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Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Ohiosphere Tale Of The Day (XI): 'Canadian' As The New N-Word

CINCINNATI (TDB) -- Mankind seems to have been wired with a never-ending itch to explore and discover new ways to denigrate other people and cultures. Now we have the word "Canadian," which reportedly is becoming freighted with a slang, mean street definition. It is now being used to describe blacks and is a substitute, or coded, racial slur to replace the N-word. A report of this troubling linguistic shift comes via CincyBlurg, who said a friend had noticed that white people were calling her Canadian.

[UPDATE: 6:35 AM edt -- There is a collection of offensive words online that is called the racial slurs database and it does list Canadian as being equated with the N-word. At last count, the database contained 2,636 entries of insulting expressions from across the globe. It does not countenance their use, but purports to collect slurs so people will know what not to say. So there is confirmation that Canadian carries a double meaning, and can be used as an epithet. The Bellwether is sad to report this news. The Mounties should be called in to recover their nation's good name from racist abusers. ]

It turns out that the people using the national description of someone from Canada actually did not see the person they labeled a "Canadian" as being an immigrant or visitor from Toronto, Montreal or Vancouver. They didn't like her dark skin color, and therefore said she had hailed from the great white north. Tricky are those slur-mongers. CincyBlurg goes on to report:

"She told me a story of when she was working in a shop in the South and she overheard some of her customers complaining that they were always waited on by a Canadian at that place. She didn't understand what they were talking about and assumed they must be talking abut someone else.

"After this happened several times with different patrons, she mentioned it to one of her coworkers. He told her that 'Canadian' was the new derogatory term that racist Southerners were using to describe the persons they would have previously referred to as (N-words)s. And for various reasons it didn't sound at all unusual for the average backward-ass Southerner to say things like, 'Those damn Canadians,' or 'The problem is all those Canadians.'"

CincyBlurg added she has not been able to find much more proof yet of the morphing of the word Canadian into racist slang. A Google search produced nothing. "Have I actually 'broke' this story?" she wonders.

Officially, Canada is a multi-cultural society where French and English have equal status as official languages and the Indians now control vast tracts of territory as First Nations. But it, too, wrestles with the scourge of racism at all levels of society. In the 1990s, the Canadian Broadcasting System caught cops on camera saying they were going to bait a trap for some wanted Native Americans with LaBatt's beer, a plan that would unfold the way "it works in the (U.S.) South with watermelons." Perhaps there is a code word for racist in Canada -- American?


  1. Wow, there are some goofy folks out there and if this story is correct they're goofier than I thought. I have a hard time believing this isn't satire. I can almost accept that racists would substitute a code word for a racial slur. However, my mind is boggled at the thought that the code word would be Canadian. I've been to Canada and it has a much whiter population than the US.

    I guess I shouldn't be too surprised by this. We have made it unacceptable to use a word without completely addressing the mentality behind it.

  2. Hi LargeBill --

    Yep, it's a slur. Too bad because Canada is fine neibhbor and Canadians generally are nice people.

  3. An interesting side note is that the term Cajun was originally a mispronunciation (and sometimes a slur) by English Southerners in Louisiana referring to Acadians. Acadians were French settlers in Canada who in 1755 (during the French and Indian War) were deported from the Canadian province of Nova Scotia in what is often known as the Great Expulsion. Many of them resettled in Louisiana, establishing the culture and language there. I wonder if there is any lingering resentment there that is at the root of this term. Long shot, I know, but it could be a factor.

    Thanks for blogging about me and my post!

  4. Hi CincyBlurg --

    Your post was excellent and I could not resist. I had not heard of what you brought to our attention. I have checked with my Southern kin and they have also confirmed your sad tiding -- that the use of the camouflaged insult has begun to take root, though they seemed sure that it was not just a southern phenomena.

    I do know about the Cajuns and their French Canada origin. Spent some time in La.'s Evangeline Parish years ago, which I think is named for the poem by Longfellow about the Acadians. I don't know, though, if we can say that resentment from the 1700s is creating slang in the 21st Century. It is an intriguing possibility.

