Friday, July 07, 2006

"Call me Steve": The Nicknaming of a Prime Minister

The Shrub's friendly diminutive for our illustrious leader - Prime Minister Steve, as he shall henceforth be called - rings some interesting historical bells.

A couple of episodes that spring to mind:

1) LBJ used to call Pearson (who he didn't like, particularly after his criticism of the Vietnam War) by his first name, Lester. Pearson never used this name, preferring to be called Mike - indeed, this is the title of his memoirs.

2) FDR used to call William Lyon Mackenzie King (who he did like) simply Mackenzie, a nickname that nobody else used. King's close friends used to call him Rex. However, he was so touched by the use of a familiar term that he couldn't bring himself to correct FDR.

Possible lessons we could draw from this:

1) American Presidents can call Canadian Prime Ministers whatever they like.

2) Stephen Harper is on his way to being classed with other great, and misnamed, Prime Ministers like Pearson and King.

Hmmm... neither of those is a particularly comforting thought.

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At 2:45 am, Blogger The JF said...

Hey, this is unrelated to your post, but I just found your blog through Progressive Bloggers, and I'm very much interested in linguistic policies and national unity, so I just want to thank you for writing "Bilingual Today, United Tomorrow", even though I haven't read it yet, but I certainly will now that I know it exists! I'll also start keeping an eye on your blog.

I'm one of those who benefited greatly from those linguistic policies, as I'm an Acadian, so I was able to learn the language of my ancestors while picking up English through the bilingual environment I've grown up in, so I do hold them dear but I think there's still a lot of room for improvement.

On a personal note, it's an odd coincidence, but in a few months I will be at Mount Allison too! I've transfered there after a semester at Laval University, I'll be taking some courses in Political Science, Japanese and a few in Canadian Studies. So if you're doing a post-doctoral there, your book should be in Mount Allison's library, eh? :P (I realize you'd probably prefer I buy it, but MTA is expensive enough as it is, I doubt I have the cash for it!)

At 1:59 pm, Blogger Matt said...

Hello and welcome! You're certainly right that there is lots of room for improvement with Canada's language policies. For starters, politicians and bureaucrats setting these policies would do well to listen to what education specialists have to say about language acquisition and set curriculum accordingly. Cutting funding to these programs also doesn't help!

My book is certainly at the Mount A. library. Given that we have the highest (I believe) tuition in Canada, I won't take it as a personal affront if you choose to check it out there, rather than paying for a hardcover book. If you're taking Canadian Studies courses at Mount A., you could well end up with me as an instructor - I will be teaching a second and fourth year course this year.

At 10:16 pm, Blogger The JF said...

Thanks! Yeah, it seems it's always easier for policy makers to go, "Well, this isn't working as well as we'd hope and hell, nobody outside Quebec needs French anyway!" and just cut funding, instead of sitting down and figuring out WHY it's not giving the results they expected, and also failing to make Canadians aware of the market in la francophonie (well, mostly the francophone areas in Europe, it still makes for about 70 million people), as well as the diplomatic and cultural opportunities. Even francophones aren't aware of it... Anyways, personally, that's the impression I get.

Oh, I just checked it out, I was originally supposed to take one of your courses, Canada & the Modern Age, but it's only after I started registering my courses that I realized that 6 credits meant a full-year course, so I had to reorganize a few things, and ended up switching to Intro to Canadian Culture, in the winter term, instead.


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