An email sent in 2003 by an assistant district attorney in Texas to congratulate a junior prosecutor because he "overcame a subversively good defence… that had some Canadians on the jury feeling sorry for the defendant" reveals that "’Canadian’ has apparently become a code word for Blacks among American racists". This is confirmed by Urban dictionary, which lists several instances of this use of the word Canadian.
But why Canadians? According to the Guardian,

"Some visitors report that in Southern states, particularly in rural areas, Canadians are actively disliked – for their liberalism, their gun control, their refusal to support the Iraq war."

The National Post has another possible explanation:

Stefan Dollinger (…) speculated that the slur reflects a sense of Canadians as the other. "This ‘code’ word, is the replacement of a no-longer tolerated label for one outsider group, with, from the U.S. view, another outsider group: Canadians. It could have been terms for Mexicans, Latinos etc. but this would have been too obvious. (…) What’s left? Right, the guys to the north."

By | 2016-10-18T15:49:32+00:00 February 7th, 2008|Words|9 Comments

About the Author:

I am Céline Graciet, a freelance English to French translator. Since 2003 I’ve been writing on all sorts of areas linked to translation and the life of a translator.


  1. juliacgs February 10, 2008 at 9:48 pm

    Racism knows no limits!!!
    Specially when speaking about linguistic richness… Why does hate foster imagination much more that other human feelings???

  2. céline February 11, 2008 at 8:28 am

    Ah but what about all the beautiful poems inspired by love?

  3. juliacgs February 11, 2008 at 12:12 pm

    Well, yes, I guess you are right…
    Then we are talking about extreme feelings: hate, love… Human passions unlock human tongue…
    But as far as hate is concerned, disgusting euphemisms are incredibly developed…

  4. caroline February 12, 2008 at 4:38 pm

    i find this use of “code words” deplorable. that said, as an american, i partake in ridiculing canadians from time to time. their funny accents and universal health care nonsense provide ample fodder for cheap laughs. reading celine’s entry reminded me of a joke i once heard, and it goes as follows*
    Question: What’s worse than being Canadian?
    Answer: Being French Canadian.
    moral of the story: never pass up an opportunity to take a dig at the French.
    *celine encouraged me to post this. she can vouch for the fact that i play the part of the ignorant american for internet blogs only.

  5. céline February 12, 2008 at 4:43 pm

    I DID encourage Caroline, because I think that making fun of our neighbours, when it’s done in the right spirit of warmth and fondness, is a positive way of creating a relationship where there might otherwise be none. Does that make sense?

  6. Juliana February 13, 2008 at 1:42 pm

    It does. Funny joke. 😉

  7. S.M. March 6, 2008 at 6:02 pm

    By contrast, in the Northern U.S., particularly in the Pacific Northwest, Americans feel much closer to Canadians than to Southerners. This splintering of the American sense of togetherness isn’t widely reported because, to be aware of it, news organizations would need to spend time in the far corners of North America. If you ask someone from Portland, Oregon, or Seattle, Washington, if they feel more kinship with someone from Vancouver, British Columbia, or with someone from Atlanta, Georgia, they will inevitably reply “Vancouver.” (Vancouverites likewise often feel more in tune with Americans on the other side of the border than with people from, say, Toronto or Montreal.) People in the northern states also tend to watch more CBC on TV, since it’s much better than most broadcast TV in the U.S.–and at Olympic time Americans along the border tune in almost exclusively to CBC over the American channel.
    Anyway, Canadians may be misunderstood, feared, and hated by a lot of ignorant Americans, but they are loved and admired by millions of others, especially in the north.

  8. céline March 7, 2008 at 8:06 am

    S.M., I remember seeing a map of North America somewhere on the web which divided it into two separate entities: the United States of Canada, which included Canada, the North-East coast of the US and California, and Jesusland, which included the rest of North America. This is just one example of the complex relationship between the US and Canada.
    I also remember reading about the cultural divisions America, which go back a very long way indeed: if you compare a map of the states which were originally in favour or against slavery in the 19th century with a map showing blue and red states nowadays, they’re almost identical. I’m not sure there was ever much togetherness in America!

  9. Wes P May 26, 2008 at 8:29 pm

    I’m a Canadian who lived in Dallas for a year, albeit 25 years ago. I suspect the etymology comes from the Canadian River, which flows through Northern Texas and Oklahoma. If I remember correctly “Canada” was also a common surname, but was pronounced “Kennedy”.
    It is a point of debate as to whether Texans actually pronounce words.

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