiz to try. If you pass, buy Casselmania. If you fail, buy two copies!

1. "Slackers" is a nickname for what Canadian city?
    (a) Vancouver
    (b) Halifax
    (c) Sackville, New Brunswick
Answer: (b) Halifax. What "Slackers"? Because often when Canadian Navy crews put in to Halifax harbour, the sailors had some "slack" time for shore-leave.

2. Eh? is a true marker of Canadian speech. But which of the following authors uses eh? exactly as Canadians now use it?
    (a) Emily Bronte in Wuthering Heights.
    (b) Charles Dickens in Bleak House.
    (c) Geoffrey Chaucer in The Canterbury Tales in 1400 A.D.
Answer: All of the above! "Eh?" is almost 1000 years old as an interjection in Old English, Middle English, and, of course, in modern Canadian English too.

3. The first Skid Row or Skid Road in Canada was in Vancouver at the end of the 19th century. The term originated because
    (a) alcoholics kept slipping in the muddy streets.
    (b) out-of-work loggers drank in cheap saloons at the end of a road used to skid logs.
    (c) cheap houses were moved on skids to slummy areas.
Answer: (b). Skids were greased logs used to slide rough timber to a waterway or railhead. There was a skid road in Vancouver, where unemployed loggers waited for jobs, and took the odd bottle of liquid refreshment.

4. In central Ontario, a gorby is
    (a) one who follows Russian politics.
    (b) one who thinks Mike Harris is good for the province.
    (c) a tourist.
Answer: (c). A localism in the central Ontario tourist area of Muskoka is "gorby" used by some inhabitants of the area, mostly younger people, to describe loud tourists of the yahoo persuasion. "Oh-oh. Another busload of gorbies!" The origin of gorby is, I believe, in the 1950s camping slang term G.O.R.P., an acronym for Good Old Raisins and Peanuts, a trail mix suitable for canoe nibbling, easily packed, and not subject to immediate spoilage.

Canadian Garden Words

Canadian Garden Words Trowel in hand, Bill Casselman digs into the loamy lore and fascinating facts about how we have named the plants that share our Dominion. But are there Canadian Garden Words? Yes! Try those listed below.

Camas Lily. A bulb grown all over the world for its spiky blue flowers. The name arose in British Columbia where First Peoples cooked and ate the bulbs. Camas means "sweet" in Nootka, a Pacfic Coast language. The original name of Victoria on Vancouver Island was Camosun, in Nootka, "place where we gather camas bulbs".

A Snotty Var is a certain species of fir tree in Newfoundland. Why? Find out in Canadian Garden Words.

Mistletoe! So Christmassy. The word means "poop on a stick". Oops! Look within for a bounty of surprising origins of plant names. Orchid means "testicle" in Greek. So does avocado. While plant names have come into English from dozens of world languages, Bill Casselman has found the Canadian connection to 100s of plant names and garden lore and packed this September 1997 book with them.

Casselman reports on Canadian plant names and on the origin of all the common trees and flowers that decorate our gardens from Fogo Island to Tofino, B.C.

Canadian Food Words

Canadian Food Words Do you know that fine Canadian dish, Son-of-a-Bitch-in-a-Sack? It's a real Alberta chuckwagon pudding. In this fully illustrated, 304-page romp, Bill tells the amusing stores behind such hearty Canadian fare as gooeyducks and hurt pie. The juicy lore and tangy tales of foods that founded a nation are all here: from scrunchins to rubbaboo, from bangbelly to poutine, from Winnipeg jambusters to Nanaimo bars, from Malpeque oysters to nun's farts! If you think foods of Canadian origin are limited to pemmican and pea soup, you need to dip your ladle into the bubbling kettle of Canadian Food Words.

Canadian Sayings

Canadian Sayings Folk sayings are passed by word of mouth in a small community where life and work are shared. These 1200 delightful and sometimes pungent sayings are annotated and arranged in over 130 categories, ranging from All is Well and All is Not Well through Anger, Appearance, Bad Luck, Canadiana, Clumsiness, Excuses, Fatness, Liars, Machismo, Shyness, Ugliness and Thinking, to Water, Weakness, Wealth, and Work. We think you'll so enjoy this latest Casselman collection that it will give you "a grin as wide as the St. Lawrence"!

If you have Canadian sayings you think Bill Casselman needs for his next collection, email them to: Please include the circumstances in which and from whom you heard the saying. If you include your name and want it used if the saying in included in a future compilation, then indicate that in your email.

Canadian Sayings 2

Canadian Sayings 2 Canadian sayings are making news. A resonant ruckus arose awhile ago in Canadian newspapers about this expression: If you can't get laid in Inuvik, you're just lazy. The comments of townsfolk and my own two cents worth concerning the hullabaloo appear where the saying is listed near the back of this book under the category Sex.

If God were a cucumber, I'd stick him in your ear. A curious expression used—oddly enough—by members of various fundamentalist Protestant sects, when a child has overheard naughty or inappropriate language. It would not, I suppose, be worth pointing out to users of this phrase just how phallic and blasphemous a saying this is, with its obvious subtext of child abuse. Nowhere in Holy Writ, not even in the most bizarre crannies of Leviticus, does the Almighty countenance the insertion of vegetables in a child's ear to foster moral integrity. Under the category Children in this book, it is shocking to note how many of the expressions have to do with the punishment of children. Or is it shocking, given the multitude of sadists who parade through modern life disguised as Christian parents?

