Youth are drawing from several languperiods spoken by the city’s immigrants to develop a novel create of English


Derek Denis remembers the exact moment, in 2015, as soon as he learned the word mans. An assistant professor of linguistics at U of T Mississauga, Denis was speaking with students around the word man being offered in the place of “I,” which researchers had actually begun hearing in immiprovide neighbourhoods of London, England also.

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A young woman raised her hand: “But we havesomething just choose that right here.” The student sent out Denis messeras she hadreceived from friends. Sure sufficient, tright here was mans being used for “I,”as in, “Mans has occupational in the morning, just how about you?”

Denis was floored – as a biologist might beafter seeing a recently discovered species of bird for the first time. The factor,as he describes, is that pronouns, linguistically, are choose concrete. They hardlyever before change. As other words move fluidly in and out of style, “I”and“you” and their cousins remain constant. This usage of mans (like manin England) was totally brand-new – and, in the background of the English language,fairly rare. “Pronouns tend to be one of the many steady aspects of the grammar,so this was really cool to me,” he says.

As a linguistics researcher, Denis had actually end up being interested in what happens to language once immigrants from a wide variety of backgrounds come together in one place, such as London, New York, Paris or Toronto. What is arising from these cities, normally from working-class neighbourhoods, he claims, are “multi-ethnolects” – dialects of the local language that encompass words from multiple ethnic teams.

Denis has been examining the Toronto variation of this phenomenon – Multisocial Toronto English – considering that 2015, and has end up being an professional in what’s popularly recognized as “Toronto Slang.”

He claims mans is the best-known example of Toronto Slang, many thanks in component to a Drake appearance on Saturday Night Live in 2016. In a sketch referred to as “Babsence Jeopardy,” the Toronto-born musician claims, “It’s really excellent to be here, dawg. I couldn’t take the TTC but mans made it over anymethod.”

Where mans came from is a little of amystery: Denis states it has no straight analog in other languages spoken inToronto. The earliest point out he could discover remained in the virtual Urban Dictionary,in 2006 (where it shows up as manz); it doesn’t show up on Twitter until2010. In an scholastic paper published in 2016, Denis writes that the mostobvious theory is that the word came from London’s man, however he arguesthis is unlikely. Since London and Toronto have large Jamaideserve to communitiesthat usage equivalent versions of Jamaideserve to Creole, it’s rather possible mans/mandeveloped in each city individually, however from the same Caribbean language.

In four years, Denis has documented dozens of Toronto Slang words and also phrases, which he tracks through conversations with people he recruits for his research study. He likewise provides YouTube, which contains videos of human being talking about Toronto Slang.

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Illustration by David Sparshott

Many words come from Jamaihave the right to patois. But Somali and also Arabic are likewise substantial influences, claims Denis. From Somali (yet originally Arabic), Toronto slang draws wallahi, interpretation “I swear,” as in “Wallahi, mans didn’t takeyour phone.” Arabic provides us miskeen, a pathetic perchild or situation.

Borrowings from these 3 societies are so widespread in Toronto Slang partially because the city is house to many type of immigrants from these places. But there’s even more to it than that, says Denis.

Word options reveal even more around us than simplywhat we’re trying to say. Our style of speaking, our pronunciation and also the wordvariants we usage – our “idiolect” – reflect facets of our background and howwe desire the civilization to view us. “There’s an aspect of Jamaican culture that’scool,” says Denis. “So, taking words from that society is also viewed as cool.”

It deserve to be controversial, too. Drake, for one,has been the targain of criticism for making use of certain words (originating in theJamaican or Somalian areas, for example) that some argue he doesn’t havean authentic case to because he is not from these areas himself. Denisclaims he plans to discover this question of “cultural appropriation” in the nextphase of his study.

Denis’s interemainder in Toronto Slang stems partially from the reality that he thrived up in Scarbostormy, wbelow many type of of the borrowed words originate. But he also wants to record a brand-new dialect spoken by young world – specifically those who are immigrants or the youngsters of immigrants – so they’re not labelled as having a language deficiency. (According to Denis, this has actually emerged in the U.S. in the Babsence, Mexican-Amerihave the right to and Indigenous Hawaiian communities.) “These kids are simply speaking the language they learned,” he states. “There’s nothing cognitively wrong with them.”

Although multi-ethnolects have emerged in a number of cities, Toronto Slang is uniquely Canadian, states Denis, reflecting our very own social makeup. “We pride ourselves on being a multicultural society, and this is the linguistic outcome of that,” he claims. “I think it’s something to be proud of.”

A Concise Guide to Toronto Slang

Mans: I, we, me, us, them – however also a basic plural noun. Influence from Jamaican patois and London yet homegrvery own in Toronto.

Ting: Thing, casual connection. From Jamaican patois yet a homegrvery own Toronto interpretation.

Ahlie: “Eh” or “ideal.” A confirmational word. From patois.

Wallahi: I swear to God. Literally “by God.” From Somali (borrowed right into Somali from Arabic).

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Bucktee: General pejorative. From Somali word for drug addict (but derogatory, favor “crackhead”).

Nize it: Shut up. A clipping of “acknowledge.” (“Recognize you’re out of line and also shut up.”)