It’s no secret that Toronto has long been touted as the most culturally diverse city in the world (statistically speaking), and if you’ve never been here, just check out the crowd at one of our Raptor’s games, or try to find a beloved restaurant serving up your favourite obscure foreign delicacy (I can almost guarantee you will) – Nawmean?! But recently, we’ve been hearing a lot of controversial takes on social media surrounding ‘Toronto Mans’ and their slang. Like, what even is Toronto slang? Who are the Mandem? Is Ting a noun or a beverage? Who’s allowed to say what? Are you dumb? And, the doozie, is Drake appropriating West-Indian culture?! (insert palm to the face here).
Let’s be honest, almost anyone who grew up riding the rocket (our subway line), has stopped at least once for a Beef Patty on their way home from school (the Bathurst station vs. Kennedy rivalry lives on to this day). We’ve mostly all been to the Caribana parade at least once, we all had a friend who was strictly Halal, and we all have a favourite spot for either Pho, Tandoori, Shawarma, Injera, Doubles, Tamales, Souvlaki, Congee, or Matzoh Ball soup. By the same token, we know each other’s words, from Patois to Yiddish to Tagalog.
Where do we draw the line between cultural appropriation and cultural APPRECIATION in a city as mixed as The 6ix?
As long as we are respecting boundaries (offensive language aside), is it really problematic to ask your friend “wha gwan?” Should we be offended every time a gentile asks if everything is “Kosher” (and not at all referring to food)? Should Yids be hoarding all the bagels? (Because we do have some seriously good bagels, don’t @ me).
So from one Ashkenazi mother of 2 Blewish sons, and her Pastafarian (Italian-Jamaican) cousin, we decided to metaphorically “run in”. Because there is one thing Toronto has that’s undeniable, and it’s our cultural Je ne c’est quoi. It’s that thing you just can’t put your finger on, but you know exactly what we mean. It’s not always the words, it’s the way they’re used. It’s the way a Toronto man can string together a couple syllables, saying hardly anything at all (nyeah ehhh), and yet, you know exactly what he’s trying to say. Or alternatively, the way he can seamlessly spit a whole entire saga, that could mean literally nothing at all (but it sure sounds nice… or Nize it?!).
In fact, we think the thing that people are criticizing Drake for, is actually what makes him SO TORONTO after all. His ability to adapt like a chameleon whether he’s in Malvern or Memphis, Forest Hill or Weston Road, and always manage to fit right in, really is a reflection of something Toronto should be proud of (in our humble opinions).
Torontonians are cultural curators, and we all come by it honestly (especially Aubrey).
To all the Mandem we’ve ever loved… Nawmean is an ode to you.
So big up yourselves fam.