Canadians: Share With Us Foreigners Facts and Trivia About Your Country.

Let’s face it. You guys are quiet up there. Maybe too quiet. (Insert shifty-eyed smilie here.) Help us get to know you better by telling us interesting odds and ends about your great country. Maybe you know how your town got its strange name or an interesting bit of history or can tell us about a Canadian who invented something that we all use. Maybe you know a book that deserves recognition beyond your borders or are willing to tell of a place off the beaten path that visitors should see. Let’s hear about anything you have!

You mean “smiley”. :dubious:

Um… Trivial Pursuit was invented by Canadians?

Everything’s half an hour later in Newfoundland?

Canada is the second largest country in the world with regards to land mass?

We’ve already had a female Prime Minister, Kim Campbell, a Progessive Conservative, in the early 1990s.

A Canadian discovered that insulin was good for diabetics.

Canadians invented hockey, basketball, kerosene, pacemakers, roller skates, garbage bags, Pablum, the first radio that ran on wall current, and the zipper, among a whole slew of other things.

Well, I’ll be. Looked it up and it seems you’re right. I would’ve thought China or India would’ve been #2.

India doesn’t even crack the top five. It’s seventh, and not even close to the #5 entry:

United States

Really, Russia is in a class all its own, almost twice as big as Canada. Canada through Australia are all more or less the same size, ranging from 9.9 to 7.6 million square kilometres. India is less than half the size of Australia.

However, both the United States and China actually possess more dry land than Canada, which has such a huge number of lakes within its borders that it actually doesn’t have as much room to stand in. About seven percent of Canada’s area is actually water.

It seems to me we talk about Canada a lot on this board but I’ll throw a few more in:

  • Pursuant to my comment above, Canada possesses about one fifth of all the non-frozen fresh water in the world. Likely in part due to that, Canadians are the world’s biggest per capita consumers of water.

  • Canada had two separate rebellions in 1837, although only one was a serious military problem.

  • Canada’s tenth province, Newfoundland, is the only one that was a completely separate country at one time, and was annexed as such in 1949.

  • Yes, a Canadian invented basketball - but he did so in the USA. At the YMCA, in fact.

  • The word Canada likely comes from the Iroquois word “kanata,” meaning a villege or settlement. A suburb of Ottawa is still called “Kanata.”

  • Canada has more coastline than any other country.

  • The Bay of Fundy, on the shores of New Brunswick, has tides that range around fifty feet between low and high, the highest tides in the world.

  • The Maple Leaf flag has only been the national flag since 1965.

IANAC, but I’ve been to the country a couple of times, like it, and have picked up a couple interesting facts. My favorite (not really a fact; just kind of a neat thing) is that if you mentally roll up the bottom third or so of the Canadian flag, in the white parts you can see what looks like the silhouettes of two angy men butting heads. These two have been nicknamed John and Jacques, and have been said to symbolize head-butting relations (witness recent thread in GD) between the French and Anglo segments of Canadian society. Always thought that was kinda cool; I learned that courtesy of a neat book by Will Ferguson called Why I Hate Canadians. (The title is just a provocation.) Speaking of books, I highly recommend City Unique by William Weintraub. It’s a great look at Montreal in its 1940’s and 50’s heyday.

Bill Bryson should write a book about Canada – he’s good at digging up all those interesting facts. He’s already written about Europe, the US, Australia, and Great Britain – Canada seems like a natural choice.

What a question to ask a Canadian, it parallels asking an American to dig up some interseting facts on Washington, Lincoln, FDR and Kennedy just to name a few presidents. And this would only deal in the smallest sense with politics and history.

I, of course, can not even begin to provide you with even a minuscule amount of information, but here are some things that come to mind, off the top of my bald head, perhaps you will get lots of other replies you can work together and get an overall perception.

I won’t provide any real ‘in-depth’ detail for most of the comments I will make below, I will leave that for you and others to research. Reseaching is both fun and a great way to educate. I will use your questions as a guidline. So here goes:

First off since you have provided the ‘Emerald City’ as being one of Seattle’s nicknames I will provide you three nicknames for Vancouver, which is near to where I live in Surrey, British Columbia.

Vancouver is known as ‘The Terminal City’, ‘Hollywood North’, and ‘The Rainy City’. The first is an older reference, the second of course, pays homage to our movie industry. The third, well being from Seattle I guess you know about rain. I mean after all ‘The Wet Coast’ does not stop at the border, it probably starts somewhere around Olympia and carries on northward to Whistler and environs.

