How the Heck Do You Spell “Tuque”?

Montreal Syllabus TranslationIn Montreal, temperatures are dropping and it’s time for all those woolly appendages to make their annual appearance. A pair of mitts that Granny knit. Double-layered socks. Scarves wrapped across our faces, up to our eyeballs. And a woollen cap pulled snug over our ears, right down to the tips of our eyebrows.

Distinctly French Canadian, this headpiece is something Quebecers—and all Canadians—should be proud to don. But what is the correct way to spell our beloved woollen hat—toque, tuque, or touque?

According to the Oxford Guide to Canadian English Usage, “tuque” is a “Quebec French variant of the French word ‘toque,’” which originally referred to “the long knitted hat worn by voyagers and habitants. Adopted into English, it came to refer not only to these hats but also to any knitted woollen winter cap.”

While most dictionaries suggest both “toque” and “tuque” as possible spellings, the guide says that “many, perhaps most, Canadian writers now spell this word ‘toque.’” That said, “tuque” and even “touque” seem to have some traction in the Canadian press.

Which leaves me with one final pressing question: Can a toque have ear flaps? And if not, then what do you call that thing I am wearing right now?

Weigh in! Let us know what you’re wearing on your head this winter.

© Michael Mihin

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