I didn't know that there was an area of Canada called the Prairies, "an area of flat grasslands in Western Canada. The phrase 'the Prairies' in Canada usually refers to the provinces of Manitoba, Alberta, and Saskatchewan."
I've been to Manitoba, but when I was up there, no one told me it was part of the Prairies. We don't really have that here--we have the Midwest, where I live, and west of us is Nebraska and so forth, which is considered the Great Plains, but I don't hear people use that term, like "my friend lives in the Great Plains." They'll just say the state. But it seems like Canadians like to say "the Prairies."
When Americans say "prairie," we're referring to what falls within this definition: "a region of flat or hilly land dominated by tall grasses, typical of the American Middle West."
So in the U.S., "prairie" is a physical condition of the terrain, rather than a geographical area that Canadians refer to. I like those Canadian Prairie-dwelling accents though. :)
I think there are certain linguistic contexts in which the "Prairies" is used. For instance, I'd be inclined to say, "I'm from the Prairies." A news source would probably say, "Drought is affecting the Prairie provinces," to envelop a specific geographic location.
That said, the "Prairies" may be used to differentiate this location from the "West Coast," the "East Coast" or Ontario :)
The "Great Planes" to me sounds very First Nation, like roaming buffalo and the like.
Gosh, we would never say "I'm from the Prairies" which is why I pointed it out as a (at least) Canadian thing.
Yeah, generally the Great Plaines is for buffalo and grain and such.
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