I have often heard the pronunciation stereotype for Canadians which states we pronounce the word “about” as “aboot.” But I always wondered where that came from since I certainly had never heard that.
Recently, I came across the following article which backs me up on this. Great clips also, including one of our last infamous mayor!
A point of clarification: Canadians do not say aboot.
Canadian English features something called Canadian Raising, which basically means that the diphthong in “now” is raised before t, s or other voiceless consonants (i.e. before words like about and house).
What does this mean? In most Canadian accents, about sounds a bit like American a-boat (IPA əbʌʊt). I offer these examples of Canadian politicians with this pronunciation (shortly into each clip):
- Darrell Dexter, Premier of Nova Scotia
- Rob Ford, Mayor of Toronto
- Dalton McGuinty (His “a-boat” is notably a bit milder)
In younger Canadians, I’ve noticed a variation of this which is a bit fronter in the mouth–something like a-beh-oot (IPA əbɛʊt). But regardless of the pronunciation, nobody in Canada
ever says “aboot.”*
So then, what’s the deal with aboot? Where does this mythological pronunciation come from?
One thing I’ve heard is that aboot is a pronunciation in a particular region of Canada: the Atlantic Provinces (Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, etc). But I have never found a clip of anybody from that area who says aboot.
photo credit: <a href=”https://www.flickr.com/photos/beatkueng/4084706293/”>’PixelPlacebo'</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/”>cc</a>