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Monthly Archives: November 2013

Foreign policy is a political minefield–the world is a big, complicated place, and naming countries things like Azerbaijan and Kyrgyzstan make embarrassment inevitable. Some politicians are uncommonly adept at navigating the intricacies of international relations, but many err on the side of disaster, giving us countless laughs as we vaguely wonder how these morons became responsible for representing us to the world.

In honor of these morons, I have compiled a list of some of my favorite foreign policy gaffes. But lest anyone think that I am looking down on them, I should say that I too have been known to deliver the occasional zinger. A few weeks ago I confused the President of Russia with poutine, a Quebecois delicacy consisting of fries, cheese curds, and gravy. Also, one of my rambling diatribes somehow ended with me comparing myself to Gandhi (because my life has been long and difficult, according to me). I guess we all have these moments…just for some, they are not so much moments as a way of life.

Image: Carsten Koall/Getty Images

Mitt Romney = Foreign Policy Gaffe

Mitt Romney didn’t invent the foreign policy gaffe, but he has personified it ever since his failed 2012 bid for the US presidency. My favorite nugget of wisdom from the Romney arsenal came when he attributed the fact that Israel is in better economic shape than Palestine to the Jewish culture. Never before has a politician so succinctly and deeply offended so many different groups of people while making himself sound like the biggest fool America has ever produced.

Other highlights of the trip include Romney questioning whether London was ready for the Olympics, calling Labour Party leader Ed Milliband “Mr Leader” (which is not a thing in England) after apparently forgetting his name, and congratulating Poland, which had an unemployment rate of 12%, on its flourishing economy. On the possibility of a conflict with Iran, he had this to say: “You sit down with your attorneys and [they] tell you what you have to do.” Holy shit. And he lost why….?

Gossip Guys

“I have to deal with him every day”

President Obama is probably still haunted by a hilarious private conversation he had with France’s former president Nicolas Sarkozy in 2011 regarding Israeli leader Binyamin Netanyahu. What’s the harm in a private exchange between colleagues, you ask? Their mics were on and everyone in the world heard the whole thing:

Sarkozy: I cannot stand him. He’s a liar.

Obama: You’re fed up with him, but I have to deal with him every day.

There’s something so charmingly schoolgirl-esque about this conversation that makes me laugh and laugh. Netanyahu probably begs to differ.

“Today I’ve signed legislation that will outlaw Russia forever”

In 1984 President Ronald Reagan put the Kremlin on alert with some inappropriate comments made during a sound check before a radio show. He proclaimed: “my fellow Americans, I’m pleased to tell you today that I’ve signed legislation that will outlaw Russia forever. We begin bombing in five minutes.” Russia’s leaders were not amused, and had to be convinced that this was only a little-known facet of Reagan’s twisted sense of humor.

“Esta vieja es peor que el tuerto”

Uruguayan President Jose Mujica learned about the importance of making sure one’s mic is off when an offhand comment he made–loosely translated as “this old lady is worse than the cross-eyed guy”–made it to the ears of the “old lady” in question. He had been referring to his Argentine counterpart Cristina Fernandez and her late husband Nestor Kirchner, who suffered from an eye condition. The comment was received in customary Argentine fashion–that is, with a healthy dose of drama and its own jaunty theme song.

https://i1.wp.com/media.theweek.com/img/dir_0090/45142_article_full/if-joe-biden-were-elected-the-nations-45th-president-hed-be-74-years-old-when-he-assumed-office.jpg

AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster

Joe Biden starts a war with Iran and kills the Irish PM’s mom

I  believe Joe Biden is an extraordinarily competent politician, but you wouldn’t know it from his long history of gaffes. At a campaign rally last year, supporters were surprised to learn that the US was at war with Iran–Biden asked them if they knew anyone serving in “Iraq or Iran.” Oops!

Similarly disturbing was when, during an introduction of the Irish PM, he mentioned that the PM’s mom (God rest her soul) used to live on Long Island. Trouble was she still did, and it was actually the PM’s dad who had passed away. And that’s why Obama keeps him behind the scenes now.

