Access DCHP-2's two forewords by clicking below, or continue reading:

by Patrick Drysdale, editorial team member of DCHP-1
by John Considine, professor of English, University of Alberta

Foreword by Patrick Drysdale, editorial team member of DCHP-1

It is now fifty years from 1967, the year of Canada's centenary and of the publication of DCHP-1. That this book was published at all was due to the generosity of some institutions (Canada Council, the Universities of Calgary and Victoria, and W.J. Gage Limited, later Gage Publishing and now sadly defunct) and to the determination and persistence of certain individuals. The origins of the dictionary lay in four collections of citations that had been assembled over a number of years by Charles Lovell, an American lexicographer, Douglas Leechman, an anthropologist specializing in the study of Canada's Native Peoples; Charles Crate, a teacher from Quesnel BC, who had spent much of his life in the Canadian north; and Walter Avis, Professor of English at Royal Military College, who had gathered material for a series of articles in the Journal of the Canadian Linguistic Association on language variation along the Canadian-US border. This mass of materials was brought together by the Canadian Lexicographical Centre, which was established by the Canadian Linguistic Association and chaired by M.H. Scargill, who was Professor of English at the University of Calgary and from 1964 Head of Linguistics and later Chairman of Graduate Studies at the University of Victoria. Many volunteer readers contributed to a growing fifth corpus at the Centre. This was in a pre-digital age, and each quotation was transcribed onto a six by four-inch citation slip. Some of the collections included newspapers, magazines, and even books where citations had been marked up but not yet put onto slips.

Imagine tens of thousands of citation slips, each with a quotation, possibly a gloss, and a bibliographic reference, arranged either alphabetically or by topic. Other slips were used for definitions and editor's notes. The slips of the Lovell collection alone filled almost fifty shoe boxes. The processing and merging of the slips was done by Walter Avis during a sabbatical in 1963-64 and during the summer of 1965, assisted by Charles Crate. During the ensuing two years Avis, working assiduously and persistently and sometimes seeking help or corroboration from the other editors, finished compiling the dictionary, selecting citations and using them as a basis for definitions, then writing etymologies, labels, and fistnotes. The material was finally sent to the publisher, checked by me, and passed on for typesetting and printing. Working closely with Avis, as I did for several years, was both a joy and a privilege.

In his introduction to the dictionary Avis appealed for further information and citations. "In this way," he wrote, "through our combined efforts, an improved second edition will be assured." Now at last it is here. As, alas, the only survivor of the original editorial board, I congratulate Stefan Dollinger, Margery Fee, and their assistants on their great achievement. I am enormously impressed by the extensive scope of the new book and by the sophistication of the labelling, symbols, Word Stories, and other aids to the reader. It is breaking new lexicographical ground, and a great deal of thought has gone into deciding how to make the best use of the digital presentation. I welcome this new dictionary and wish it every success in every way.

Patrick Drysdale
Oxfordshire, England
February 2017

Foreword by John Considine, Professor of English, University of Alberta

"Towards a second edition of A Dictionary of Canadianisms on Historical Principles" was a good title for the conference panel which T. K. Pratt and David Friend convened in 2005 as a way of starting a conversation about what might come after DCHP-1. The preposition towards implies orientation, and perhaps even movement, but makes no promises about arrival.  Nobody who spoke at that panel could have expected that DCHP-2 would be released in 2017: twelve years is a short time in lexicography. Nor were all our other expectations borne out: my own contribution to the panel assumed, wrongly in both cases, that DCHP-2 would be a printed book, and that it would emerge from a funded unit comparable to the Australian National Dictionary Centre.

The actual DCHP-2 is, indeed, instructively unlike the most important publication of the Australian National Dictionary Centre, namely the second edition of the Australian National Dictionary, which was released in two attractive printed volumes in 2016. The two dictionaries are both founded on historical principles which can be traced back to those of the Oxford English Dictionary. They both have comparable inclusion criteria, and have both benefitted from the wonderful increase in the availability of source material which is a result of the digitization of datable texts (particularly newspapers). However, DCHP-2 has made some quiet, and rather profound, developments away from the Oxford English Dictionary tradition.

