Although there are multiple dialects spoken in Toronto, English is the most frequently spoken language in the city. As such, many Toronto slang phrases are made up of traditional English words, sounds, and spellings, but with slightly different meanings than those found in your standard American dictionary.
"That one will set ya back about five Loonies!" Pronounced "loon-E," a "Loonie" is not the name for a crazy person who just escaped from a mental institution. In fact, it is something much more practical – it is the nickname for one Canadian Dollar in coin form. But where did this strange Toronto local lingo come from?
Introduced in 1987, the Loonie is named for the image of the well-known Canadian bird, the loon, which is stamped on its reverse. Although the coin's front bears the image of Queen Elizabeth II, the Loonie side is the one that stood out. The Loonie lingo is so commonplace that when our two dollar coin was minted a few years later, it was instinctively dubbed the "Toonie."
Could you pass me a serviette, please?" Passed down from our French ancestors, a serviette ("sur-vee-et") is our name for the common table napkin. If you're eating out at a fine dining establishment in Toronto, don't worry if your waiter insists on giving you a serviette when you ask for a napkin!
"Excuse me, where is your washroom?" In proper Toronto slang, this is how one asks "where's the toilet?" Why not just say "bathroom"? Simple: when you're looking for a place to relieve yourself and wash your hands, particularly in a public establishment, you're not asking to use a room with a bathtub in it, correct?
"If you want to get to the Toronto Eaton Centre fast, go ride the Rocket." With a city as big as Toronto, public transportation is an absolute necessity. The Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) operates the mass transit system which consists of buses, streetcars and subways. Founded in 1954, the TTC originally operated subway cars painted in a bright hue akin to the American fire engine red. Naturally, the public nicknamed these vibrant, express people-movers the "Red Rockets." Years later, forms of transit operated by the TTC are no longer painted bright red, but they do sport a red stripe, harking back to their beloved Red Rocket ancestors. And that is how the TTC's "Rocket" nickname came to be. So, when you need to get somewhere in a hurry, just look for the nearest Rocket!
"Use the Rocket to get through the GTA." No, we're not talking about the video game, but rather the three letter code name for Toronto. A widely used acronym meaning "Greater Toronto Area," the GTA encompasses Toronto and its four regional municipalities: York, Halton, Peel and Durham. This particular Toronto slang is similar to the abbreviations used for large cities in the US (Miami - MIA, Atlanta - ATL, etc.). Toronto also goes by a few other names: The T-dot, T.O., and The Big Smoke, just to name a few.
"We're just waiting for Hydro to get the lines back up." Because many Canadian power companies generate their power via hydroelectricity, "Hydro" has become shorthand for the city's electric companies and the services that they provide. If you hear some Torontonians talking about how long they've been employed with Hydro, then the chances are good that they work for the Toronto Hydro Electric System.
The Don Valley Parking Lot
"If you're going downtown, good luck avoiding the Don Valley Parking Lot." The Don Valley Parkway is a major roadway serving the Greater Toronto Area. It is a complex 15km (9.3mi), six-lane highway that runs between Highway 401 and the Gardiner Expressway/downtown Toronto. Much to the dismay of Toronto residents, the Don Valley Parkway is prone to overcapacity (i.e. traffic jams) at least once or twice per day, earning the nickname Don Valley Parking Lot in Toronto local language.
"It's chilly out there. You might want to get your tuque." Pronounced "tuk" or "toohk," a tuque is a knitted cap or ski hat worn on the head in cold weather. Toronto, and all of Canada for that matter, can get quite cold, especially during the winter months. When it does, you'll want to be sure to keep a tuque with you to keep your brain from freezing!
"Better call his friends; he's really pissed." If someone is described as "pissed" in Toronto, it's not because they're really annoyed, but rather they are quite drunk. So, if you plan on getting pissed, be sure to bring along a sober driver or enough money to ride the Rocket back to your hotel room.
"Oh wow, you have one of those new 370 Zeds?!" Commonly used anywhere from British Columbia to the British Isles, the word "Zed" actually refers to the letter Z in the Latin alphabet. Why "Zed" instead of "Zee"? Well, that's a bit like asking why people in some places drive on the "wrong" side of the road. It's just another charming cultural idiosyncrasy.