A Lopped Off Tail, A Broken Beak, and a Whole Lotta Curds

Many years ago, when my parents were still dating, my father wrote love letters to my mom.  I know.  Cute.  Even cuter, he would always signed them with a hand-drawn ookpik by his name.  Ookpik?

As a kid, I always loved the seal-fur ookpik in my mother’s curio.  I know.  What the heck’s an ookpik?

And when I was eight years old, my dad bought me a royal blue, felt covered, ookpik that I fell in love with immediately and named it “Ernie.”  He was best friends with a little bear, “Herbert.”  Yes, I did watch a lot of Sesame Street.  And yes, Bert and Ernie were my favourites.  The budding young writer that I was, I instinctively knew that blatantly hijacking these Muppet monikers was wrong.  Herbert and Ernie were close–but not the same.  Anyway, back to my ookpik.  I quickly learned that running down the community ski hill behind our house with a bear in one hand and an ookpik in another was a danger-fraught activity.  One false step and I found myself tumbling down what felt like an endless mini-mountain.  I broke my pinky finger.  And my ookpik bent his beak.  Permanently.  I know, I know–what the hell is an ookpik, once and for all?

My fellow Canadians know.  Especially those born prior to the 1980s.  Those from outside the Great White North, however, likely don’t have a clue.  Perhaps, you have become frustrated and googled the word “ookpik.”   If you are my friend at  http://motherhoodisanart.com/, you are already “in” on the secret.

Well, here it is.  “Ookpik” is an Inuit word for “owl.”  In the 1960s and early 70s, they became all the rage up here–sort of morphing into a breed of owl of its very own.  The ookpik is usually wingless–it’s only features being eyes, a beak, and toes.

Here are some examples:

Unfortunately, when I was in highschool, an errant mouse ate a hole through Ernie.  Such is the life of a felt ookpik.  And, yes, I still miss him.

Now, back to these two adorable Sesame Street roommates.  When I was in high school, I decided to conduct a survey relating to their names (I’m a survey junkie).  And now, I am going to conduct it again.

1)  Japan’s strange inventions have often been featured in my blog, so I thought it only fair that I poke fun at the oddball ideas that have come to fruition thanks to Canadian minds.

One of the strangest, and perhaps, most lethal from a cardiologist’s point-of-view is Poutine (pronounced poo-tinn).  This dish originated in nearby Quebec, but is now sold at mainstream fast-food restaurants like Wendy’s and A&W throughout Canada.  But anyone who really knows Canada, knows that we LOVE our chip trucks.  And no one does better poutine than one of those.

Poutine is simply a pile of french fries covered (or rather smothered) in dark gravy and cheese curds.  Mm.  Cheese curds.  It is sinfully delicious, but will probably clog an artery or two.

If you think that’s weird.  There was a chip truck in Eastern Ontario that sold fries smothered in butter.  Greasy french fries with butter?  Really?

We Canucks are a hearty lot.  Or so we like to tell ourselves.  Maybe we’re just all nuts.  Here’s a typical chip truck, Canuck-style: 

2)  This is my all-time favourite Canadian treat.  First of all, it originates in my hometown, Ottawa.  All good things come from Ottawa.  Except politicians.

And, most importantly, they are delicious.  BeaverTails–not politicians.  No, we do not hunt down buck-toothed rodents and lop off their tails.  We are, in fact, quite kind to our beavers.  We even put them on our nickels.

The “BeaverTail” is a flattened lump of whole wheat dough, deep-fried, and smothered in various mouth-watering toppings.  The traditional one is covered in cinnamon and sugar.  If you add a twist of lemon, you have the Killaloe Sunrise.  But, for the true sweet-tooth, you can smother yours in chocolate hazelnut, maple butter, apples with cinnamon, banana chocolate, chocolate & vanilla, chocolate & peanut butter & Reese’s Pieces, or cream cheese with Skor pieces and chocolate drizzle.  Damn, now I’m hungry.  I think I’ll head down to the park and get me one of these.  Blogging is not good for the waistline.

Oh, yeah.  Did I mention that BeaverTails, just like Poutine, are sold in small chip-truck-sized, cabin-like buildings.  Here is a typical BeaverTail vendor:

So far we have learned that Canadians like strange-looking, furry owls; have a penchant for heart-stopping, curd-covered, deep-fried potatoes; and regularly nibble on cinnamon-covered beaver appendages.  Quite simply put, we make the Japanese look normal.  But wait.  I still haven’t reached number 3.  There’s always a number three.

3)  Americans love to make fun of us.  According to them, we talk funny.  Yes, according to the nation that produced the southern twang and drawl, the Boston accent, and whatever those people in the movie Fargo were speaking, WE talk funny.  So, here’s a tip for those who really want to mimic us well–here are some uniquely Canadian words.  Ours are the ones in BOLD print.

Eh?  Replaces “Huh?” or “Do you agree?”

Serviette= Napkin

Washroom= Bathroom

Pop=Soda.  We do say Club Soda and Cream Soda though.  Everything else is Pop.

Chocolate bar=Candy bar

Chesterfield=sofa or couch

Double Double=two creams, two sugars in coffee.

