Thursday, 15 March 2012

'U' define Canadian

Living in a border town we are inundated with many things American. I live within sight of the Renaissance Centre - General Motors World Headquarters, in Detroit. I hear the ships on the Detroit River, I get Detroit news on three stations and only one Canadian station, we tend to use both metric and imperial measurements here, and the list goes on.

Here more than anywhere else, it's really hard to define 'Canadian'. Sure we like hockey, we're laid back, we take a different view of the world than most other nations; I still believe we're a peacekeeping nation rather than a fighting one. Our economy isn't in the toilet like many other countries, believe or not. We don't have quite as many boarded up homes around here from when the bottom dropped out of the housing market in the states. Detroit is a mess - take a look from Google Earth and you can see entire blocks laid waste and nothing but empty areas of urban overgrowth. It's really too bad what' gone on there. But here, we still thrive.

I have met many Americans here, most have been quite nice, intelligent and to look and talk to them you would never know their origin. I've also talked to some close minded idiots. Not by choice, believe me. I remember one guy being completely amazed that we had a McDonald's restaurant here, and another guy who thought that all of our cars would be different than American cars. (I really don't know what he was getting at there). I didn't have the time or the inclination to tell him that many cars on American roads are built in Canada. That would have made his brain explode.

Of all the things that make us unique, nothing stands out more than our language and speech. Having worked in publishing for many years I am a grammar nazi. I hate things being spelt incorrectly and used inappropriately. I walk down streets and read signs and when I see a mistake in the spelling I want desperately to go in and smack the proprietor. We use the Queen's English here. That means one thing to most people - extra useless letters, mostly 'U'. For example - humour, clamour, colour, cheque, endeavour, neighbour, etc. Our language is a combination of American and Queen's English, also heavily influenced by our own french heritage. We also have this nasty little habit of switching letters around just for fun, for example - centre instead of center.

I always corrected these idiosyncrasies when I was working, and always will. It's a small thing that bothers me, even though I could pick more important battles. But our identity is not yet truly defined in the world. Canadians as a people are generally boring in the eyes of the world. We don't start fights, we keep to ourselves, we travel a lot without saying a lot, and we play a lot of hockey. Ironically, our national sport is lacrosse. Figure that one out. We tend to take on traits of European nations instead of following the lead of our largest and closest neighbour, the US. We have a parliamentary system, we have a governor general, we still consider the Queen our head of state. But we also have the Canadian Football League. We seem to be towing the line between two different cultures. There's nothing wrong with that, I just prefer to create our own identity and not have one thrust upon us.

So we raise a glass to the maple leaf. Even though one of my neighbours flies the star spangled banner.