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 man 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

Army and Navy was in business for more than a century but closed earlier this year, citing COVID-19 as the cause. The space at Langley Mall has been taken over by McFrugal’s Discount Outlet. (Lisa Farquharson/Black Press Media)
Few closures as Langley businesses battle COVID-19 downturn

Smaller, Canadian chains among casualties locally

Velma MacAllister, coordinator of the Langley Christmas Bureau, holds up donated gift cards at the bureau’s temporary location at Timms Community Centre in Langley City. The bureau is in need of cash, gift card or cheque donations this year to support 800 local families. (Joti Grewal/Langley Advance Times)
Generosity imperative this holiday season

Langley Christmas Bureau is dependent on the donation of gift cards this year

Abbotsford’s Chase Claypool celebrates with teammates after scoring a touchdown on Sunday. (Karl Roser/Pittsburgh Steelers)
Abbotsford’s Chase Claypool scores 10th touchdown

First wide receiver since 1960 to record 10 touchdowns in 10 games, Steelers still unbeaten

Fire crews dealt with a flooding home in Aldergrove last Tuesday night. (Liane Bisaillon/Special to The Star)
Aldergrove woman seeks help with flooded basement after receiving ‘lack of support’

Liane Bisaillon said she has not been able to get a hold of her property manager

People wearing face masks to help curb the spread of COVID-19 cross a street in downtown Vancouver, on Sunday, November 22, 2020. The use of masks is mandatory in indoor public and retail spaces in the province. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. reports 17 COVID deaths, 1,933 new cases as hospitalizations surge over the weekend

There are 277 people in hospital, of whom 59 are in ICU or critical care

BC Teachers' Federation President Teri Mooring is asking parents of school-aged children to encourage the wearing of masks when possible in schools. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito)
LETTER: Teachers union encourages culture of mask wearing in B.C. schools

BCTF President Teri Mooring asks parents to talk with children about wearing masks in school

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speak to the media about the COVID-19 virus outside Rideau Cottage in Ottawa, Friday, Nov. 20, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada’s inability to manufacture vaccines in-house will delay distribution: Trudeau

First doses of COVID-19 vaccine expected in first few months of 2021, prime minister says

Police lights
Vancouver elementary school locked down after unknown man walks into classroom

Police arrested the man and sent him for a psych evaluation

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

(Pixabay)
All dance studios, other indoor group fitness facilities must close amid updated COVID-19 rules

Prior announcement had said everything except spin, HIIT and hot yoga could remain open

B.C. Liberal interim leader Shirley Bond speaks to reporters from Prince George via Zoom conference, Nov. 24, 2020. MLAs are being sworn in for the legislature session this week, many of them also by video. (B.C. legislature)
B.C. Liberal leadership contest will wait for election post-mortem

Interim leader set to face NDP on payments for COVID-19

Tabor Home in Abbotsford. (Ben Lypka/Abbotsford News)
Tabor Home in Abbotsford records 8 deaths and 124 COVID-19 cases

63 per cent of residents at long-term-care facility have tested positive

Most Read