canadian = black

by Hugh

When I worked in New York in a financial brokerage house in 2000-2001, my colleagues (I think it was Manus, a short funny Italian from New Jersey; and Bill, my office-mate, from Texas; and probably a few others) told me that in the banking/finance business – at least their end of it – “Canadian” was a code word that actually meant “black.” I had the impression the term had been used like that for years.

I think we were at lunch, and they were all talking about someone or other, and Manus said, “Oh, he’s Canadian,” and I perked up and said, “Oh really, where is he from?…” and of course they all laughed and told me it meant black.

I guess it was so you could say nasty things about “Canadians” without anyone getting pissed off.

I totally forgot about that, till I just saw this in the Boing:

The Canadian National Post looks on with mild horror as American linguists report on the growing trend in the American south to use “Canadian” as a masking euphemism for black people, so that white racists can say socially inappropriate things without tipping listeners off about the cancer in their souls.

I would point out to Cory Doctorow, though, that (I hope) he’s got his definition of euphemism wrong. Since a euphemism is: “the substitution of a mild, indirect, or vague expression for one thought to be offensive, harsh, or blunt….”

I can buy that the term “Canadian” is mild, indirect, & vague; but I think that calling “black people” offensive, harsh or blunt … is not what Cory meant. Presumably he meant Canadian as a euphemism for more offensive words for black people (you know, like the n-one we’re not allowed to write).

But even there, it’s not really a euphemism, but rather a way to disguise direct racial insults, eg. “Oh, don’t work with him, he’s a Canadian.” Etc.

Anyway funny when little quirks of language pop up 8 years later in the newspaper as “new” linguistic habits. Funny in a sickening sort of way.