Pronunciation tip: Toronto places

Toronto’s street grid looks on a map like it was set in place by people who had competing ideas about how it should go. But Toronto’s street names– and some other place names – often seem to have been set down by people who had competing ideas about what letters should stand for, and what letters could be silent. I decided to do a streetcar trip west from my neighbourhood to show you a few Toronto names that are apparently there to trip up visitors:

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Versus Coffee

This is another coffice space article. Hey, I go to a different one every day, you know.

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Lookit the mess those jagoffs leave behind after 5 minutes. And they take up a lot of space per person too.

It’s early afternoon in Versus Coffee. The dudes in suits sweep through like a quick city summer storm, making a lot of noise and leaving a dirty mess behind but not really refreshing or invigorating the local flora and fauna. And then it is quiet again, except for the sound of keyboards tapping, staff chatting, and that thumping sweary music they’re playing, whatever it is. Continue reading

Art Square Café

Time to do some work.

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Every weekday afternoon I go work in a coffee place. Not the same one every day. I go back to some of them fairly often, but almost every week I try at least one place I haven’t been before. And I’m not close to running out of places yet. Toronto has hundreds of them, and I mean literally literally hundreds. This city runs on caffeine and not everyone gets theirs from Tim Hortons and Starbucks.

So I’m going to start writing about them because I feel like it. And also to taunt everyone who doesn’t live in Toronto or doesn’t have the chance to go work in a different coffee place every day. I’m calling this series Coffice Spaces because it’s for the squillions of text workers and other wandering drudges who use the co-office coffee spaces in town.

The first one I’ll write about is the one I’m sitting in as I write this, Art Square Café, which I have not been in before.  Continue reading


Have you ever heard of someone being in low dudgeon?

When someone’s in a dudgeon, when they leave a party or premises in a towering snit, when their dignity has been endangered and they will hold more grudge than an ordinary curmudgeon, if the altitude of their derangement is mentioned – and it often will be – it is always high. Continue reading

Season your fiction just right

This article was originally published in NINK, the magazine of Novelists, Inc.

Can you tell when and where (America or England) these passages were written? (And I promise the answers will be revealed.)

  1. When we were summoned to dinner, a young gentleman in a clerical dress offered his hand, and led me to a table furnished with an elegant and sumptuous repast, with more gallantry and address than commonly fall to the share of students.
  2. She wore the hood set back off her square honest face and showed her hair, dark brown with a tinge of Tudor red. Her smile was her great charm: it came slowly, and her eyes were warm. But what struck me most about her was her air of honesty.
  3. I was so vexed to see him stand up with her! But, however, he did not admire her at all; indeed, nobody can, you know; and he seemed quite struck with Jane as she was going down the dance.

Continue reading

Pronunciation tip: jalapeño and habanero

I made a little trip (two blocks) to my greengrocer at the St. Lawrence Market to shoot this pronunciation tip, just so I could illustrate it. It was a one-shot deal… and not without technical difficulties. But hey, I say the words, I eat the peppers. What more do you want?