  5. The only black character in the webcomic is Canadian.

    Whether that is a coincidence is left as an exercise for the reader.

  6. Given the level of inbreeding and ignorance in the south i wouldnt be surprised if they actually thought african americans actually came from canada

  7. Perhaps it's because all of those people being called Canadian would be more than welcome to come live in Canada.

  8. 1. It's called and you should probably look at it sometime if you really want to know what the kids are saying.

    2. Bill Sloat - what are you saying? Black people aren't fine neighbors and generally nice people.

    3. The last commenter is ignorant. Notice how I didn't say that all yankees are stupid because that would make me ignorant too, but please, guy, GTFU.

    4. The use of Canadian as a racial slur is as retarded as calling something retarded because it's stupid so please, don't give the retards that say this shit any more attention than they're due.

  9. I propose a new term for white cryptoracists:


  10. This term is definitely not new. I heard it in the Army in 1996 from a guy who grew up in Washington D.C.

  11. When is a Canadian not a Canadian?

    The note starts out innocently enough, with felony chief Mike Trent praising the work of prosecutor Rob Freyer for convincing a "weak jury" to give a man a stiff sentence for intoxication manslaughter.

    "He overcame a subversively good defense by Matt Hennessey that had some Canadians on the jury feeling sorry for the defendant and forced them to do the right thing."

    Now, some of you may wonder what "some" Canadians were doing on a Harris County jury, and why they were suspected of sympathizing with this particular defendant.

    At the time, many folks in the District Attorney's Office had similar questions. But a few knew exactly what it meant, and more caught on as they consulted an online racial slur database, which lists the term "Canadian" as code for the N-word.

    Subculture of racism?
    The e-mail had been sent to every prosecutor and investigator in the building.

    "I felt a little crushed by it, that we would be far along in equality in this country and still have individuals who would conduct themselves in that manner," said attorney Mark Vinson, a chief prosecutor at the time.

    Vinson, who is black, said he considers the e-mail an "isolated incident," but some other black former prosecutors have held it up as yet another example — along with Rosenthal's racist joke e-mails and accusations that Republican DA candidate Kelly Siegler struck a black juror for his race — that a hidden subculture of racism is thriving at the district attorney's office.

    "A lot of us have known of this incident since it happened, and just continued to do our jobs and try to get along with prosecutors who we know don't like us," Vivian King, defense attorney and former prosecutor, wrote on an attorney blog.

    At the time the e-mail went out, apparently only one person spoke up — a black rookie prosecutor in the misdemeanor division.

    The rookie, now in private practice, wouldn't comment for this column for fear of retribution. But, according to interviews, the rookie complained to his superiors, who told him to confront Trent, the white prosecutor who had sent the e-mail.

    The rookie's superiors included Siegler, but Siegler told me she played no part in the ordeal and that no one ever complained to her about the e-mail.

    Trent's response at the time: Freyer, the prosecutor commended in the e-mail, had used the term "Canadian" in a conversation and Trent took him literally, thinking there were real Canadians on the jury — no racial slur intended. The rookie checked all the jurors' cards and, not surprisingly, found indications of blacks on the jury but no Canadians. Trent sticks to his story.

  12. 1.) The Racial Slur Database is maintained by a guy with the email handle ryan@f*, but instead of a *, there's a u. Turns out his email domain has a doctored photo of President and Mrs Bush -- she's naked from the waist down. I don't consider this a reputable source of information.

    2.) I grew up in Chicago and the term "Canadian" was used quite often, particularly among the folks who grew up in the city. I first heard it in the 1980s. Generally it was used in the context of stating an opinion in a public forum where one didn't want to mention race overtly, but to get their point across in a not so subtle way. It is not, however, a substitute for the N-word. Believe me, if these guys wanted to say what was on their minds, they would -- it's simply another way of referring to blacks or African Americans while thumbing their noses at politically correctness.