House out them pizza bones! That creative Ontario slang—check out the new-fangled compound verb—refers to tossing the thin, leftover crusts of pizza out the kitchen door to the dogs. Yes, Canucks are still coining new expressions every day and I've tried to include the breeziest ones I've heard in this second volume.

"Save your breath to cool your porridge," runs a wise old saw. I'm going to take that advice myself in this short preface, because most of what I wanted to say about collecting folk sayings appears in the introduction to the first volume of Canadian Sayings which was published in 1999 and—thanks to interested readers—stayed on the bestseller lists for 62 weeks! Now it's time to present a list of over 1,000 new sayings—new in the sense that none of them appeared in my first collection. Since that book's success, kind readers all across Canada have sent in new whoppers. I myself have found many new expressions by dint of eavesdropping, cranny searching, and "rootching around" — as they used to say in Eastern Ontario.

In order to include more slang sayings and expressions dealing with modern life, I have not restricted category names to abstract nouns alone. So now, along with the more conventional categories denominated by abstract nouns like stupidity and fear, the reader will see entries labelled with concrete nouns like police and restaurant. This second volume contains almost twice as many categories as the first volume. Both changes, I hope, improve the usability of this little book both as a reference to and as a compendium of comic sayings used by Canadians.

In my first collection, Canadian Sayings, I avoided for the most part the inclusion of revolting sexist sayings of the oinkiest type and shunned generally offensive expressions. For example, I did not include: "Baptists are like cats; you know they're screwing, but you can never catch them at it." But several readers took me to task for such sentimental reticence, arguing that in collections designed to show and preserve the folkways of Canadian speech, there was no place for a namby-pamby exclusion of vulgarity. Low speech is as worthy of preservation as head-table talk at college feasts; indeed, the gab of the gutter sometimes shows more flair for language than the pompous burblings of a snotty college master. Again I thank all the Canadians, some credited by name is this book, who have helped me haul this harvest into memory's barn, by writing to me, phoning me at radio and TV shows, buttonholing me at book signings, and letting me share their own folksy zingers.

Do you know a zippy saying not listed in either volume of Canadian Sayings? Then please fire it off to me, preferably by e-mail. You can post it to me too. Addresses are below.

E-mailing Canadian expressions not in the first two volumes of Canadian Sayings is the most efficient method because I can create quickly archival copies of any sayings you send me, and also keep perfect track of your name. If you want your name or the name of a relative from whom you first heard a particular expression to be printed in the next volume, Canadian Sayings 3, then again, e-mail is the best way to make certain I receive what you send. Many kind readers made an effort to find Canadian sayings not so far listed, quips by fathers, mothers, grandfathers, grandmothers, beloved aunts or salty old uncles. When the names of their relatives appeared in the books, both little volumes made surprising and delightful gifts to the relatives mentioned. And that's enough of Uncle Billy's book-flogging pitch. If you chuckle and belly laugh your way through these 1,000 new sayings, I'll be happier than a gopher in soft dirt.

Bill Casselman

Dictionary of Medical Derivations

Dictionary of Medical Derivations Casselman's Dictionary of Medical Derivations shows how to break down medical words into their recognizable component parts and thereby understand their meaning (e.g. "CHOLECYSTECTOMY" chole = gall + cyst = bladder + ec = out + tomy = cutting; so cholecystectomy is the surgical excision or cutting out of the gallbladder!). It bridges the gap between the different fields of medicine and specialty areas by defining the building-block terms from Greek and Latin and by explaining the rules that bring them together to form precise medical meanings.

There are over 50 000 terms used in medicine today - and almost 95% of them are based on Greek and Latin words. This dictionary, by focusing on the classical roots which make up medical terminology, provides the ideal way of comprehending and permanently remembering the true meaning of medical words.

Only with this unique dictionary - attractively presented and easy to use - can the reader quickly and realiably understand the meanings of unfamiliar medical terms without resorting to rote memorization or faulty conjecture.

The Dictionary of Medical Derivations provides, therefore, a valuable and practical reference for anyone concerned with medical terminology.

What's In A Canadian Name? The Origins and Meanings of Canadian Surnames

What's In A Canadian Name? From Atwood to Applebaum, from Bobak to Bullard, with Gabereau, Hanomansing, Harnoy, Krall, Tobin, and Shamas tossed into the linguistic salad of our last names, Bill Casselman tells here the fascinating story of surnames, of how humans came to use last names, and of what some last names mean, names that every Canadian knows. Did you know that pop singer Shania Twain bears an Ojibwa first name that means "on my way." Movie star Keanu Reeves has a first name that is Hawaiian for "cool breeze." Talk show host Mike Bullard's last name is Middle English for "trickster." Surnames can trick and surprise you too. Byron sounds sooo uppercrust, doesn't it? Proud family moniker of the famous English poet, etc. Too bad Byron means "at the cowsheds" from Old English byrum and suggests a family origin not in a stately home but in a stately stable! More surprises and delights await any Canadian reader interested in genealogy and surnames.

Bill Casselman

Bill Casselman
Author Photo: John Reeves.
Bill Casselman, author of all of the books you have read about above, is a word nut and popular media figure who lives in Dunnville, Ontario. Please read his own autobiography in our Canadian Personalities section here.

See also
Autobiohagiography of Bill Casselman

External Links
Bill Casselman's Official Website
Buy the books from Chapters and Indigo Bookstores.

Copyright Craig I.W. Marlatt