Before we get to Canada in general, you asked about how a town got it’s strange name. Well Vancouver, perhaps is not that strange but since I do live in the neighbourhood I will tell you that both the city of Vancouver and Vancouver Island are named for the British explorer, Captain George Vancouver (of Dutch Ancestry).

Want some strange place names, we can start with Artillery Lake in the Northwest Territories, make a quick stop by Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump, Alberta then onto Moonbeam, or Zurich, Ontario, just to name a very few. Off course there is Dildo and Come-By-Chance in Newfoundland, but then again Pennsylvania is the proud owner of a town named Intercourse.

One particular inventor and invention come to mind (of the thousands out there) that would be the Snowmobile invented by none other then the world-famous Canadian Joseph-Armand “J.A.” Bombardier. Some of you may recognise his surname, which has been associated with many aviation inventions and other transport devices including advances in subway technology.

I can also tell you that among some of Hollywood’s most famous thespians Jim Carrey, Michael J. Fox, Donald Sutherland and Leslie Nielsen are all Canadian born. As are Jennifer Tilley, Margot Kidder, (Crossing Jordan’s) Jill Hennessy, Carrie-Anne Moss (see Matrix trilogy), Natasha Henstridge and Neve Campbell. Two surprising and little known actors/actress are Lois Maxwell (the original ‘Moneypenny’ from the first 15 or so James Bond films) and Jay Silverheels, better known as ‘Tonto’ from the old television series ‘The Lone Ranger’. Even the woman that King Kong took a liking to - ‘Ann Darrow’ was played by Canadian actress Fay Wray. We also gave you Pamela Anderson (Lee), the verdict is still out whether this is a good thing or not.

As far as books go you have to read ‘Life of Pi’ by Yann Martel. Even though Martel was born in Spain he was born of peripatetic (fancy word for much travelled) Canadian parents. Martel spent much of his youth growing up in Canada and is a Canadian citizen.

I also simply have to plug Margaret Atwood’s book ‘Oryx and Crake’, it is a must read for anyone that has a lust for beautiful writing and is tempted by the ‘dark side’ as the novel delves into a Dystopian (opposite of Utopian) future that we could easily find ourselves in, that would be Americans and Canadians!

You want to see a place off the beaten path that should be visited. I would say anywhere in Canada would suffice. But if you really want off the beaten path, what comes to mind right away are two choices. First would be almost anywhere along the TransCanada Trail, which pretty much tries to cover the entire country (which is slightly larger than the United States). The second choice would be any where along the Dempster Highway in the Yukon, mind-boggling scenery.

Okay, I have got to leave things as they are for my contribution. You can bet I will check back to see other posts.

Just one final word – on words. Here in Canada, with our close heritage to Great Britain many of us are purists and try to use British English or Canadian English as often as we can. In American your primary language is English also but it is American English. There are many differences. In this long post I have used a few words myself, choosing neighbourhood over neighborhood and recognise over recognize. Just something else that is subtle, yet helps to tell us apart.


If you were really purists you’d use American English, as it’s closer to the original language that England invaded our corner of the world with.

The version of English you use is in fact much closer to American English than British English. Words spelled in the British fashion, like recognise, are outnumbered at least two to one by words that we spell in the American fashion, such as tire insteaf of tyre, encyclopedia instead of encyclopaedia, aging instead of ageing, etc. In most cases both spellings are considered acceptable.

Canadian English is even more American in terms of terminological differences; we say elevator instead of lift, apartment instead of flat, sweater instead of jumper, bill instead of note, truck instead of lorry, solitaire instead of patience, wrench instead of spanner. Canadian grammar is also generally in the American style. Canadians and Americans would say “The crowd is cheering,” while Britons say “the crowd are cheering,” for instance.

Canadian English is a mix of both, but it’s more American than British, really.

I thought your intention was to have fun with this, not start to take offence or defend what America is or what Canda is.

You say if we were really purists we would use American English.

Just why is that statement made.

Just because you are our geographic neighbour does not mean we have to adopt a language that has been altered to suit your identity. True England came over and invaded your land, but not being 100% up on American history, I believe the land that America became was settled primarily by British born persons wanting to make a new start on their own in a new part of the world (at the time, and to the ‘white man’). Very brave, very daring – yes. But I believe it was these same persons and their descendants that wanted to break away on their own (again, very brave and daring), and began to slowly alter the spelling of many words to give America and Americans a more unique identity from Britain.

