Saturday, July 17, 2010

O Canada!

If you live in the United States, here is a map of our great neighbor to the north. If you don’t live in the United States, here is a map of a great big country on some continent somewhere (and if you click on the map, it will get even bigger.)

I don’t know what you noticed about the map, but I immediately noticed three things. Really, they just jumped off the page at me:

1. What was in my youth called the Northwest Territories has been split into two parts. The smaller, western part is still called the Northwest Territories, but the larger, eastern part is now called Nunavut (which, according to Wikipedia, means “our land” in the Inuktitut language). You can learn a lot more about Nunavut, Inuktitut, and even Inuinnaqtun by clicking here.

2. Greenland, which is close to but not a part of Canada, belongs to Denmark. Greenland is now just its parenthetical name. Its non-parenthetical name is Kalaallit Nunaat. For those in my age bracket, the same sort of thing happened with Myanmar (Burma), Zaire (Belgian Congo), and Indonesia (the Dutch East Indies). Proving that time marches on, Pluto isn’t even a planet any more.

3. The heck with that three-mile-limit thing or even that twelve-mile international waters thing. Canada has declared for itself something called the Exclusive 200-nautical-mile Economic Zone (EEZ). Fishermen from other countries, take note. I’m just sayin’.

People in my age bracket may also remember when Canada’s national anthem was a song entitled “The Maple Leaf Forever” which English-speaking Canadians sang with gusto. They especially liked the line, “The thistle, shamrock, rose entwine the maple leaf forever,” because the thistle was a symbol of Scotland, the shamrock was a symbol of Ireland, and the rose was a symbol of England. French-speaking Canadians, however, most of whom lived in Quebec, were having thoughts instead about the fleur-de-lis. After an impasse of sorts occurred, “O Canada” became the country’s new national anthem. Also, a new flag replaced the former design in which the British Union Jack had featured prominently. The new flag proudly displays the most widely recognized symbol of Canada, Wayne Gretzky Celine Dion the maple leaf.

Here for your listening pleasure is the Canadian national anthem “O Canada.” Both the English and the French lyrics are superimposed over the new flag.

To recap, here are the official English lyrics:

O Canada!
Our home and native land!
True patriot love in all thy sons command.
With glowing hearts we see thee rise,
The True North strong and free!
From far and wide,
O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.
God keep our land glorious and free!
O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.
O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.

and here are the official French lyrics:

Ô Canada!
Terre de nos aïeux,
Ton front est ceint de fleurons glorieux!
Car ton bras sait porter l'épée,
Il sait porter la croix!
Ton histoire est une épopée
Des plus brillants exploits.
Et ta valeur, de foi trempée,
Protégera nos foyers et nos droits.
Protégera nos foyers et nos droits.

Here is an English translation of the French lyrics:

O Canada!
Land of our forefathers,
Thy brow is wreathed with a glorious garland of flowers!
As is thy arm ready to wield the sword,
So also is it ready to carry the cross.
Thy history is an epic
Of the most brilliant exploits.
And thy valour, steeped in faith,
Will protect our homes and our rights,
Will protect our homes and our rights.

Did you notice that the two versions have nothing to do with one another?

The same sort of effect can be achieved by playing a certain familiar tune while half the audience sing “My Country, ’Tis Of Thee” and the other half sing “God Save The Queen.”

Finally, you can simultaneously while away the hours and increase your knowledge of Canada’s provinces and provincial capitals by playing with these three puzzles.

In case you already know all of Canada’s provinces and provincial capitals, here is “O Canada” in Inuktitut:

Uu Kanata!
Nangmini nunavut!
Piqujatii nalattiaqpavut.
Nangiqpugu, Uu Kanata,
Uu Kanata! nunatsia!
Nangiqpugu mianiripluti,
Uu Kanata, salagijauquna!

One can only speculate about the national crises that might arise if we ever discover what the Inuktitut words mean.