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Matthew Yglesias

“Russia’s big and so is China”

This one’s almost too easy, but I’ve never enjoyed a challenge anyway. George W. Bush was famous for his quirky (read: asinine) comments, and, much to the consternation of Americans, he was loud and proud in the international arena. He greeted Italian PM Silvio Berlusconi with a cheery “Amigo! Amigo!”, clearly forgetting that Italian and Spanish are two separate languages. He famously gave German Chancellor Angela Merkel a creepy shoulder massage. He excused himself from his last G8 summit with the words “goodbye from the world’s biggest polluter” with an accompanying air punch as Gordon Brown and Nicolas Sarkozy stared in disbelief. Is it wrong to say I miss the humor that President Bush injected into US foreign policy? Probably, but I still do.

“The people of Peru deserve better”

Dick Cheney did nothing to help his relations with Venezuela when, while lamenting the harm that Hugo Chavez was doing, he declared that “the people of Peru deserve better.” Sure they do–and so do the people of Venezuela, the country that Chavez led. Not cool, dude.

I’m sorry if this list seems a little America/GOP-heavy, but they make themselves pretty easy targets. Any accounts of stupidity in other countries are welcome. Perhaps it seems wasteful to spend so much time on stupidity, but it will always be in the world; the only thing we can change is our reaction to it.

Ok so technically one can only jump the shark once–it’s supposed to be the moment in which things irrevocably go from good to bad, as in the show Happy Days, when Fonzi jumps over a shark wearing a pair of waterskis in a desperate ploy to keep the show relevant. How, then, does John Kerry keep on jumping that shark, always managing to recover only to jump it again?

As US Secretary of State, Kerry arguably has one of the most rhetorically demanding jobs in the world. One false word out of his mouth could literally blow up the world. So it’s more than a little mind-blowing to me the way Kerry often seems to think out loud, say his actual opinion, and stand up for something about which he feels strongly. His predecessor, Hillary Clinton, was the opposite–she flew under the radar for the most part.

“How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake?”

Kerry, on the other hand, has been making headlines since his 1971 Senate testimony that helped end the Vietnam war. Even back then he didn’t mince words; as msnbc’s Lawrence O’Donnell observes, “John Kerry didn’t play it safe when he testified against the war,” and called him “the most valuable kind of war hero, the hero who helps end the war.” Kerry’s bold speech called out several Democrats by name and could have spelled the end of his political career. Instead it earned him a place in the hearts of many Americans who had begun to feel like pawns in their country’s proxy wars against the USSR.

And actually Kerry’s display did come back to haunt him during his 2004 presidential campaign. A closer examination of his war record and his history of opposition to the Vietnam war ultimately culminated in a shark-jumping moment for his campaign. (It didn’t help that America was then embroiled in multiple wars as a result of the September 11th attacks.)

“I actually did vote for the $87 billion…before I voted against it”

But he rose again, like a Fonzi-phoenix from the shark-ashes…only to jump the shark again in 2006, when he was caught making a joke about soldiers serving in Iraq. (Kerry maintains that it was a misunderstanding.) But perhaps most damaging was his change of heart about the war in Iraq. He had initially voted in favor, but later changed his position, leading Republicans to ridicule his perceived lack of resolve. His awkward and contradictory attempts to explain his new position produced a bonanza for Republicans and a headache for Democrats, though I find it admirable that he had the courage to change his mind after receiving more information. Nevertheless, he jumped the shark with these explanations and lost all Democratic support for a 2008 presidential run.

Not quite BFF’s

“Sure, he could turn over every bit of his weapons to the international community”

Kerry learned an important lesson in diplomacy in September, when an offhand remark he made about how Syria’s leader, Bashar al-Assad, could avert a US-led attack was taken as a serious proposal. Within a few hours of Kerry making this comment, Russia and Syria were already making plans to turn over Syria’s arsenal of chemical weapons to international control. A blindsided and bewildered Kerry tried to backtrack, but the wheels were already in motion, and by the time UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon threw his support behind the proposal/”rhetorical argument,” there was no turning back. This led to headlines such as “Did John Kerry just accidentally find a workable solution for Syria?” I wish my mistakes worked out that well…

…and then it got stolen by the one single most organized entity in the state, which was the Brotherhood.