In Canada, we stayed closely associated with the British, and began about 100 years after your forebears (1776 and 1867). Although the Dominion of Canada began in 1867 it was not until 1965 (I believe) that we adopted our own flag (different from that of Britain’s Union Jack) and O’ Canada officially became our national anthen, not God Save the Queen/King. Also it was not until 1982 that we had our very own Charter of Rights. So perhaps in 100 years we as Canadians will adopt more of the spelling of words the way you do in America.

So I do not think you are correct in stating that American English is closer to the British language than Canadian is. The mere fact that the words I provided have been altered my American descendants and retained by Canadians is proof in itself. In addition there are literally hundreds of other words.

Usually in American English the decision to drop the letter ‘U’ from many words that are used in Canada and Britain is a good example. Also the letter ‘S’ is also replaced by the letter ‘Z’ fairly often in American English. Also you say "‘ZEE’, while in Canada we say ‘ZED’, the same as they do in Britain. All this would lead me to believe that Americans changed the language, not Canadians. And there is nothing wrong with this.

I still can not figure out why I took an hour to write out something you requested in good faith, and now you seem to take exception and think because we are neighbours, we should actually be neighbors.

What about all the other information I provided you, as requested. You seem to have thrown all this out and honed in on this one small part of my post.

Please take all this in good faith, for that is how it has been written.

Saskatoon is, to my knowledge, the most populous city in the world named after a berry.

No need to get offended and all. I think he was merely making a light joke as to the fact* that the English spoken in parts of the US (Appalachia, I believe) is more similar to what the Elizabethans spoke than what is spoken in London today. Similar to the way that Quebecois retains some facets of old-fashioned French.

Naturally, though, Canadian English maintained closer ties with the evolving British English, and is today closer to the (current) Queen’s English than what we speak in the US. But only slightly – from all I’ve read and experienced and the many Canadians I’ve spoken with, Canadian English is 80-90% exactly the same as American English (if not more!) with a couple Britishisms and native Canadianisms thrown in for good measure.

*I don’t actually know how factual this is (any linguists out there?), but this is how it’s widely reported.

The Canadian Army was the first army in the world to widely use the now familiar flat top/rail adapter combo on their M16 FOW, issuing it as part of the C7A1, even beating USSOCOM and their SOPMOD kit to the punch by around a year or so (IIRC). To be fair it wasn’t invented by Canadians, but remarkably, our procurment officials saw it, said “Hey, that’s a good idea! Let’s buy it.”, and then did.

I’m going to guess that this was “later widely regarded as a bad idea”, so to speak. :slight_smile:

Please let us not get into terminology as well, remember there are other forms of English as well. Australian, Kiwi (New Zealand) and South Africain not to mention the odd variation in India. Each country had taken the original language and came up with not only some different spelling, but some very different terminology. By the way even though some of the terminology examples you give are used by other nations, they all have one thing in common, they are British in origin. And don’t say you were gobsmacked by this comment, I don’t want develop another palaver to discuss. I was merely trying to show some examples. Now everyone wants to concentrate on one thing.

To get back to spelling (and I am in no means an expert), some of the examples you give are excellent, like encyclopedia instead of encyclopaedia and tire instead of tyre, but – and this is a big but (no pun intended) true British English does use some different spelling then Canadian English. It just goes to show that in different parts of the world, words have evolved differently. To the professor of ‘English language’ there are proper ways to spell words and different ways to spell words, no real wrong ways, unless we speak of typo’s or blatant attempts to alter a word so much that it first becomes an idiom (let us use the language that music lovers of the genre ‘rap music’ use), then sometimes works its way into dictionaries.

Yes examples like encyclopedia instead of encyclopaedia that you have given are simply ways most Canadians choose to spell the word (it does not change the fact, that the Oxford English dictionary says that Canadians should spell it encyclopaedia), this does not make the word the exclusive right (with copyrights) of Americans to use. It is merely a simple coincidence that some words are spelled by both Americans and Canadians the same. Just as some words are spelled the same way by Canadians and British.