Here ends my little experiment in creating posts about various national anthems. It’s not that I’m tiring of the subject, necessarily, but I sense that some of you may be. And I freely admit that my Jewish heritage on my mother’s side makes me reluctant to create a post about “Deutschland, Deutschland Über Alles,” Joseph Haydn’s music notwithstanding.

Concentrating on Canada, though, even for only one post, turned out to be a good way to try to stay cool during these dog days. At this time of year, readers in Australia and New Zealand aren’t worried about staying cool. Apropos of absolutely nothing, this rendition of the Swedish national anthem, “Du Gamla Du Fria,” is either very cool or very hot, unless it’s both very cool and very hot.

After everything is said and done, we can all while away the hours watching this. Any resemblance to your correspondent is purely coincidental.

P.S. - If you managed to make it all the way to the end of this post, here is a musical bonus just for you!


  1. as a former canadian and country to the north lover, thank you very much bob

  2. You forgot Rhodesia now Zimbabwe. When my mother(a native Toronto type and never became American even though she married one) told me she disliked the name I was thinking of for my first child I told if she did not leave me alone I would name the Zimbabwe and Bob for short! We couldn't stop laughing for 30 minutes and then she did not give me her opinion on names not ask me which one I might use.

    I knew Nunavit was not there when I was kid!! Didn't Canada Dry ginger ale used to have an outline of Canada on it's bottles? Now it's a crest or something.

    Canadians have a pretty good sense of humor and understand sarcasm quite well. They use grammar correctly and don't dumb down their vocabularies for their friends from the US. They are extremely nice and friendly.

    I miss visiting Canada. I need a copy of my birth certificate to get a passport or enhanced WA St license, my birth certificate is in New Jersey in some vital records office.

    Thanks for the map!!

  3. Thanks for the info. Being from Catalonia (sort of) we hear a lot about Quebec, but not much about Canada.
    And even less about Pluto. That was a sad day when Pluto got demoted :(

  4. We had a very good country and I don't know why they changed so many things. It was good the way it was and its never a good idea to fix whats not broken.
    Letting go is easier than pulling back the reins.We are lucky with our present Prime Minister. Hope he carries on.

  5. I didn't know that the NW Territories had been split, and I didn't know that Greenland had a new name. I hate it when names change, partially because they rarely change to anything that I find as pretty or can say as easily.

  6. I should have read the comments before I posted.

    Crazed Mom said: "They use grammar correctly and don't dumb down their vocabularies for their friends from the US."

    Good for them. Peggy is a fan of Jeopardy! (which is hosted by a Canadian), and I've noticed of late that the contestants' grammar has taken a definite dive. Pronouns have taken the worst hits--"Me and him went to town," for example.

    We all make mistakes--except for Bob who does us the service of pointing them out--but some are so atrocious as to mark one as ignorant in a generalized way.

  7. I am not at all surprised that you chose, from all the available versions,the YouTube clip of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir singing "The Maple Leaf Forever." Your taste has never been in question.

    Interesting information about our neighbor to the north. Thanks.

  8. Thanks for the comments, everybody!

    Putz seems to have had a lucid moment there.

    Crazed Mom, speaking of birth certificates, I need to check mine to see whether my name is really Zimbabwe. And I'm sure either the State of New Jersey's website or the U.S. Postal Service can help you obtain yours (to get that passport, not to check whether your name is Zimbabwe).

    Brian, A sad day indeed. The Wikipedia article says Pluto is now the tenth-largest object orbiting our sun, and that another "dwarf planet" named Eris is the ninth-largest.

    lady, I completely agree. If it ain't broken, don't fix it.

    Snow, I passed the Atlanta auditions for Jeopardy in April 2003 and was told I would be in their files for fourteen months. I was never called, but it's probably just as well, because Ken Jennings reigned supreme for a long time during that period. [sour grapes off]

    Pat (Arkansas), it's good to hear from you! As you see, I got over my fit of pique and have returned to blogging. My absence was probably the shortest in history. You can't keep a good man down. Or a blabbermouth.