One of these is the discursive quality of editorial text, particularly in the Word Story section of each entry. For instance, the definitions of the food term all-dressed have a familiar terseness (and that of sense 2, "a flavour of potato chip," is wisely non-committal), but the Word Story is doing something stylistically intriguing. It begins

Internationally, the term is still almost uniquely used in Canada (see Chart 1), but shows an interesting regional distribution within Canada. The term is a literal translation of a French term (toute garnie) and is most frequent in Quebec English, Eastern Ontario and Saskatechewan (the latter of which is a bit of a mystery).

This is the voice of a teacher rather than of a lexicographer of the old school; and it is likewise a teacher who finishes the entry with a photograph of a bag of chips, and who tactfully leaves the reader to reflect that the English-language legend on the bag, "all dressed potato chips," has as its French-language counterpart "croustilles assaisonnées."

This discursiveness takes advantage of the possibilities of born-digital lexicography. Two other developments in DCHP-2 do the same. One is the linking of an unusually high proportion of quotations to images of the original text, which has been particularly effective when these are available in stable open-access databases like Peel’s Prairie Provinces (as in the quotations of 1951 and 1970 s.v. parking stall). The other is the use of ingeniously devised frequency graphs to demonstrate both the extent to which lexical items are distinctively Canadian, and also their distribution within Canada: compare parking stall (overwhelmingly Canadian, and overwhelmingly Albertan within Canada) and health care card (actually much more distinctive of Australian English, but interestingly distributed within Canada). As the latter example suggests, DCHP-2 is keenly and admirably attentive to the international contexts of Canadian usage.

The examples which I have just mentioned all-dressed, parking stall, health care card suggest one other noteworthy feature of DCHP-2: its commitment to the vocabulary of everyday Canadian life. Katherine Barber remarked at the panel in 2005 that

When you look at the Dictionary of Canadianisms on Historical Principles as a global thing, you get the impression that Canadians are all out there on their snowshoes, trapping and fur-trading and logging and things like that, and you do not get an image of modern Canadian urban society at all. (Barber & Considine 2010: 142)

Lexicographers make choices which arise from their vision of the language they are documenting: one can speak of a dictionary as having an aesthetic. A modest and subtle aesthetic is to be appreciated here. A dictionary of the English of a given country can be overwhelmed with the names of flora and fauna: not least, in Canada, extinct fauna. The omission of a great deal of palaeontological vocabulary of Canadian origin from DCHP-2 is evidently a careful choice. The tyrannosaurid dinosaur Albertosaurus, named for its original find site in Alberta, is not to be found here; nor are a multitude of other ancient creatures such as Gwawinapterus, whose name has a Kwakiutl etymology and was assigned on the basis of a fossil found in British Columbia; nor is Burgess Shale, the name of a fossiliferous mudstone formation in the Rockies (which is registered in the Oxford English Dictionary s.v. Burgess n2). Other omissions point, I think, in the same direction, away from the accumulation of specialized words and towards the ordinary lived experience of Canadians.

The conversational tone of some of the editorial text in DCHP-2, its deftly managed relationship with its digital environment, and its attentiveness to the texture of everyday life orient it in a very surprising direction, for it could be said to share these three traits with the born-digital Urban Dictionary as much as with the born-printed Oxford English Dictionary tradition. The analogy should not be pressed too far: the lightness of touch with which DCHP-2 handles its evidence does not affect the weight and value of the evidence. But it does enable DCHP-2 at once to remain faithful to, and to give new life to, the intentions of the editors of DCHP-1 (Avis et al. 1967: xx): to produce a dictionary "in which the information is easy of access as well as interesting and informative" so that those who use it "will find the experience both rewarding and entertaining."

John Considine
Edmonton, AB
February 2017


Avis, Walter S., Charles Crate, Patrick Drysdale, Douglas Leechman and Matthew H. Scargill. 1967. Principles of Style. In DCHP-1, xvi-xx.

Barber, Katherine and John Considine. 2010. Revising the Dictionary of Canadianisms: views from 2005. In Current Projects in Historical Lexicography, edited by John Considine, 141-149. Newcastle: Cambridge Scholars.

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