Converter Or Remote?

Do you know what a converter is? If I asked you to hand me the converter, would you know what to give me? I’m going to guess that most people don’t know what that is, and that’s understandable.

‘Converter’ is Canadian-speak for TV remote, though I also found this Reddit thread that believes that it’s mostly an Ontario thing.

And that just boggles my mind. How does one province manage to almost collectively just use and understand another name for such a random object? I know there’s gotta be some cultural or linguistic explanation that I’m too lazy to really look into, but it is interesting.

Especially because personally I use both “remote” and “converter” interchangeably. They both feel so natural coming out of my mouth, which is weird because I’ve been trying to think about which one I use more or in what context and even I can’t separate the two in my thoughts. I think my family and I do use remote more, though perhaps that’s because I’ve also shortened remote to “mote” as in “mote me” when I want to be passed the remote. It’s what all the cool kids are saying.

Andy Bernard saying  Andy Bernard explaining

I did wonder if “converter” has roots in Britain, as a lot of Canadian terms and phrases do come from across the pond, but apparently not. Not that I’m wildly surprised, as there are actually several more words used to reference the small channel changing device. Clicker, Zipper, Flipper, Channel-Changer… What do you call it?

And this isn’t the only example. Just the other day I saw a post on Tumblr asking people what the thing you use to push groceries around at the store is called. I call them “shopping carts” but one girl I follow on Tumblr called them “buggies”.

It’s really kind of fascinating. I mean, not fascinating enough to change my major to linguistics (I took an introduction course two years ago, and no thank you) but it’s the kind of thing that you think about on the bus with an intenseness. How many things in our world have multiple names in the same language? And why? How does it catch on? Can I just start calling socks “feetos” now? Like, “Mom, I’m missing a feeto. Have you seen it?” Or am I not popular enough to have “feeto” be a thing?

I guess it’s like slang and internet lingo. Slang has also fascinated me, because I find myself using it both ironically and unironically. Who comes up with it, and how does it work its way into our vocabularies? What is it about slang that is so functional?

man asking "do you understand the words that are coming outta my mouth?"

Anyway, I wish I had the time or desire to look these questions up for you, but I do not, so all you get is this post of rambles. That, and an invitation to contact all your foreign friends and ask them what they think words mean or what they call things. It’s fun.

That’s all for now!

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13 thoughts on “Converter Or Remote?

  1. I thought about going to school for linguistics, but very few schools offer it as a major. Which is really sad, bc stuff like this really is fascinating to think about and horrible to research on your own!

    • That’s true. I think it’s a major at my school, but I don’t know anyone taking it. I don’t think I’d like being a linguist. I’m interested but not that interested.

    • Oh, I’m sorry, I didn’t realize you were an old lady in a rocker wanting to watch Wheel Of Fortune, because that’s the only person who is allowed to call it a clicker.

  2. You’re so right, the English language definitely is weird! I had a bit of a crash course over summer in realising how differently the English/British and American English speakers use language and apply grammar – I’d never noticed it while blogging, but in a writing course suddenly trying to understand sentences that were missing small words like to and of made things quite tricky. And getting feedback from American learners like “you’re using too many ‘ofs’ and should cut some out”. Seems to be an elitist US drive to standardise English language too, that’s quite offensive and will never go down well with Brits, or some other English speaking populations. Linguistics is interesting when we’re expected to believe that words in spoken language use only appeared at a certain time of published writing as if invented by the author using such words. Not that anyone here takes much notice of such textbook parrot-fashion if the truth be told. Also interesting when we’re told words don’t exist if they don’t appear in certain dictionaries when we were taught from a young age that all words are valid and a word exists the moment it is spoken and taken into language use by speakers. But that’s my generation, as the curriculum changed during my high school years and they even began teaching the bible and religious education completely wrong for a while until the government changed again. And then our poor Millenial kids have been dreadfully let down by adoption of Academy type schooling and colleges with dumbed-down teaching practises with bogus tick-box strategies.

    The only other name I can think of that we ever used for the TV remote control is simply ‘the buttons’.
    We call a shopping cart a ‘trolley’ and a UK online-shopping-cart is a basket (but you probably know that).

    I was reading just the other day how in Canada there’s some kind of language authority policing language use, maybe it was an online hoax, seemed incredibly weird. Especially as I think it was a French speaking territory deciding what English words would be allowed to be used. Seemed very totalitarian. Guess Canada’s not a safe place to be a British tourist these days with our clumsy Englishness but not sure we’ve been getting appropriate factual news from Canada since whatever happened in summer 2009 anyway. Hope all ok over there. Best wishes for the new academic year 🙂

    • I follow a fair number of British bloggers and I don’t notice too many differences in their writing, unless they use really weird words or reference British things. I see the difference more on Twitter where slang is a bit more common.
      Canada is definitely a safe place for British tourists! Please come visit me and let me listen to that glorious accent of yours!

      • I’m not sure you’d find my accent glorious at all and my voice annoys the hell out of me. Especially since the dentist helped break more good teeth during treatment. That’s our NHS! So I won’t go back and apparently need to save up and head over to Eastern Europe for affordable remedial dental work. At least I think I’ve no dental mercury amalgam left to swallow now and a gold filling dropping out reduced myofacial pain from the combination of different metals in my teeth having had a cap with a steel post. Oddly enough the remains of my teeth seem mostly strong and I definitely had unnecessary fee generating drill and fills as a child. I really hope for the sske of the world that NHS standards don’t roll out especially for poorer populations. (Guess I was thinking of your recent post where I failed to think of anything to comment! Hope your pain is reduced as you adjust to your brace.)

        Back home (East Anglia) folks say they can tell I moved up North, even though Nottingham is barely North, maybe only by a degree or two. Meanwhile city friends always thought I spoke with a ‘posh’ accent and strangers still often assume I’m from the South East, Essex usually, and that really grates on me. Living alone for the last 8 years I probably lost any Nottinghamian influence in my accent, although a lot of city residents are from anywhere other than Notts, much like so many cities of the world with the impositions of capaitalist developments and gentrification. It’ll be a very long time before i travel anywhere. By the time I make a start on travel plans there probably won’t be time to even make it round my wishlist of British places to visit – Glasgow was top but the idea of DT owning a patch puts me off; Belfast is next on my list. Both have allegedly awesome contemporary art scenes. My childhood ambition was to travel around the entire coastline of Britain but I never got around to it. Canada does look awesome. I’ll defo schedule more virtual touring in the meantime.

  3. I’m from Peterborough Ontario originally, and lived with my grandparents for a few years. They had an old tv that had a switch that you had to stand up and walk over to change the channel. Then a high tech piece of equipment came out, that had a long brown plastic cord that plugged into the tv and on the other end, had a fairly large, fake wood design box, that had 2 rows of channel numbers and a button under every column. To select the tip row of channels, you flipped a switch up, to select the channels below, you flipped it down. This device ‘converted’ your old television into a high-tech unit that you could switch channels without burning calories. Hence the name convertor.

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