Friday, June 30, 2017

"Come Again?"

Things we heard wrong as kids growing up in Canada, recalled on the eve of its 150th anniversary.

I don’t know if this was me, but there were certainly kids in my class, especially Jewish kids, who, when we stood up to recite the Lord’s Prayer – and we did; this was before the identify grievance era – at least some of those kids kicked off the morning recitation with the words,

“Our Father who art in Heaven
Harold be thy name…”

This one, I know I did.

Again because they made us, at the end of every movie, Canadians were required, before leaving the theater, to stop and sing “God Save The King” (and, following his death so I guess God wasn’t listening, the Queen.) 

As a result of this Commonwealthian obligation, Canadians became really adept at anticipating when a movie was about to “Fade out”, which allowed us to make a dash for the exits before the recorded band – I believe it was recorded – struck up the introduction, and we were required to stand still and hail the reigning sovereign, who, given the time difference, was probably asleep.

There was the concluding portion in the British National Anthem (and ours until 1967) that I believe I got wrong for some time, that went,

“Santor victorious
Happy and glorious
Long to reign orious
God save the Queen.

Finally, Canada’s backup national anthem after “O, Canada,”, the Canadian counterpart to “God Bless America” – I don’t know why you would need two of them; maybe in case the original anthem gets sick – called “The Maple Leaf Forever.”  (The maple leaf being our national symbol as well as the name of a hockey team that has not won the Stanley Cup championship since we stopped singing “God Save The Queen.”  Is that, I wonder, our “Curse of the Bambino”?  “The Curse of the Unsung-To Queen-o”?)

Anyway, at the end of “The Maple Leaf Forever”, there is a collective mentioning of the national symbols of the British Isles countries that predominantly populate – or at least once predominantly populated – Canada. 

On those infrequent occasions when “The Maple Leaf Forever” was called for, I, imaginably not alone, would loudly intone at the end of the song,

“The thistle, shamrock, rose and twine,
The Maple Leaf forever.”

For years, I wondered which country was proudly represented by “twine”, which is the equivalent of string. 

It must, I logically concluded, be Wales, because the other U.K. countries were all covered – the “thistle” stood Scotland, the “shamrock” was Ireland, the “rose” was England.  “String” must inevitably have been Wales.

I felt bad for the country.  Couldn’t they think of anything better to be represented by?  I imagined they considered their options.  But it was, like,

“When you think of Wales, what’s the first thing that comes to your mind?”


Really?  That’s the best they could come up with?

“Our country is proudly represented by that that indispensible item that keeps parcels from coming apart in the mail.”

At some point, however, I had my illuminating “Emily Litella Moment.”

“Oh. “The thistle, shamrock, rose entwine…”

Followed by the obligatory,

“Never mind.”

A recent New York Times article on Canada, concerning its overall apathy towards reaching its sesquicentennial milestone, concluded with the line,

“I’m proud of my country for its lack of pride.”

I appreciated that line for two reasons.  One, I get it, and I agree with it.  And two, I wrote the same thing in this venue last year.  Or possibly the year before.  I know I wrote it sometime.  It looked extremely familiar.

Not that I’m proud of having a sentiment of mine printed in the New York Times.

But it is kind of neat, eh?

Happy “Big Birthday”, Canada.

You’re the best pretty good country in the world.


Guy Nicolucci said...

The Anthem Sprinters by Ray Bradbury
Loved this story, just found this television version.

JED said...

If they hadn't just left an allusion to Wales out of the song, it would have been a Daffodil or a Leek.

Jedediah said...

It's not often we get to use "sesquicentennial" in our vocabulary, but Happy Sesquicentennial to our Canadian friends and neighbors!
PS, I won't pay for the wall!