Those outside of Canada often cite “eh” as the quintessential Canadian linguistic identifier. I thought the sentence suffix was unique to the Great White North, until I came here. Australians, especially those from New South Wales (at least more so than those from Victoria) have a habit of tacking “ay” onto the end of their sentences. One may think that this is no different than the Canadian “eh”, but I have noticed a few subtle differences. For one, the two words sound completely different, revealing the full force of each national accent. Also, Canadians often say “eh” with the sort of upwards intonation typical of North America, while Australians tend to use neutral or downward intonation.
Both are rather charming colloquialisms that entrench caricatured versions of Canadian and Australian National Identities. For example, the other day, I felt it was necessary to inform my friend that his serial use of the word was starting to make him sound like a bogan. Like any slang word, “ay” can easily be overused. However, since it is relatively harmless and in an odd way reminds me of home, I don’t mind hearing it. It actually sort of makes me feel more comfortable ay (eh).