The linguistic enigma of the Canadian "about" is what American author Dan Nosowitz addresses in: What's Going On with the Way Canadians Say ‘About'? (2016, Atlas Obscura). This short piece addresses some of the more interesting things that make Canadian English and our accent unique, including the Canadian Shift, Canadian Raising, introducing monophthongs and diphthongs, and connects all of these things historically to the Great Vowel Shift in English.
To say that Canadians are saying “aboot” is linguistically inaccurate; “ooh” is a monophthong and the proper Canadian dialect uses a diphthong. “A-boat” would actually be a bit closer, but still relies on a monophthong. Why can’t Americans get their heads around the Canadian “about”?To be fair, it's not just Americans who have trouble with this one. When I was doing research in the Netherlands, the Canadian Raising lead to a funny conversation about another friend's boat. Basically, it went like this: Rhiannon: "Dennis has a boat." Dutch friend: "Dennis is about what?" Rhiannon: "No, Dennis has a boat." Dutch friend: "Dennis is about what?!" Rhiannon: "No. Dennis, he Has... A... Boat." Dutch friend: "Oh..."
In addition to this fun article, you might also consider this short (cheesy, fun, and informative) documentary put together by the CBC, The Canadian Experience: Talking Canadian (2004, running time 43.30 minutes).
- What's Going On with the Way Canadians Say ‘About'? (2016, Atlas Obscura)
- Wikipedia entries for Canadian Shift & Canadian Raising
- via the All Things Linguistic blog: The Canadian Experience: Talking Canadian (2004, CBC, running time 43.30 minutes).
- Kailin Wright, “Eh is Canadian, Eh? Usage, Functions, and the Identity Crisis of Eh.” The English Language(s): Cultural and Linguistic Perspectives. Ed. C. Percy. Toronto: University of Toronto, 2006.
- Plus, just for fun, eh? Web comics writer Kate Beaton's Canadian Stereotypes Comics.