Kerry’s recent comments about Egypt don’t seem destined to have the same miraculous effect that his Syria arguments did. In an effort to make nice with Egypt’s army-backed administration, Kerry has been busy lambasting the Muslim Brotherhood for stealing the 2011 revolution from young, secular-minded Egyptians. His comments are a pretty obvious ploy to show that the US is not in cahoots with the Brotherhood, but they appear to have emboldened Egypt’s rulers to impose new restrictions on freedom of assembly. Now secular activists are being arrested–79 on Tuesday–and the embattled nation seems poised for another bout of devastating civil strife. By no means is Kerry responsible for all of this, but it is worth wondering if these events are in part a result of Egypt’s leaders feeling supported by the US. I’d say this is another shark-jumping moment for Kerry, though his comments aren’t the usual off-the-cuff Kerry accidents, but seem more like a change in the official stance of the US administration.

John Kerry will go down in history as an ambitious and impassioned Secretary of State. His major undertakings include the resolution of the Israel/Palestine conflict, helping broker a deal to end the Syrian civil war, and a comprehensive nuclear deal with Iran; given his reputation as the Energizer Bunny of international relations, he just might achieve these goals. Luckily for us, it seems that jumping the shark agrees with John Kerry.

Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press

Canada’s reaction to the nuclear deal in Iran served to highlight an ever-weakening area of the Harper Government: foreign policy. As I have pointed out a few times before, our policies convey a hawkishness that is uncharacteristic and unworthy of Canada’s peacekeeping record. And while it is great that Foreign Minister John Baird feels secure enough with Canada’s state of affairs to loudly point out other countries’ failings, most of what Canada does now on the international stage is an awkward combination of punching above our weight and refusing to engage in sane discourse with other international actors.

Take the aforementioned Iranian deal as an example. A day after it was closed, Baird held a press conference to inform Canadians (because the rest of the world didn’t care) that Canada is “deeply skeptical” of the deal and will keep all sanctions against Iran in place. “Dammit,” said the thousands of Canadians of Iranian descent who must keep their money in their mattresses because they are not permitted to have a bank account. “What sanctions?” asked Iranian officials, the least of whose concerns is Canada’s refusal to sell maple syrup and lumber to them.

But this isn’t the first time Canada has had words with Iran’s new government. A few weeks ago an op-ed published by Baird angered Iran’s administration so badly that Iran’s foreign minister called his comments “disrespectful” and “rude,” stating that they “show total lack of understanding, in fact, absolute ignorance with regard to the realities in Iran.” Yowza–he really pissed them off! But honestly, what did they expect from a man who suddenly cut all diplomatic ties with Iran a year ago?

image: kc schabaum

John Mundy, Canada’s former ambassador to Iran, even went on record saying Ottawa’s reaction to the deal was “unnecessarily hostile,” pointing out that negotiations are the only way to end the cycle in which “one side increases sanctions, the other side increases their nuclear program, and unless both sides agree to step back that eventually would lead to a confrontation.”

Good thing then that Canada was not involved in the negotiations and was probably not asked for input at any point in the process. This is indicative not so much of the world powers’ opinion of us, but rather of the new niche that Canada’s foreign policy as of late has engendered. Canada has abandoned any strategy and tact that diplomacy would require, and instead prefers to shout loudly from the sidelines. From the sidelines because we have been steadily withdrawing from any international body that we can, ostensibly due to our focus on improving our ties with other countries by way of multilateral trade agreements (but in reality so that John Baird can say whatever he wants without having to back it up with money).

But as Mr Mundy observed, diplomacy is not a game of chicken, but rather a willingness of both sides to make concessions while still (implicitly) insisting on core necessities. It is hardly espoused by Baird’s condescending attitude toward Iran–he tersely stated that “Iran has not earned the right to have the benefit of the doubt.” Fair enough, but how has Canada earned this right? By engaging in industrial espionage? By its Prime Minister declaring that Canada will not accept no for an answer on the Keystone Pipeline? Or perhaps by ominously threatening to withhold aid to Palestinians when their leader won a vote at the UN for Palestine to be recognized as a state?

