Is Canada your first or your last name?

At Tae Kwon Do today, the instructor pulled me aside while we were warming up. Here it comes, I thought. Punishment for whatever I must have done to embarrass the school.


"Uh, yes, sir?"

"Your uniform's inside out."

...oops. On the bright side, if he let that slide, I must be in the clear. Rejoice!

And what better way to rejoice than sharing some trivia on Canadian history? Last week, I was discussing the difference between the People's Republic of China and the People's Democratic Republic of China. In turn, that got me curious about the "proper names" of countries. Germany is "The Federal Republic of Germany". Egypt is "The Arab Republic of Egypt". Australia is "The Commonwealth of Australia", and so on.

Mexico, however, is slightly interesting. It's the United States of Mexico. I mentioned that to a co-worker, and he told me that that's why British texts always refer to the "United States of America" in full. They don't want to cause any confusion, you see. For some reason, hearing that almost made my day.

What really did make my day, though, was Canada's official name. Are you ready for this?


That's it. No Commonwealth, Kingdom, Suzerainty, or Disputed Territory. Just "Canada". I love it. It's as if the G8 Summit was a meeting of the eight most powerful people in the country, and you were being introduced to them. "Here we have Sir Richard Rycroft, and Lord Autumnbrook of Chesterfield just walked in. W.E.B. Potemkin the third is at the piano... there's Doug, and behind him is Father Gilles Valdesilet of the..."

"Wait a second. Doug? Who's that?"

"What do you mean, who's that? That's Doug."

"Are you sure he should be here?"

"Pfft. Man, this thing could never happen without Doug, I mean... he's Doug!"

Like Doug, Canada is famous in a very specific way: it's Canada, and everybody knows Canada. (Even if Canada doesn't.) It's not the greatest birthright, but it's one I can live with.

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Canadian explorer. Chemist by training, biologist by nature. Long-time supporter and participant in National Novel Writing Month. Known as "Aquadeo" in most Internet circles. Also known as "that guy with the pants" to people who have seen me in certain pants.