Nov. 25, 2002. 07:05 AM
'Moron' actually Canadian term of respect, eh?
To: Foreign Affairs Dept., with copies to all other federal departments doing business with U.S. officials
From: The Prime Minister's Office
In light of a recent embarrassing event involving the use of the word "moron," the PMO directs all departments, and in particular Foreign Affairs, to conduct an information campaign with officials of the U.S. government about the subtle differences in language usage between our two nations.
Canada and the U.S. have long used different words for the same things. We say "Girl Guides" while Americans say "Girl Scouts." We say "postal code" instead of "zip code." We use some words and phrases with which Americans are not familiar. For example: "baby bonus", "toonie", "loonie", "Gordon Pinsent."
It is imperative, particularly in light of the fact that this government is currently negotiating several delicate trade disputes with the Americans, to make them understand that "moron" in Canada does not necessarily mean the same thing "moron" does in the U.S. In fact, it often means the opposite. (Note: This is along the same lines as when young people say something is "cool", what they really mean is it's "hot", or "neato.")
Canadians often use the word "moron" to describe someone they admire, someone they consider "swift." While this usage may be less well known than some other words in the Canadian lexicon (for example, Bill Casselman has not yet caught on to this, if you can believe it), it is prevalent in some parts of the country (e.g Ajax-Pickering). There may even be members of your department, and other ministries here in Ottawa, who are unaware of this alternate meaning for "moron" but we assure you: This. Is. The. Case.
Our history is rich in instances where the word "moron" has been used to honour great achievement. Remind American officials of the following:
1922: Fred Banting and Charles Best discover insulin. Their colleagues, during a celebration in the medical laboratory, congratulate them, raising their champagne glasses and cheering: "To Fred and Chuck, a real couple of morons!"
1972: Paul Henderson scores the winning goal in the Canada-Soviet hockey series. Across the country, Canadians scream: "Paul, you're our moron!"
1876: In Brantford, Ont., Alexander Graham Bell invents the telephone. In fact, the very first call he received was from a friend, who said: "Nice going, moron!" (Interesting fact to share with Americans: Bell, who had so far only made one phone, asked his caller, "Where, exactly, are you calling from?")
Americans need to know that every year, in addition to such ceremonies as the Geminis and Junos, Canada holds the Morons, where Canadians' oustanding achievements are recognized; that there is a Moron Museum of Civilization; that the Moron Grants Council annually awards $20 million to Canadians aspiring to be morons of distinction.
In dealing with Americans over the next few weeks, casually work the word "moron" into the conversation as often as possible.
Foreign affairs official: Hey, how's things in Washington, moron?
U.S. official: Excuse me?
This will raise a few eyebrows at first, but once our friends south of the border understand this is just part of our friendly banter, that the word is actually a term of respect, they'll begin the process of reassessing the occasions when they've heard us use it in the past.
Before long, U.S. officials will be expecting it. With any luck, by the time the Prime Minister next meets with President George W. Bush.
PM: Good day, Mr. President.
Bush: Good to see you, Mr. Prime Minister. (winks) You moron.
PM: Ha ha. I see you are catching on to our lingo.
Bush: I feel like a real moron today.
PM: You look like one, too!
Please forward a copy of this memo to everyone in your department.