In the worst sort of irony, Canada’s human rights record actually came under fire this past September in a UN review. Among the most vocal complainants were Belarus, Cuba, Russia, and–yep–Iran! Instead of accepting the recommendations like a responsible country, the Harper government lamented the entire practice of having its record reviewed by countries with less-than-stellar records. How productive. In fact, our response to these countries’ concerns led the UN to send an envoy to investigate our treatment of indigenous peoples. Baird was unavailable for comment as he was busy clinging to a shrub while the moral high ground he had been perched upon crumbled into the sea.

Baird has termed his fun new style of international (dis)engagement “made-in-Canada foreign policy,” as if Canada has somehow discovered the magic key to foreign policy that had eluded all of humanity until now. This is highly unlikely. Also unlikely is our government realizing that excessively hardline rhetoric and refusal to dialogue with…well, anyone, is an inaccurate representation of Canada’s national character (as well as an egregiously counterproductive modus operandi). The international community will only begin to listen to what Canada has to say when we make a genuine effort to engage with international organizations and stop making unconvincing threats. Until then, it’s the shrub for us.

Back in May when Mark Carney was leaving his post of Governor of the Bank of Canada, I warned him that the British press would probably make up all sorts of rumors about him. The most believable one pertained to his status as a warlock. As evidence of Carney’s warlockishness, I quoted a prominent political scientist, who had this to say about Carney: “No one gets to where that man is just by working hard and being good at their job. That’s just not how our world works.”

Now that Carney has settled into his post as Governor of England’s central bank, I am inclined to agree. The proof is in the Yorkshire pudding. What did England’s pre-Carney economy look like? Pretty crappy I’d say, even for Europe. Its highly integrated finance industry meant it was hit pretty hard by the 2008 sub-prime mortgage crisis–British banks lost around 12 billion pounds in 2007 alone, and was also victim of a weak European export market in the wake of the sovereign debt crisis.

About a year before Carney started at the Bank of England, the UK slipped back into recession and people were beginning to wonder if the unemployment rate would ever decline after hovering around 8% since 2009.

Now, a mere five months after Carney’s arrival, the BoE’s Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) is proclaiming that “in the United Kingdom, recovery has finally taken hold.” Growth projections are being revised up and stat-watchers have been surprised at the job creation numbers of the past few months. Which leads me to ask: What is this guy’s secret?!

image: Chris Wattie/Reuters

He didn’t technically do much. After his first meeting in August with the MPC, he issued an unclear, waffly statement saying that he would not raise interest rates until the unemployment rate dropped below 7%, unless inflation became a problem or financial stability were threatened. No one quite knew what to do with that, but soon everything started getting better. In fact, things started improving the second Carney took over at the BoE, leading the Financial Post to assert that he had quite possibly made the best-timed job switch ever. And now, says Carney, the UK economy is sailing along at escape velocity. (Though most economists would beg to differ, according to a survey by Bloomberg Businessweek.)

Sorry, Carney, I’m onto you. I’m not fooled by your adorable ploy to win Britons over by taking the Tube to work on your first day and getting lost. An entire economy serendipitously healed itself the moment it became your responsibility. It’s more than luck.

Wikipedia defines warlocks as beings who invoke “magic through their darkened soul,” while warning that “warlocks are often evil or chaotic in alignment.” More incriminating is the fact that “almost all of the warlock’s attack powers depend on charisma or constitution for accuracy and damage, with some powers gaining bonuses from intelligence.” Now we know why Carney is so powerful: his excessive charisma and intelligence have made him unstoppable.

Also suspect is the way the Carneys have miraculously avoided the usually intense scrutiny of the British press. The Canadian media made much of the attention the popular couple would garner from the famously obnoxious British papers, but, apart from a brief uproar over Diana Carney’s dislike of tea bags, this has not come to pass. An innocuous occurrence, or another instance of magic invoked through a darkened soul? Who am I to say?

As long as Warlock Underlord Carney continues to use his powers for good, there is really no harm in his being a warlock. Is he evil or chaotic in alignment? I don’t really know what that means, but I don’t think so. His terse and dynamic public statements sure are missed here though. Our new Governor seems content to do what most bankers do best: his job, discreetly. And I actually prefer it that way after Poloz issued a weird statement thanking Canadians for taking on crippling amounts of debt during the recession. I don’t blame him though–the shoes of a warlock are hard to fill.