    For example, if a couple of city workers were discussing a public works project, one might say to the other: "Cause of dose DBE set asides, CDOT wants to be sure that dere are a couple, tree Canadians on da job." This isn't racist, it's code -- code is used all the time by blacks, whites, Hispanics, Asians, et al. Hell, the Houston Chronicle, which published the previous article, uses code all the time, e.g. when they mention your wear a WWJD braclet, that means you're an evanglical, born-again Christian hypocrite and probably a Republican who should be thrown out of office.

  13. As a Canadian I am not offended by this racial substitute for the word "N....." Americans will always be what they are and that is probably why Americans are so disliked in the world.

    Canadians would welcome Afro-Americans because we are a country with open doors. Therefore, I am not insulted by the comparison. There are many famous black Americans and it would be an honor to be compared to them.

    People in other countries don't need to find substitute words to describe Americans. "American" will do just fine. That tells a lot.

    For American people, especially in the Southern States, please don't wear Canadian flags and symbols when traveling abroad. This does offend me. Your actions and ignorance in foreign countries will give us Canadians a bad name.

  14. Mario, are you simply a troll or are you really so ignorant of your own prejudice while chiding others' prejudice?

  15. Well, I heard the term used 40 years ago in Philadelphia by a working class relative. Sad, but true

  16. The only common link I can think of historically why Blacks are referred to as Canadians is the Underground Railroad of the 1800’s. This was the network of people who helped fugitive slaves escape to the Northern States and to Canada where slavery wasn’t law. If this is the reason, then the people from the South still hold some resentment after more than 130 years.

    To Goulo. No I am not a troll. Is this a racial slur at describing Scandinavians or maybe Canadians? And no I am not ignorant. At least I don’t think I am with three college degrees and a successful career. As for prejudice, I have many friends of various ethnic backgrounds and I would not have them in my life if I was.

    From the personal information you provide, you state you are from Poland. Coincidently, one of my friends is an American of Polish decent who lives in Buffalo. You should hear him talk of the racial discrimination his family went through when they immigrated to America, and of his life in school. There is nothing worse in calling someone by a racial slur just because they are different in appearance, gender, faith or ethnic background.

    In my country we have a saying – “Racism Hurts”. You will see this on posters in schools, libraries, government buildings etc. It is there to remind everyone we live in a multicultural society and we are all the same. You of all people should be aware of this. Poles have been discriminated upon in North America and to a greater extent in Europe. One only needs to see how they were treated by the Nazis. I guess I should just say nothing as it will go away.

    When I see groups like the KKK, Aryan Brotherhood, Neo-Nazis, and state sponsored racism throughout the world, I cringe at the very fact these people would promote ethnic cleansing if they had the opportunity. I have little use for these sectarian types with no regard for their fellow man. This smear made by this public official certainly cannot be compared to these extreme types, but it’s these disparaging remarks by people in our society that fuel hatred even if they don’t mean anything by it. The young who hear these words are the most vulnerable.

    To use the word Canadian to describe Negroes is a stupid as saying people who wear red shirts in America are Communists. You may think that I am anti-American. I can assure you I am not. In fact I have relatives, friends and work acquaintances that are American. Americans come in all shapes and sizes just like other people of different nations. I have never been mistreated by our neighbors to the south and generally find them friendly. I would not want any other nation to border Canada. I will, however, not keep silent when an act of hate, racial slandering or discriminatory remark is against a people who don’t deserve to be treated with ignorance and bigotry. This includes speaking against Blacks and Canadians who display racist actions. If it means commenting about certain narrow-minded Americans who like to talk insultingly of others, than so be it.

    And Goulo, I sent this link to my Polish-American friend who read it and he got a chuckle out of your comment. He agrees with me 100%.

