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blog by S.J. Velasquez  • 

Much like the pop-vs.-soda debate, there’s linguistic rifts among those who retreat to second homes in summer.

Canada’s Globe and Mail recently published Camp, cottage or cabin? What do you call your weekend getaway?—and it raises questions about what words mean to a person’s cultural identity.

The Globe and Mail article references a study conducted by Charles Boberg, a professor of linguistics at McGill University, who asked Canadians to describe “a small house in the countryside, often by a lake, where people go on summer weekends.” The responses varied greatly from region to region.

“Cabin” reigned supreme in Newfoundland, where 85 percent agreed on that particular answer. So did 72 percent Vancouver-Victoria respondents. In Toronto, no one preferred that term.

“Cottage,” though, is extremely popular in eastern and southern Ontario. In Toronto—just about a two-hour drive from Buffalo—89 percent of survey participants referred to getaway homes as cottages. It’s also widely used in Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia.

“It’s interesting that, in Ontario, the word recruited for this meaning was originally used for a peasant’s home or farm,” Prof. Boberg said in the article. “Whereas the one used in Western Canada referred more to a rude shack built in the woods by pioneers or loggers – perhaps indicating a more virile western kind of experience versus a more genteel Ontario experience. And then camp is the ultimate virile word.”

I was fortunate enough to grow up with a family summer home just a short jaunt from the shores of Lake Erie near Silver Creek. We used “cottage” and “beach house” almost exclusively, and we still do today. But when I lived in Syracuse, friends would retreat to “camps” in summer, which I’d never heard before. I envisioned tents on a campsite, complete with hot dogs on long sticks charring over a campfire.

Whatever the word(s) used to describe this seasonal abode, there are connotations attached.

So, it seems, that the debate in Canada must also exist in the states. Did/do you retreat to a seasonal vacation home? What did/do you call it? Leave your responses in the comments below.


Photo courtesy of Flickr / veggiefrog.

TAGGED: beaches, cabin, canada, globe and mail, lake house, lexicon, silver cr, synonyms

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  1. John May 23, 2012 @ 7:46am

    Its so amazing to spend summers days in cottage..feeling so glaze

    John's avatar