This is terrible, but I follow politics in part because I love watching ridiculous people do and say stupid things. The amount of joy I take in this is not healthy or productive–my time could be better used trying to get these fools out of office, but I’ve always had a soft spot for messy people.

However, this was the week I noticed that the messy people are getting louder and crazier, and it’s kind of starting to depress me. The stupidity is getting more creative and downright ironic at times. Here are some examples.

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro granted himself emergency powers to deal with an emergency of his own creation

Aspiring dictators, take note: All one has to do is muck things up so badly in one’s country that it devolves into a chaotic cesspool of looting, inflation, and crime. Then you can yell “EMERGENCY” and people will give you even more power to fix it! That’s a nifty trick. Granted, Maduro can’t be blamed for everything that’s wrong with Venezeula…but he sure has tried his darndest to make everything that much worse. If Santa Claus gets confused and doesn’t show up on real Christmas, hopefully Maduro can turn himself into Emergency Santa Claus.

Chris Toman, through Macleans.ca

Rob Ford mocked a Councillor in a city hall session for drinking and driving

Yeah….picture it: Valentine’s Day night, Miami, 1999. A youngish, wasted Canadian throws his hands up in the air and proclaims, “go ahead, take me to jail!” to a puzzled Miami cop. I think we know who that Canadian was.

US senators worry that the temporary deal with Iran to stop nuclear activities will become permanent

Speaking about this temporary deal, Sen. Bill Cardin (D-Md.) vowed that “we will not stand by and let this be the final deal.” Um I think that’s why it’s called a temporary deal. Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) predicted that “you’re going to see on Capitol Hill again a bipartisan effort to try to make sure this is not the final agreement.” Yup. I’m pretty sure everyone’s on board with that, actually.

John Kerry clarified the situation, observing that “nothing is agreed on until everything is agreed on.” Ah. Actually I’ll give him that one–he’s just spent the past week in nuclear negotiations.

Liz Cheney reminds us all of the distinction between political beliefs and real life

When Liz Cheney characterized the issue of gay marriage as “just an area where we disagree” (referring to her sister and her sister’s same-sex partner), she ignited an awesome public feud in which her sister told Cheney she was on the wrong side of history.

While Cheney is entitled to her own beliefs, it’s pretty cold of her to want to deny her own sister the right to marry, and thus many Republicans find her stance suspect and hypocritical. Cheney’s response? “I love my sister and her family and have always tried to be compassionate towards them. I believe that is the Christian way to behave.” That statement makes me imagine she’s bringing them casseroles every few days with a note that says, “sorry you’re gay.” Perhaps her sister should send her a casserole with note that says, “sorry you’re stupid.”

Sarah Palin compares debt to slavery, moving an MSNBC host to suggest she put feces in her mouth

Palin espoused a commonly-held view among the craziest of the Republicans that the federal debt was akin to slavery–but assured everyone that she wasn’t being racist. Nope, just really stupid! She also warned against the “seduction” of “free stuff.” It’s health care, and it’s not free, but those are just irrelevant details.

Martin Bashir recognized Palin’s uncanny wisdom by suggesting she would be a prime candidate for a punishment used on slaves involving putting fecal matter into their mouths. Bashir later apologized for getting a little too real, and for giving our future Chinese masters torture ideas.

How do I make them like me?

John Kerry tries to befriend Egypt using the tactics of a 13-year-old girl

I love this guy, but sometimes he makes me cringe. This week he observed that Egypt’s 2011 revolution was “stolen by the one single most organised entity in the state, which was the Brotherhood.” It wasn’t so much that this statement was untrue, but more that it was an obvious ploy to appease Egypt’s current administration.

Kerry is bold in asserting that many, if not all, of the Arab Spring revolutions have been hijacked by religious groups, and I doubt he was ever fond of the Muslim Brotherhood. I just sometimes wish that the US would acknowledge these things in a timely manner, rather than when it suits them. Remember that at the time of the coup, Obama was “deeply concerned.”

trudeau attack pamphlets

Conservatives try to take my job of making fun of people

Don’t mess with me, guys, or I’ll take you down or whatever.