  17. Mario: if you are so open-minded and are not anti-American, then I am confused why you wrote:
    "Americans will always be what they are and that is probably why Americans are so disliked in the world."
    "For American people, especially in the Southern States, please don't wear Canadian flags and symbols when traveling abroad. This does offend me. Your actions and ignorance in foreign countries will give us Canadians a bad name."
    Those are quite prejudiced statements from one who is chiding others for being prejudiced. You seem to believe that Americans are all racist and act badly in foreign countries. That attitude seems pretty closed-minded and unrealistic to me.

    You wrote: "I will, however, not keep silent when an act of hate, racial slandering or discriminatory remark is against a people who don’t deserve to be treated with ignorance and bigotry. If it means commenting about certain narrow-minded Americans who like to talk insultingly of others, than so be it."

    Reread your original comments. You weren't slamming bigots; you were slamming Americans, and showing your own bigotry.

    I am an American, by the way. Apparently for you that implies that I must be an ignorant racist who offends Europeans with my actions, although my Polish friends and acquaintances would probably disagree with your prejudiced view of Americans.

  18. Goulo, you are saying that I am implying that you are an ignorant racist who offends Europeans when I didn't say that. Racism exists everywhere in the world and the place you can do something about it is in your own backyard.

    As for my statement about Americans travelling abroad disguised as Canadians. Why do you think they do that? There is an American company in California selling Canadian travel kits to American citizens. It's because too many Americans have been treated badly in foreign lands. I personally know an American girl in her final year at university in up state New York who travels as a Canadian even though she is a third generation American. She has been badly treated in England, Belgium and France. She isn't alone. Many Americans are doing the same thing and quite frankly, can you blame them?

    I personally was treated badly by a man in Ukraine two years ago who thought I was an American. If it wasn't for our interpreter friend who told him we were Canadian, I think he might have attacked us.
    I guess racism exists everywhere.

    The reason why all this hatred is simple; The rest of the world do not trust American foreign policy (American Government). There are countless books by American authors that deal with this subject. You'll be surprised to know that your government has done things many American citizens aren’t even aware of.

  19. Mario, I'm quite aware of the terrible stuff the US government is doing. (Apparently you are unaware that many of do not trust or like what our government is doing.)

    And I know that some Americans try to look Canadian while traveling, and experience unfriendly treatment by people who know nothing about them except that they are (or appear to be) American - that only shows what I'm saying, that people (like you) are prejudiced and decide that all Americans support the terrible stuff the US government is doing.

    Once again, I invite you to sincerely reread what you wrote originally:
    "Americans will always be what they are and that is probably why Americans are so disliked in the world."
    "For American people, especially in the Southern States, please don't wear Canadian flags and symbols when traveling abroad. This does offend me. Your actions and ignorance in foreign countries will give us Canadians a bad name."
    How do you think those statements sound? I'm frankly baffled how anyone who wrote such sentences can sincerely claim that they're not prejudiced against Americans. How would someone with a Canadian flag give Canadians a bad name unless they behaved badly? How can you say you are not assuming that Americans behave badly? How can you say that you are not assuming that Americans are ignorant? How can you say these statements do not show prejudice against Americans?

    Consider if someone had written wrote:
    "Canadians will always be what they are and that is probably why Canadians are so disliked in the world."
    "For Canadian people, especially from rural Canada, please don't wear US flags and symbols when traveling abroad. This does offend me. Your actions and ignorance in foreign countries will give us Americans a bad name."
    Don't you think you would find such statements to be rudely prejudiced against Canadians?

    "The reason why all this hatred is simple; The rest of the world do not trust American foreign policy (American Government)."
    Yes, and its a pity that many people are prejudiced and judge a person by what their government does.

  20. Goulo,

    You are right to be upset with my choice of words. When I wrote them I was envisioning the racist types of your country in foreign lands and certainly not all Americans. I labeled them all “American” and that was wrong. If certain Americans can be bigots in their own country, then they can also be in other peoples countries. You take with you what you’ve learned in your own country and believe me it shows. Perhaps some Americans look at the U.S as the strongest nation on earth and when you are on the top, it is easy to look down on others. I don’t know if there is any truth to this.

