Stefan Dollinger, editor in chief of the Second Edition of the Dictionary of Canadianisms on Historical Principles. (Octavian Lacatusu/Oak Bay News)

Stefan Dollinger, editor in chief of the Second Edition of the Dictionary of Canadianisms on Historical Principles. (Octavian Lacatusu/Oak Bay News)

Oak Bay resident revises grand dictionary of Canadianisms

Stefan Dollinger spent a decade updating the Dictionary of Canadianisms on Historical Principles

Oak Bay resident Stefan Dollinger always loved languages. He spent hours and hours in the depths of the Vienna University Library, studying the origins of modern language, and more specifically, English.

In early 2000 though, the Austrian-born lexicographer and University of British Columbia English department professor stumbled on what seemed to be a bible – or more so a linguistic map – of the Canadian language: the Dictionary of Canadianisms on Historical Principles (DCHP) circa 1967.

“Lots of people who are in languages and literature, they don’t really know about it yet,” said Dollinger, adding that as it happened, he was also writing his PhD dissertation on early Ontario English, (ironically not on lexicons). It wasn’t until 2005 conference in Toronto when the idea of someone revising DCHP surfaced.

Dollinger eagerly stepped in, and Nelson, DCHP’s original publisher, approached him for what would take nearly a decade, $300,000 and 43 talented students to create what is now known as DCHP-2. And, unlike online sources telling the origins of Canadianisms, Dollinger and his team’s approach is meticulously processed.

“There are lots of lists online that talks about Canadianisms, Canadian words and meanings, but they’re not very good… this has been a scientific approach towards geographical variation in English,” he said.

They didn’t just look at Canadian sources, either, but at American and British, New Zealand and Australian language pools for reference. Dollinger added 1,002 new head words and roughly 1,300 new meanings, with a total of around 11,000 head words and 14,500 meanings. The first ‘67 edition of DCHP was also digitized for easier access.

DCHP is not necessarily for immigrants and newcomers either, but a lingual source rich with history.

“It’s mostly for Canadians who really need authoritative information about what it is that makes their English special,” Dollinger said. “We did a tenth of what the original team did, but when you look at the new entries, they are 10 times as long than the old ones.”

There are some revealing, if not startling, entries. For example, the term “canuck” originates from the Hawaiian kanaka ‘man’ and was used in discriminatory and racist contexts, as well as describing a French-Canadian individual. Canuck took a lighter meaning in 1945, when a Vancouver hockey team, the Vancouver Canucks, was formed, and remains today as the most frequent use of the word.

Still, the reality is that language, and indeed Canadian English, is constantly evolving.

“It’s just logical development of linguistics and the way people speak,” Dollinger said, adding each community develops its own linguistic features and cultures. “In the old European context, the longer a particular area has been there, the more diverse it is in terms of dialect. In the last two or three centuries, that has been counterbalanced by the influence of standard languages.”

The project doesn’t stop here, either. Dollinger is planning on a possible DCHP-3, and mulling to maybe fundraise a print edition of DCHP-2. This year, he will work with University of Victoria’s archives of the first-edition of the English dictionary to compile a book on the making of Canadian English.

octavian.lacatusu@oakbaynews.com.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Nanaimo city councillors have recommended a $1.3-million cycle track for Albert Street between Pine Street and Milton Street. The city held a budget-focused finance and audit committee meeting Friday. (Chris Bush/News Bulletin)
City of Nanaimo budgets for new $1.3-million bike lane on Albert Street

Potential property tax increase now at 3.6 per cent after finance and audit meeting Friday

Police escorted residents of a homeless encampment on Wesley Street to and from the site to collect their belongings Thursday and Friday following a fire that destroyed several tents and ignited a number of propane tanks. The encampment has been permanently cleared and its residents dispersed. (Chris Bush/News Bulletin)
Occupants of Nanaimo’s Wesley Street encampment offered support following fire and displacement

City of Nanaimo permanently clears homeless camp over ongoing safety concerns

Nanaimo RCMP hope the public can help identify a woman driving a Ford pickup who fled the scene following and collision on Wellington Road Tuesday. (File photo)
Nanaimo RCMP seek driver alleged to have fled from hit-and-run on Wellington Road

Driver allegedly flees scene after head-on crash between two Ford pickups

Creativity Commons manger Jonathon Bigelow is printing copies of ‘Alone but Not Alone: Poetry in Isolation’ using the Nanaimo Harbourfront Library’s Espresso Book Machine. (Photo courtesy Corinne Shortridge)
Nanaimo Harbourfront Library releases COVID-19-themed poetry anthology

‘Alone but Not Alone: Poetry in Isolation’ features poets from across the Vancouver Island region

A Canada-wide warrant has been issued for Romey O’Neill. (Photo submitted)
Nanaimo RCMP seek man wanted on immigration warrant

Romey O’Neill, 26, rented Kia sedan in Nanaimo, car was later reported stolen

Pickleball game in Vancouver on Sunday, November 8, 2020. B.C.’s public health restrictions for COVID-19 have been extended to adult team sports, indoors and outside. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
711 more COVID-19 cases detected in B.C. Friday

‘Virus is not letting up and neither can we’

B.C. NDP leader John Horgan releases his election platform, Vancouver, Oct. 6, 2020, featuring COVID-19 relief payments promised for most households. (B.C. NDP photo)
Next $1.5 billion in B.C. COVID-19 cash ‘prudent,’ Horgan says

New round of payments for household incomes up to $175,000

The opening day on Mount Washington this year was Dec. 4. Screenshot
Mount Washington opens on time, COVID-19 protocols in place

“We’re super excited - it’s been six months in the planning.”

Steve Metcalfe, Quality Foods Harewood store manager, holds a poinsettia and a Coins for Kids donation jar, two symbols of Christmas spirit. (Chris Bush/News Bulletin
Coins for Kids collects for Christmas causes in Nanaimo

News Bulletin fundraising for Great Nanaimo Toy Drive, Boys and Girls Clubs

Demonstrators, organized by the Public Fishery Alliance, outside the downtown Vancouver offices of Fisheries and Oceans Canada July 6 demand the marking of all hatchery chinook to allow for a sustainable public fishery while wild stocks recover. (Public Fishery Alliance Facebook photo)
Angry B.C. anglers see petition tabled in House of Commons

Salmon fishers demand better access to the healthy stocks in the public fishery

(Hotel Zed/Flytographer)
B.C. hotel grants couple 18 years of free stays after making baby on Valentines Day

Hotel Zed has announced a Kelowna couple has received free Valentines Day stays for next 18 years

Farmers raise slogans during a protest on a highway at the Delhi-Haryana state border, India, Thursday, Dec. 3, 2020. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau rejected the diplomatic scolding Canada’s envoy to India received on Friday for his recent comments in support of protesting Indian farmers. Tens of thousands of farmers have descended upon the borders of New Delhi to protest new farming laws that they say will open them to corporate exploitation. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Manish Swarup
Trudeau brushes off India’s criticism for standing with farmers in anti-Modi protests

The High Commission of India in Ottawa had no comment when contacted Friday

Nurse Kath Olmstead prepares a shot as the world’s biggest study of a possible COVID-19 vaccine, developed by the National Institutes of Health and Moderna Inc., gets underway Monday, July 27, 2020, in Binghamton, N.Y. U.S. biotech firm Moderna says its vaccine is showing signs of producing lasting immunity to COVID-19, and that it will have as many as many as 125 million doses available by the end of March. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Hans Pennink
Canada orders more COVID vaccines, refines advice on first doses as cases reach 400K

Canada recorded its 300,000th case of COVID-19 on Nov. 16

Most Read