Having lived ten minutes from the American border all of my life, and making frequent trips to the United States throughout my childhood, I didn’t anticipate the major life changes that would occur during my four years of optometry school.  Besides giving up my Tim Hortons Iced Capp, my Kraft peanut butter, my favourite chocolate bars (Caramilk, Aero, Crunchie) and my Old Dutch All-Dressed chips, I realized that one of the biggest adjustments, would be the words that I use.  Here are a list of just a few of my favourite “Canadian-isms”!


  1. Garburator – having moved in with three Americans, I was happy to find that our new home had a garburator (translation: garbage disposal).  When all three looked at me like I was speaking a foreign language (which I apparently was), I realized that this was not an American term.  It turned out well though as all of my American friends have adopted this wonderful word.
  2. Kerfuffle – again, said to blank stares.  But it’s such a great word!  And can describe so many different situations!  Another great word adopted by my American friends.
  3. Writing an exam – professors and students alike will call you out on this.  Apparently, students don’t “write” exams, we take them.  Professors “write” them.  I call technicality!
  4. Pencil crayons – didn’t think this would come up in optometry school but doing extended ophthalmoscopy drawings brought out this eternal debate.  No they aren’t made of wax, but colored pencils (notice I had to leave out the ‘u’) doesn’t sound as fun as pencil crayons.
  5. Keener – I’m glad that my fellow Canadians could introduce this word to our classmates, as there was always a few in the class who would fit this term perfectly.
  6. Washroom – I still ask for the washroom and get blank stares from store employees, waitresses, gas station attendants, etc.  Apologies for not asking for the bathroom, as I don’t need a bath!
  7. Runners – NOT tennis shoes.  How often do people play tennis in the United States?!?
  8. Parkade – parking garage is just too long. However, where does the word parkade come from? (After a quick Google consult, apparently it is the combination of the words parking and arcade.  Arcade is defined as “a covered passageway with arches along one or both sides”.  So not a video arcade.  You are welcome for the vocabulary lesson).
  9. Icing sugar – apparently called powdered sugar.  So don’t go to the grocery store looking for icing sugar or you will get raised eyebrows and several questions regarding this mysterious sugar.






Written by Amanda Olsen – Pacific University College of Optometry. OD 2017