    And yes if someone wrote “Canadians will always be what they are and that is probably why they are so disliked in the world.” I would be defensive and probably react like you did. This is exactly how I reacted to the word “Canadian” describing Black people because it is just an acceptable substitute that doesn’t offend the politically correct types.

    Goulo, let’s reverse the roles here. What if people in Canada used the word American or Yankee to describe a minority group, or a comparison to a slanderous term like “really cheap people” or “rudely mannered people”? Let’s say this was going on for the past fifty years in our culture. Let’s say a certain event took place in a Canadian court-room where this word was used and made international headlines. How would you like it as an American? I’m betting you would be pissed and rightly so. Here in Canada something would have been done. We have some of the most comprehensive laws against hate crimes in the world. It’s in our Canadian Charter of Rights. You can go to jail for publicly denouncing someone’s race. We’ve even deported people guilty of hate crimes.

    I have been in discussion forums from the Middle East. I have asked Palestinians or Muslims why they hate the West. I have been critical of suicide bombers in discussions with people from Iran. The one thing I have heard so often from people from around the world is that they hate the American government. They don’t say they hate Americans. The experience can be an eye-opener because there are always two sides to everything. I guess that for the uneducated person in foreign countries, American citizens represent American government. Therein lies the problem.

    Here at home, we hear plenty from the American media bashing Canada. It is such a regular occurrence; we ignore the comments now coming from the U.S. It is not just your government. We’ve had to endure harsh comments from the likes of Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson and Tucker Carlson to name a few. We’ve been labeled a nation of: Communists, Socialists, Green Peace Lovers, Liberal Faggots, Eskimos and frogs. All because we believe in government funded medical care, or we’ve given gays rights, or we believe in protecting the environment. Does the phrase “Let’s Blame Canada” ring a bell?

  21. Mario: Goulo, let’s reverse the roles here. What if people in Canada used the word American or Yankee to describe a minority group, or a comparison to a slanderous term like “really cheap people” or “rudely mannered people”? ... I’m betting you would be pissed and rightly so.

    If the roles had been reversed, and I was angry about some people in Canada doing that, I would not have said blanket prejudiced statements about Canadians being racist and ignorant. There are stupid nasty people in every country, and good friendly people in every country.

    When a black guy does something bad, I suppose you don't say stuff like "Blacks will always be what they are and that is probably why Blacks are so disliked in the world." or "Blacks give us Canadians a bad name." So why was it different for you when it's about Americans?

    That's all I'm saying. As long as people keep unthinkingly making prejudiced statements while complaining about others' prejudiced statements, it's hard for society to move beyond prejudice.


  22. Well, Mario, I'm an American living in the South. I'm also a Canadian (err- I mean an actual Canadian). I was born in Vancouver, and have lived in Montreal for years. I've seen less overt racism in the Southern US than I saw in Montreal. I travel on a US passport, despite the fact that I have both. If you want to undertand why Americans are hated more than Canadians, and why we pay more for prescription drugs, you might want to look up "free-rider" in the dictionary.

  23. duncan,

    I smell BS. I work for the Canadian government and I am telling you that it is illegal to be in possession of more than one passport regardless of whether you hold dual citizenship or not. I suggest you relinquish one of them.

    Just because you were granted Canadian citizenship doesn't make you a Canadian. Any Canadian would smell your crap a km away simply by the fact that you used Montreal as a reference. I have a feeling that the Quebecoise weren't being racists; they probably just couldn't stand you. I don't suppose you speak French, do you?

    When I was in Texas on business the workers bragged about going down to the border to shoot at Mexicans and their favourite filler word was N***er. It was an eye opening experience. I have NEVER ever heard a Canadian use the N-word.

    So stop with your BS.

  24. Due to political correctness, white Americans are often too scared to talk openly about blacks in public. The word "Canadian" allows people in public to have a serious conversation without attracting the attention of every hypersensitive/ liberal in the room.