November 19, 2004

Canadian translation quiz prize awarded

Nassira Nicola and Mike Gillis are joint winners of the Canadian translation quiz prize. The mystery dialect, by the way, was Ontarianese. You'll recall that the Canadian text said "Cripes! Grade thirteen! Here's a loonie -- buy yourself a Coffee Crisp, eh?" The approved translation is as follows.

"Man, the SAT's! Here's eighty-four cents — buy yourself a Snickers, OK?"

Mike and Nassira between them add various helpful cultural notes (I paraphrase and add at certain points). Grade thirteen, in the province of Ontario, was the year after your senior year (grade twelve) in high school. It was phased out last year: school year 2002-2003 was the last in which there was a grade thirteen. It was also called 'OACs', as your courses in grade thirteen resulted in Ontario Achievement Courses. The courses were called 'OAC English', 'OAC Calculus', etc. The similarity to SAT's is that they're for getting you placed in a good university. (Bob Kennedy suggests translating "grade thirteen" as "fifth year of high school", and that might be a good idea. Certain schools in Britain, including the one I went to, had something known as the "third-year sixth", which was equivalent: an extra year to prepare for a serious attempt at getting into a good university with a scholarship.)

A Coffee Crisp is an sort of chocolate bar, coffee-flavoured and consisting of (crispy) wafers with a chocolate coating. Mike quite reasonably takes the Snickers bar to fill a similar ecological niche in American culture.

Cripes is just a general exclamation, with no more vulgarity than "Gee!" or "Golly!" (Mike says he had no idea it was Canadian. It originates, of course, as a corruption of Christ; so does crikey, which is heard a lot in Australia.)

Loonies are Canadian dollar coins, which feature a picture of a loon floating in water on the front. A loon is a species of bird of the family Gaviidae.

Mike adds that everyone should move to Canada. Well, maybe. I think it should be a matter for personal decisions. I myself have always been a little bit intimidated by some of the cruel jokes about the place, two of them recorded here. But you shouldn't let those remarks dissuade you. Head up there. Take a look around. Spend a loonie on a Coffee Crisp, eh?

Posted by Geoffrey K. Pullum at November 19, 2004 02:11 PM