A-Z of Canada: E is for Emerge

E is for... 

Ideas were thin on the ground for this post. Glancing at my notebook shows just Eggos, eagles… wait, eagles? Not sure what the thinking was behind that but it’s in there nonetheless.

Anyway, inspiration dwells in the strangest places and on a whim I’ve settled on something that unfailingly sets off the vocab-vixen in me. I was reminded of it just recently in a conversation where an acquaintance was relating a trip to hospital,

“I’d had this back pain all day and by the evening I couldn’t even sit down I was in so much pain, so I went to emerge where I waited nine hours to be seen.”

‘Emerge’, in case it escaped you, is how Canadians refer to the Emergency department – the Accident and Emergency section we flippantly term ‘ayanee’ (A&E) in the UK.

Every time I hear it, my snobby inner linguist yells, “You DO know that has an altogether different meaning, don’t you?” I know, I know, I sound horribly supercilious. I have nothing against slang – I love wordplay – but appropriating a vividly descriptive verb, robbing it of its meaning and demoting it to a banal noun, all to save yourself the work of having to utter two extra syllables, just grates on me like fingernails on a blackboard.



Move out of or away from something and come into view.

Become apparent, important, or prominent: “Philadelphia has emerged as the favorite”; “a world of emerging economic giants”.


appear – arise – turn up

It was nine hours before she emerged from emerge. Sounds like a butterfly breaking out of its chrysalis, doesn’t it? See? – that poor word was naturally meant for a higher calling.

Now, before anyone gets offended, I’m well aware Canada isn’t alone in this linguistic mangling. Is it my personal curmudgeonliness that has me wincing at such lazy misuse of language or do you find yourself nodding in agreement? Maybe you have your own examples of blatant cruelty to language, share them in the comments, please – don’t hold back.

Another one that makes me want to vaporise the speaker with a death-ray glance is

my bad

I HATE that… my bad what? Manners, luck, English Language teacher, breath? Commonly used by gangsta-wannabes and folk with a similarly  conformist bent, it allegedly came about when an unnamed African basketball player in the 1980’s (who spoke little English) said it after missing a free throw. Several sportscasters used the phrase as a joke and it became part of popular culture.

Anyway, I digress.

Did she say Eggos? What are Eggos?

Eggos, in case anyone’s wondering, are a brand of frozen waffles made by Kelloggs that you don’t need a waffle-iron to prepare. Our  introduction to breakfast waffles (not the potato kind found in supermarket freezers back home –  “They’re waff-ely versatile…”) occurred in the hotel we briefly called home upon moving here. Freshly made waffles were part of the self-serve breakfast buffet. We LOVED the ritual of pouring batter into hot irons, closing the jaws and waiting for the two-minute timer to BEEP, then slathering the hot lattices with maple syrup, watching it pool and disappear before our eyes, imagining it drenching each tiny air-pocket with glistening golden sweetness and anticipating that delicious syrup-soaked first mouthful.

By comparison, our one and only experience with Eggos was like eating cardboard – a joyless, tasteless act of oral-ingestion. There aren’t many products that can claim the packaging to be on a gastronomical par with its contents. We got a coupon for a free box with a packet of cereal – if it happens again I’ll use it as a coaster.

The debate about which is the superior Canadian breakfast, waffles or pancakes rages on. Not having a waffle-iron, we’re in the pancake camp by default. Back in the UK, on weekends I made English pancakes – the middle child to parchment-thin French crepes and their more substantial American counterpart. K and I ate them with the traditional lemon-juice and sugar, and the kids liked a generous smear of honey or chocolate spread on theirs. Mmmmmmm, just remembering the zinging punch-kiss of lemon and sugar on the tongue is making my mouth water.

When my worn-out pancake pan no longer lived up to its ‘non-stick- epithet (making the tossing part somewhat tricky) and I couldn’t find a similar small, light replacement, K tried a recipe for American pancakes and a new love was born! No tossing required – they’re sturdy enough to be flipped with a fish slice. We wolf them down with maple syrup, whipped cream and fresh fruit – try the recipe here. Go easy though; you don’t want to OD and end up in ‘emerge’ – it’ll be your bad.


In the next installment of My Personal A-Z of Canada, we’re continuing the culinary theme with fiddleheads and funnelcake – Why not subscribe so you don’t miss it?

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By Aisha Ashraf

An autistic Irish immigrant in a cross-cultural marriage, Aisha Ashraf is the archetypal outlander, writing to root herself through place and perspective. Published in The Rumpus, The Maine Review, River Teeth, HuffPost and elsewhere, her work explores the legacy of trauma, the nature of being an outsider and the narrow confines of belonging. She currently lives in Canada.


  1. Always enjoy reading your take on the the differences between Canadian English and British English. It was a lot of fun returning to Canada recently and reacquainting myself with the language. ‘Brutal’ kept making an appearance, as did ‘Psych’ which I’m still not certain I know the meaning of! Feel free to enlighten me 🙂

    1. Hi Russ! Did you manage to meet up with any old Canadian chums and wow them with your new Aussie accent? You’ll have to tell me the context of ‘psych’ before I hazard a guess, but you know ‘brutal’, don’t you?

  2. This post made me hungry just reading about lashings, maple syrup, honey, pancakes and waffles, mmmm. Emerge as short for the emergency room is a hoot! (Down south from you we refer to it as the ‘ER’ – think George Clooney’s television series rocket to fame.) Funny to hear ‘psych’ is popular; it used to mean something like ‘gotcha’ as in you psyched someone out.

  3. Thank you for your opinion about the idiotic “my bad”. I always hated that expression since it does not make any sense. Loved your article, very entertaining as usual.

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