US Hockey Players Can Sound Like 'Fake' Canadians

Linguist explains the phenomenon
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted May 19, 2024 9:03 AM CDT
US Hockey Players Can Sound Like 'Fake' Canadians
   (Getty / FotoDuets)

When linguist Andrew Bray was working on a study about slang used by hockey players, he got hung up on an odd question posed to him: "Are you trying to figure out why the Americans sound like fake Canadians?" That led him down a whole new avenue of study, explains a post at He discovered that American players do indeed shift their speech in subtle ways, but not because they're trying to sound Canadian—it's because they're trying to sound like hockey players. The distinction takes a little unpacking:

  • Canadian dialect: Stereotypical traits of Canadian speech include pronouncing "out" as "oot" and tagging questions with "eh?" notes Ars Technica. The post explains in detail how authentic Canadian speakers sound, well, Canadian, through their tongue configurations. (You will be educated on "monophthongal" vs. "diphthongal" pronunciations.)

  • Borrowing: In his interviews with professional American players, Bray, of the University of Rochester, found that they did indeed borrow features of the Canadian accent—particularly with hockey terms—though they ended up sounding not quite Canadian and not quite American either, he says.
  • Hockey variant: "This might be why they sound 'fake,'" says Bray, per Ars Technica. "I'm arguing that this is the construction of a linguistic variant uniquely linked to hockey. It's influenced by Canadian English, but it's not entirely Canadian." He presented his findings to the Acoustical Society of America and the Canadian Acoustical Association.
  • Identity: Bray surmises that American players would not display the dialect when they were, say, teens, but would gradually adopt it the higher they advance, given that Canadian players are so prevalent. "It is important to note that American hockey players are not trying to shift their speech to sound more Canadian," says Bray. "Rather, they are trying to sound more like a hockey player."
(More language stories.)

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