Canada's History


- — Nancy Payne

While the watercraft mentioned in this article is long gone from Canadian rivers, it has left behind a raft (poor pun fully intended) of variant spellings. As author Joe Calnan notes, bateau is the generic French word for a boat, and yet the Oxford Canadian Dictionary lists “bateau” as a perfectly legitimate English word for a flat-bottomed boat that is pointed at both ends and is usually propelled using poles and oars. In historical circles, however, “batteau” is the most common spelling in English for this type of craft, with the plural being the très French “batteaux” — a classic Canadian compromise. And, speaking of Canadianne­ss, let’s just politely ignore the creative phonetic spellings (“battoe” anyone?) and leave these unique historical boats to the boatmen. Sorry, batteaumen.

A naval architect’s drawing of a batteau built at Kingston Yard, Upper Canada. This is a larger craft, measuring roughly fourteen metres long, three metres wide, and one metre deep.

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