Let’s hope this coming week brings less stupidity and more intelligence on the part of our politicians. Except for Mayor Ford, that is. Because I love him forever.

So I am reluctant to add to the attention on Toronto’s..um…situation, but Rob Ford made a fascinating comment yesterday that put a lot of things into perspective for me. Check out this succinct summary from The Telegraph of just a fraction of the shit that went down at city hall yesterday:

“This, folks, reminds me of when, when I was watching with my brother, when Saddam attacked Kuwait,” Mr Ford said, sparking astonished laughter. “And President [George HW] Bush said, ‘I warn you, I warn you, I warn you, do not.’”

“You guys have just attacked Kuwait,” he warned, promising to do “everything in my power” to defeat the councilors who voted against him and promising “outright war in the next election”.

His brother denounced the council session as a “kangaroo court” and a “coup d’etat”.

WHAT WHAT WHAT? This is so fantastically out of control–both the Fords seem to have abandoned any hope of saving their careers and are now clearly trying to draw as much attention to themselves as possible.

While I’m grateful to them for giving me some much-needed laughs, the comparisons to Kuwait are shockingly offensive to the many who lost loved ones or their lives in the invasion. Maybe the Fords aren’t aware that there’s a world out there, and most of it is even shittier than Etobicoke.

And let’s take a critical look at this. Here is the Fords’ arch-nemesis, Coun. Adam Vaughan:

ANDREW FRANCIS WALLACE / TORONTO STAR

Here is Saddam Hussein, apparently sitting in someone’s basement after a rough night:

image: The Telegraph

Ok so that’s not his finest hour, but I think we can all agree he’s one scary motherfucker. The Fords have somehow made the logical leap that Vaughan deserves to be compared to Hussein. One is responsible for millions of deaths and the arbitrary invasion of a nation. The other supports bike lanes, more stringent gun laws, and (admittedly) has actually been accused of waging a war–on nightclubs. In fact, Vaughan unfairly blamed College Street pub Crown and Tiger for a shooting that occurred in 2012, much like Hussein blamed Kuwait for declining oil prices in 1990. Ah. that one was a thinker–I see the connection now. Thank you, Ford brothers!

And that’s not the only parallel that Rob Ford’s situation shares with the Gulf War. Much like the Iraq-Kuwait conflict, the chaos at city hall can be in part attributed to a nasty border dispute. In the case of the Gulf War, Hussein justified the invasion on the grounds that Kuwait historically belonged to Iraq, so he was just taking it back. The fact that Kuwait is an oil-rich territory had absolutely no bearing on his decision whatsoever.

Toronto’s situation is a little different. Etobicoke is not an oil-rich territory. It is a land full of rich, conservative people (and not the classy, Conrad Black/finance kind of conservative) and terrifying crack dealers. Much to the downtown liberals’ dismay, Etobicoke joined Toronto in the Great Amalgamation of 1998. The historic event was, ironically enough, an effort to save money by joining six municipalities into one MEGA-SUPER-INSANELY-POWERFUL TURBOMUNICIPALITY.

The festering resentment Torontonians have felt ever since then accounts for the uncommon bitterness with which they have treated Ford. Until he gave them a whole lot of other reasons, of course. But whether in the Middle East or in Eastern Canada, border disputes can escalate quickly when underlying tensions are brought to head.

It is often stated that Hussein invaded Kuwait as a convenient way of paying his debts from Iraq’s conflict with Iran. Here we see another parallel with Toronto’s current situation: tax-and-spend liberals are obviously attacking Ford so they can get more money for financing bike lanes and nightclub raids. Maybe they’re run up some debts they don’t want the public to know about; maybe they’ve spent just a little too much on swimming pools or whatever money-burning scheme they are funding this week. The tax-and-spenders are fed up with Ford’s tough attitude towards budgeting and want him gone so they can make Toronto into one giant bike lane. Which is, like, totally the same thing as funding a war with Iran.

All I can say to Mayor Ford is, THANK YOU FOR DRAWING OUR ATTENTION TO THIS EGREGIOUS VIOLATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS. He has allowed us all to see the many parallels between the Gulf War and the scandal that has resulted from his crack-smoking. It’s totally the same thing. In fact, I’m going to call up the UN immediately and propose a resolution. Adam Vaughan will be captured two decades later looking decidedly less clean-shaven after having spent years hiding out in Scarborough, and justice will at last be restored to Toronto.