There are entire books published that try to tell everyone the proper way to spell or how to be grammarically correct. But there really is no wrong way as long as you convey what you mean. I knew what you meant whether you spelled tire as such or by spelling it in the tyre form.

Originally, I only put in the paragraph about spelling because it occurred to me that I had used different spelling with a few words. If I had not introduced that paragraph, you all would have read my post and understood it, I am sure.

So, please let us remember, regardless of our heritage, we are all simply people trying to make it through every day like every one else. It does not matter where we live or what nationality we refer to ourselves.

We are much more the same, then we are different. Actually most of the difference is in our thought process, but that is an entirely different matter.

The composition of the song O Canada was commissioned by the Saint-Jean-Baptiste Society.

Five of our thirteen provinces and territories are named after a water feature: Yukon (River), Saskatchewan (River), (Lake) Manitoba, (Lake) Ontario, and Quebec (“straits” in an Algonquian language whose name escapes me; refers to the narrowing of the Saint Lawrence at Quebec City).

The man who is in large part responsible for bringing British Columbia into the Confederation (translation for Americans: “Union,”) is my favourite figure in Canadian history.

Originally from Nova Scotia, William Smith decided around the age of thirty that “William Smith” was not a name such as might befit a Man of Destiny, and so he had his name legally changed to Amor de Cosmos, which suited him just fine. It means, he explained, “Lover of the Universe,” or perhaps “Lover of Order.” I like to think that he alternated translations based on his estimation of the personality of the person he was introducing himself to.

In the mid-ninteenth century, de Cosmos moved to the West Coast colony of Vancouver Island and set himself up in the newspaper business. His editorializing contributed to the integration of Vancouver Island with the other West Coast colony of British Columbia.

Soon after this coup, he began actively politicking for British Columbia to join the Confederation. Shortly after this goal was achieved, he became British Columbia’s second premier, when British Columbians tired of our premiere premier after only a year. (That guy was, by all accounts, a bit of a wet blanket. Nobody remembers his name. He didn’t have the sense to pick a memorable one.)

Amor de Cosmos was a bit of mixed bag, politically. On the one hand, his policies defined the economic course of British Columbia almost to this day. (He pushed for aggresive development of a forestry industry.) On the other hand, he had an unapologetically antagonistic attitude towards First Nations peoples and was no respecter of treaties with them. Some of us are still uncomfortable with that whole thing.

Personally, he was quite colourful. He was an extremely emotional man, with little goverment of his feelings. He wept openly in public debates with little provocation. He gave firey-eyed speeches about Supernatural Destiny and our relationship to it. He beat the bejesus out of people who ticked him off. And he drank. Oh lord, did he drink. He made his contemporary, John A. MacDonald (Canada’s first Prime Minister,) appear abstemious by comparison – which was no mean feat, to be quite charitable about it.

He was also quite mad. He was mad in the “I’ve been having an intimate chat with God and he says I’ve been chosen to bring a Province into this nascent Nation,” way that his contemporary Louis Riel (himself a fascinating and much more well-known figure whom I trust another Canuck Doper will enucleate for the benefit of those who will be interested) was, but that was apparently the fashion at the time and de Cosmos exceeded that by a considerable measure and defined the archetype of Batshit-Crazy West Coast Bohemian.

He was famously terrified of electricity, and took great pains to avoid it. He was displeased when electric streetcars were introduced to Victoria in 1890. By then, though, he had been out of public life for several years – apart from wandering around the streets saying very queer things to anybody within earshot.

A few years after that, he ran for office again – and when the public eye was turned towards him this time, it observed just how far out of consensus reality Amor de Cosmos had drifted since last it’d looked.

He was quickly commited, and spent the last few years of his life in a madhouse.

There is a very fine bronze likeness of Amor de Cosmos in Stanley Park in Vancouver. Its plaque reads simply:

Premier of British Columbia
1872 - 1874

That’s all.

I always make a point of bringing new visitors to Stanley Park over to meet Amor de Cosmos.

It grieves me that (so far) nobody I’ve taken to him has had a clue about who he was or what he was about. It is at least a small consolation that this means I’ll be able to tell his story again.

Amor de Cosmos.

Firstly, this isn’t my thread. Secondly, I was having fun. Take a chill pill, dude.

Also, you completely misunderstood what I said. But it doesn’t matter, because it was a freakin’ joke.

Great story, Larry Mudd!

I used to think that I was fluent in Canadian English.