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Monday, February 16, 2009

Talking about "Canadian" names 

One of the best things about Canada, I believe, is that we aren't a melting pot where people congeal together into some bland homogeneous "Canadian" soup. Rather, we continue to strive to be a multi-cultural country where we all can maintain our distinctiveness. Je me souviens applies to all of us.
Over at Dawg's Blawg they're having a fascinating discussion about what makes a name "Canadian". Sprinkled among some wingnut anti-immigrant rantings there are some great comments -- like this one from Cameron:
. . . here's my checklist:
Passed the criminal background check? Got a passport? Know not to put your tongue or damp hand on metal objects during the winter?
Canadian.
Brendan adds
Omar Khadr is a Canadian name, though not many seem to believe it.
So is Mahar Arar. And North of 49 shares a story:
For my kids' generation (in a big cosmopolitan city, anyway), a name is just a name. Some are a little trickier to pronounce (teacher Mrs Abousaffi told the kids to just call her "Mrs A", for example), and while the kids are always aware of and curious about the name's origins, it isn't an "other" thing, like a tribal label; it's a personal thing, like the colour of someone's hair. For these kids, Mohammed or Ali or Jamshyd or Puran are already as unremarkable as Tom, Dick or Harriet. . . . At the dealership where my Filipino friend works, there's only one "white" salesman, the rest are first-generation immigrants from various places that have nothing in common except that there's no hockey. Yet during the playoffs, when there are no customers anyway because they're all watching the Canucks on TV, all five of these guys are crowded around the one small TV in the sales manager's office, whooping like cowhands on payday.
Dawg quotes a comment from a friend of his
. . . my mother married a Roma, and her twin sister a Cree, my grandfather on my father's side was a Hassidic Russian Jew whose family fled Russia to escape the pogroms. He married a Romani woman, one of my younger cousins just married a Mohawk man, and another aMexican man, I married an Italian, a Jamaican, and than a Jamaican Chinese man, my other cousin married a Chinese man, my best friends are Metis, Jamaicans, Jews and Vietnamese. I sent my son out West to go live with the Metis and he spent the last week spent fishing and hunting with the Blackfoot and he now he doesn't want ever want to come to Toronto. My daughter's closest friends are Iranian, Vietnamese, Ghanian, and Russian in origin.
Dawg says "That sums up Canada for me in microcosm, and it's one of the reasons I love the place."
Yes, indeed.

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