Inspired by a post in The Economist‘s Johnson blog entitled “Portuguese for the perplexed,” which was in turn inspired by a 2011 post in the same blog to help foreigners understand British English, I have decided to put together a short guide to Canadian English. Because underneath our polite demeanor, we’re actually sort of mean.

What Canadians say: Hi! How are you?
What foreigners hear: I want to know how you are doing.
What Canadians mean: Hi! Please do not tell me anything about your life unless you want this conversation to end swiftly–that was only meant as a polite and insincere greeting.

What Canadians say: Sorry! (After you’ve bumped into them.)
What foreigners hear: I apologize for getting in your way.
What Canadians mean: I’m sorry that you’re too stupid to look where you’re going.

What Canadians say: Absolutely!
What foreigners hear: Yes! Most definitely!
What Canadians mean: No, not a chance, never in a million years!

What Canadians say: What makes you say that?
What foreigners hear: What is your motivation for making that statement? Please explain yourself so I can see it from your point of view.
What Canadians mean: You are completely wrong and nothing you say next will change my mind.

What Canadians say: You’re hilarious!
What foreigners hear: You are very humorous.
What Canadians mean: I fear for my safety when you are near.

What Canadians say: It’s not a big deal/don’t worry about it.
What foreigners hear: It’s not that important, it won’t be a problem.
What Canadians mean: It is a big deal and I’m pissed.

What Canadians say: That’s really interesting.
What foreigners hear: I am fascinated by what you’ve told me.
What Canadians mean: That’s weird/stupid/annoying/messed up/boring/insert any adjective with a negative connotation here.

What Canadians say: He had one too many.
What foreigners hear: He drank a little bit too much.
What Canadians mean: He had to go to the hospital to get his stomach pumped.

What Canadians say: That’s understandable; not everyone follows hockey.
What foreigners hear: To each his own; we can totally be friends even if you do not like hockey.
What Canadians mean: Get away from me immediately, you piece of human garbage.

What Canadians say: Yup.
What foreigners hear: You have made a statement with which I agree.
What Canadians mean: No shit, dummy. (You have made a painfully obvious statement or you have said something I wish weren’t true.)

What Canadians say: I’ll call you.
What foreigners hear: I will make an effort to speak with you on the phone soon.
What Canadians mean: I probably won’t talk to you ever again. In Canada phones have not been used for speaking with others since 2005.

What Canadians say: I feel like there’s something you’re not telling me.
What foreigners hear: I am gently asking you if perhaps there is something you’ve left out to spare my feelings.
What Canadians mean: You are a liar. (You’ve really made him/her angry–it doesn’t get more confrontational than this for most Canadians!)

What Canadians say: I’m disappointed that…, It’s disappointing that…
What foreigners hear: I have been let down in some way.
What Canadians mean: I’m mad as hell that…(You better hope the disappointment was not caused by you. If it was, the Canadian will assure you it’s not a big deal then promise to call you. You’ve just lost the politest friend you could ever hope to have.)

What Canadians say: No worries, no problem (usually after they have done some favor for you).
What foreigners hear: I was happy to do it.
What Canadians mean: It was a huge inconvenience and I won’t be doing you a favor again after the scant gratitude you’ve shown.

What Canadians say: It’s so cold out today!
What foreigners hear: The weather is very cold.
What Canadians mean: I am attempting to engage in a cultural bonding ritual with you. If you do not agree wholeheartedly and enthusiastically with my statement about the weather, I will feel betrayed and disengage myself from this social situation. (At this juncture it is usually a good idea to mention something about how the wind or humidity makes the cold even worse. Don’t screw this up–a bungled weather conversation is a hard thing from which to recover. The Canadian will love you forever if you casually mention that you’ve been to Siberia and it was like Hawaii compared to Canada.)

Canadians are simple creatures–we bond over weather, and hide our rage behind a thin veneer of politeness. It may not be healthy, but it’s very civil and quiet. In fact, the loudest thing in Canada is probably Don Cherry’s suit.