Monday, August 27, 2007

The sheriff is a Canadian!

So, I was talking with some friends the other day and I discovered a very interesting new term. Well, at least new to me. 'Canadians.'

The friends I was speaking to were Black. I say Black because I think African-American is a presumptuous phrase - perhaps they were African-Bahamian or African-British or even French-African-Canadian - how would I know unless they told me directly? And, although we're friends, we've never discussed heritage, so, as I said, they were Black. (I am Caucasian, for the record, of English and French descent, and although some of my friends know that about me they don't refer to me as an English-French-American nor would I expect that.)

So the phrase they introduced me to was 'Canadians.' One of my friends is from the South (that's the Southeastern United States to be precise) and she told me that she had recently discovered that White people had been calling her Canadian.

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 about 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 persons they would have previously referred to as [N-word]s. And for various reasons it didn't sound at all unusual for the average backwards-ass Southerner to say things like, "Those damn Canadians," or "The problem is all those Canadians."

I was blown away and decided to put my newfound linguistic knowledge to the test. A cursory search of the Google turned up no references. I called some other Black friends and they all informed me that although they hadn't heard it themselves, they weren't surprised.

So, have you heard this phrasing used in this context? Has it made its way to Cincinnati yet (other than my friend's account)? Have I actually 'broke' this story? What other phrases have you heard used instead, to hide racist language?

By the way, if you thought the title of this post had anything to do with Si Leis, then you obviously haven't seen or forgot one of the funniest scenes in Blazing Saddles.


Tony said...

You know, this post reminds me of a great episode from one of my favorite shows, Newsradio! The episode was where they found a copy of Dave's (played by Dave Foley) birth certificate and found out he was... uhhhh.... Canadian!

I swear it was one of the funniest episodes but then I loved them all. The reaction of Jimmy James (played by Stephen Root) was absolutely hysterical!

CincyBlurg said...

Yeah, the unreasonable aversion to Canadians in that episode was hilarious.

And that's kinda why I find humor in this disturbing new phrase - rednecks say derogatory things about Canadians and few notice or take issue.

Luke said...

I heard the term working at a restaurant, as in "just sat you with a 4-top of Canadians". Since waiters operate 90% on stereotypes, I didn't find its use particularly shocking, particularly as there were all kinds of other euphemisms employed to denigrate other people. We're not gonna say "the yuppie douchebags at 42 just ordered blueberrtinis" within earshot.

It wasn't racist in this event because waiters hate everybody.

Dave P. said...

Yes, the use of terms like "Canadians" is fairly common. Plenty of research has shown that whites' racist behaviors are changing dramatically -- rather, they're just going more underground and becoming less overt.

I dig your blog, btw. Cincinnati badly needs a city-centric blog that isn't too cheerleaderly or YP-focused. I'm no longer in Cinti, but I still read a few local blogs. I'll add it to my blogroll the next time I update.

CincyBlurg said...

A big shout-out to Bill at The Daily Bellwether for blogging about my post! Bill was able to find the term 'Canadian' in the Racial Slur Database, which, I'm sad to say, does exist. So I guess I didn't break this story - oh, well.

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.

WestEnder said...

This is tangential, but the terms "caucasian" and "negroid" don't necessarily mean white and black. I read about an ethnic group in Norway (I think) that is actually classified as negroid but has white skin. And there are Africans who have black skin but are classified as caucasian.
Interesting, eh?

Anonymous said...

It's doesn't use the word "Canadian" specifically, but the RNCC's political attack ad against Harold Ford Jr. last year, has one segment of a guy saying something to the effect of "Canada isn't busy, let them take care of North Korea." Hey, who else lives in Canada but "Canadians?"

Watch it here:

Sarc said...

To Westender's tangent... strangely enough, people who are from the Caucasus Mountains, technically Caucasians, are referred to pejoratively in Russia as "black." This refers primarily to Chechens and others from the northern Caucasus, ethnic minorities who enjoy their own special persecution in Russia.

Just interesting to note that "Caucasians" are Russia's "Canadians."

Anonymous said...

I've heard canadian being used as far back as 1997 when I was a's been around for a while;sometimes foreigner is used as well,all meaning the same thing....them damn black folk aint gonna tip worth a damn...which,sadly is true....I was a waiter for the better part of a decade and 85 percent of the time when I got a table of black folk,the tip would be substandard or right at 15 percent...I remember one time one table actually broke out the calculator and argued over 2 damn before I hated on for hating on blacks,I am black and before I started waiting tables I would be considered a canadian or a foreigner but after going thru all the crap that waiters go thru,I now tip at least 20 percent even the service was crappy....

Anonymous said...

This is horrifying...but not surprising given the state of your country. I'm (a non white, for the racists who care)Canadian and couldn't be more upset about this.

Canada, like every country with a white majority, is extremely racist but it still cannot compare to the US. I've lived in many parts of Texas and Canada as well... and the amount of racism I encountered at home was 10 times worse in a country that people say is truly a "melting pot".

I guess Americans have combined their hatred for us with their hatred for Black people...

Anonymous said...

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. Belive me, if these folks 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

For example, if a couple of city workers were discussing a public
works project, one might say to the other: "Because of DBE set aides, CDOT wants to be sure that there are a couple, tree Canadians on the job." This isn't racist, it's code -- code is used all the time by blacks, whites, Hispanics, Asians, et al.

VetMichael said...

I was shocked, actually, about the Canadian - Black connection. Having worked in restaurants for years (I see I'm not alone) on the west side, I got used to people referring to non-tippers as Canadian. I wondered why the girl who used it the most was visibly uncomfortable when I said "I don't think they're from Canada." I feel so retarded now. :(
BTW, THanks for the blurg (NOT Blog!)

Myriam said...

That linguistic information could be very usefull on my next trip to the US!

(posted by a C-word citizen)

Anonymous said...

@VetMichael: actually, in the service industry, Canadians *are* known as bad tippers compared to Americans... even in Canada.

also, I worked in finance in NYC around the turn of the century (!) ... "canadian" was used in that industry to refer to blacks back then.

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