Pencil Crayon=coloured pencil


Rad=radiator.  We don’t say “rad” for radical.

Hydro=electrical service.  Paying our hydro bill is the same as paying the Power Company in the US.

Bachelor=small type of apartment.  “Bachelor for rent” does not cause confusion up here.

Garburator=garbage disposal.

Two-four=case of twenty-four beer.

Brown Bread=Whole Wheat Bread.

Kraft Dinner=Kraft Macaroni & Cheese

Homo Milk=Homogenized Milk


Go missing=disappear


Lineup=a line or queue.

Postal code=Zip code


Transport truck=tractor trailer

So, now you can speak Canadian.  Woo. Woo.

Photo Credits:  ookpiks: 1 (static.artfire.com),  2 (www.mccord-museum.qc.ca), 3 (farm3.static.flickr.com), 4 (subrosa-rosamundi.blogspot.ca),  5 (www.nait.ca), 6 (farm3.staticflickr.com), Bert & Ernie (whatvinniethinks.com),  Poutine (trentonstories.blogspot.ca), Chip Truck ( busblog.tonypierce.com), Beavertail  (www.foodgypsy.ca) BeaverTail Truck ( foodworld-evablogspot.ca),   eh (www.talktocanada.com).  

11 responses

  1. Oh geez!!! I am laughing so hard!!! This is so great!!! I love the ookpiks and I’m sure now I will never forget the name!!! Thank you so much for doing this!!! Also, I now want to try poutine!!! You know I’m from Wisconsin so I’m quite fond of cheese curds and this seems like the perfect combo!! Also, I think we are one of the only states in the U.S. that says “pop” for soda too!!! Thanks again for doing this for me and for the world!!! You’ve made the world a more enlightened place!!!

    • Wow! I had no idea that Wisconsin said “pop!” Awesome! According to the Young & the Restless, your Genoa City is quite the thriving hub of intrigue and corporate espionage! lol.
      And MMMM cheese curds. I’ve never been to Wisconsin, but you’ve definitely made me put it on my “to do” list!!

  2. 1) My father used to write letters to my mother too. Unfortunately, he never signed them ‘Ookpik’ but as compensation, I do happen to look like one. Just a little less…err…hairy.
    2) Royal blue is one of my favorite colors! Oh, and Sesame Street is still my favorite TV program, along with SpongeBob, of course.
    3) I laugh like Ernie. My mother never let me forget it. -_-‘
    4) You can’t make me choose! All Ookpiks are special in their own way. You’re just huwting thew feewings. *puppy face*
    5) Forgive my Indian palate but fries, dark gravy and cheese curds sounds weird to me. Anyways, we’re not big on fries here. Although, bhajjiyas (similar to pakoras) are a rage. They taste best with mint and coriander chutney. I’ll try to find myself some Poutine, though. If you like it, I guess it must be worth trying.
    6) Beaver Tails make me go “Omnomnomnom” like the Cookie Monster.
    7) Forget the Americans, they think everyone but them talks funny. I say “eh” a lot. Just in a different accent. Plus, we use words like washroom, chocolate bar, go missing and knapsack here too. We just don’t rent our bachelors. We sell them in marriage. (long story, sad one too.)
    8) OOKPIK!!!!

    ……I just needed to get that out of my system.

    • India keeps sounding better and better. I love that you use many of the same words as we do–must be the British influence.
      I was always partial to Bert. I think I felt sorry for him. Plus, I think he is very cute. I have a stuffed Bert on my bed. My husband is sort of Bert-like. lol. His clothing always matches and their heads are shaped the same. It’s okay. I’ve made him aware of this point.
      Indian cuisine is much more hearty and healthy than ours is. If you like your blood to pump smoothly through your veins, I’d stay away from poutine. In all honesty, I haven’t had it in a few years. Way too fattening. But there are people here who have it all the time.
      The funny thing about Americans making fun of how we talk is that many, many of their famous movie stars are Canadian and they don’t even know it half the time. We can’t sound that funny.
      And I agree. All ookpiks are special! Glad you like them.

  3. You make me laugh….hard! I’m going to start calling my husband a “hydro-worker”. That should mess with him for a while. 🙂 If it makes you feel any better I don’t think Canadians talk any funnier than anybody else. The human race is pretty amusing when you think about it.
    I wouldn’t worry about plagiarizing from Sesame Street. They stole the names from “It’s A Wonderful Life” after all. I will say I rather prefer “Herbert and Ernie”….sounds so much more sophisticated!
    By the way – we say “pop” in Nebraska too.

      • Lol! You aren’t a dope at all. I’m just a giant vat of useless information. I’d be great on a game show based on insignificant trivia. I’ve no idea why that stuff sticks in my head but math never did.

  4. One of my really good friends is Canadian, and I love getting ‘Canada Lessons’ from him. Sometimes I think he can’t possibly be serious. I mean, I would have no idea if he were to just make a bunch of stuff up, haha.

    BUT! If you think Canadians have a weird vocabulary, you’ve obviously never met someone from Pittsburgh, Pa. I think the most amusing Pitt-ism is ‘gumband’ instead of rubber band. It took me a while to figure that one out when I first heard it.

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