18 November 2017

Tuque and Toque: Linguistic Diplomacy

camp2The guy on the panel corrected my pronunciation of “tuque” because I thought it was spelled “toque.” And now we’re probably both looking it up. And mine turns into that most Canadian of rabbit-holes, the preference of toque over tuque clear in the Canadian Oxford, while the American Heritage Dictionary hems and haws, but awards it in the end to tuque.

Canadian Oxford Dictionary

toque: (toook): (also tuque) Cdn

tuque: (no pronunciation guide): var. of toque

American Heritage Dictionary

toque (tōk): …See tuque

tuque (toook): …Also called toque.

Finally it becomes clear, the answer to that age-old question, How do you tell the difference between a Canadian and an American?

The Canadian says toque and the American says tuque. But they sound the same, because the Canadian pronounces toque like tuque. A born American living in Canada, I became confused because I heard “tuque,” but read “toque,” and thought the people must be saying it wrong.

What I think happened was this:

The Americans heard the Canadians saying what sounded like “tuque,” so they transcribed it that way. The Canadians, meanwhile, paid homage to their Francophone forbears who spelled the peaked cap toque. Never mind that the venerable French authority Larrouse prescribes saying the o as in “toss,” or as a New Yawker says “talk.” The Canucks must have figured, one o’s as good as two or three, and we’ll bloody well say “toooque” if we want to. But why bother doing all that extra writing, when there’s wood to hew and fish to fry. Toque.

Back on the US dictionary ranch, they figured, if those barbarians of the great white north gunna inseist on sayin it lahk thayat, maht-swell spell it that way, foah the record. Th’way itsa posta be, am ah raht? Tuque.

- By Nowick Gray