|887127. Sun Feb 19, 2012 11:31 am
|I've a few hopefully quite interesting things to note about my home (and native land).
Regarding Canadian money, we're in the middle of a transition to polymer bank notes, with the new $100 bill now being circulated and the rest of the common denominations being phased in through 2013. The polymer bills have a clear window with holographic marks in the middle of one half of the bill, as well as a variety of other anti-counterfeiting features. Polymer notes aren't new, so this is less quite interesting and more just plain spiffy.
Canadian coins that are of similar size have differently-formed edges to allow people to differentiate between them by feel. Nickels and pennies are smooth-edged, while dimes (very similar in size to pennies) have small ridges running the rim of the coin. Old coins (such as the 1953 nickel with a lovely young Elizabeth II opposite the beaver--it's far more innocent than you think!) were faceted to actually have twelve sides at times. Quarters are ridged all the way around, like dimes, while loonies ($1.00 coins) are eleven-sided instead of having a perfectly-round edge. Loonies are so named because the face has a loon on it, an iconic bird for Canadians, and the official name was simply, um, the one-dollar coin.
Toonies (or twonies, $2.00 coins) are smooth-edged, but have a few interesting details of their own. The two-dollar coin was introduced on February 19, 1996, and about ten years later, the unofficial name of "toonie" was secured by the Royal Canadian Mint since it's become the standard usage, at least in common speech. The first batch of coins was partially defective, and it is possible to separate the inner coin from its surrounding ring by freezing it or striking it hard on surfaces (or combining both), but this also happens to be illegal, as defacing coins is prohibited in the Criminal Code of Canada.
The toonie is also cheekily sometimes referred to as "the coin with the Queen on the front with the bear behind." Please don't send someone from the palace for me, I'll peacefully turn myself in once I have my affairs in order.
As I'm sure everyone here knows, like a number of commonwealth nations, Canada is technically a constitutional monarchy. As HM Elizabeth II is the head of state, all Canadian coins featuring the Queen (except where space is insufficient) feature the text "Dei Gratia Regina" (By the Grace of God, Queen) or an abbreviation to fit. This Latin is also present on UK coins, Wikipedia tells me, but with the addition of "Fidei Defensor" (Defender of the Faith). The only thing I can think of is that we lost our faith right around the first Quebec winter. ;)
Away from money, now. Tim Hortons is a very common coffee-and-baked-goods chain, more common than McDonalds in Canada, and the term "double-double" has passed into Canadian culture (with help from marketing by Timmy's) to mean black coffee with two cream and two sugar. This can sometimes confuse those familiar with western US burger chain In-n-Out, as a double double there is a cheeseburger order with double meat and cheese (and this can also confuse Canadians who've never been for burgers in California). Tim Hortons has expanded into some US states, primarily around New England and the border with Ontario.
Canadians continue to baffle Americans by being their closest source for discovering that ketchup-flavoured crisps (I'd call them chips around here) are an actual thing. This is only QI for me, personally, because it'd never occurred to me to find out if you could get those outside Canada and I discovered that the UK has them as well!
Despite being the national bird and symbol of the USA, bald eagles spend a lot of their time in Canada, and more specifically a lot gather in southern BC, along the major salmon spawning rivers, in the winter. The bald eagle is also a sea bird!
Chinook Jargon is a pidgin trade language that coalesced together in the Pacific Northwest in the 19th century. It's all but completely dead now, but it won't be forgotten for a long time, as it lives on in placenames and a few words clinging to active usage in the local variations of English. A couple examples:
- skookum approximately translates to the concept of being large, strong, sturdy, and/or reliable, or simply just fine (at least in contemporary BC usage)
- chuck is basically any significant body of water (and saltchuck refers to salt water)
- These combine to form skookumchuck (mighty water), which generically refers to rapids and specifically is the placename for four rapids in BC and Washington. The one I'm most familiar with is the crazy tidal rapids of the Sechelt Inlet, with peak tides of up to 32km/h.
The Cowichan Arena, located in Duncan, BC, is officially home to the largest hockey stick and puck (33 tonnes, 63 meters long).
Duncan is down the highway from my hometown, Nanaimo. Nanaimo is famous for several things, depending on how familiar you are with the place.
The most common connection, I've found, is through Nanaimo bars, rich no-bake dessert bars that are internationally famous. More on them, recipes included, in another post sometime soon.
If you've read a newspaper for quirky current events and news around July in any given year since the 80s, you might've heard of the World Championship Bathtub Race. Every year, we make tub-shaped boats (the rules require that every entrant's vehicle must conform to the standard accepted appearance of a bathtub, in terms of where the driver sits, though the hull is typically flat-bottomed with a pointed bow and a broader transom), strap small outboard engines onto them, and then send grown adults to race them on the ocean. Although I've never entered the race, I have ridden in two escort boats and sunk a tub (tubs are generally unstable, as the driver needs to be able to drain the 'tub' from water splashing over the deck, so the race is conducted with an open drain into the ocean; this is fine as long as you don't stop moving forward). Many of the original entrants in the very first races were in actual bathtubs made to float and motorized with an outboard engine bolted on--and most of them didn't make it more than a thousand yards from the starting line.
If you've heard tourist stories about Nanaimo, you probably have heard that it's called the Hub City. For historical reasons, downtown Nanaimo's layout is arranged in a wheel shape, with the hub essentially centered on the immediate vicinity of the harbour's commercial boat basin as well as the Bastion. The spokes (roads) radiate outwards, crossed with concentric streets.
Considering that downtown was originally an island separated by a very muddy and smelly swamp that was eventually landfilled, and it's rather hilly for a coastal area, the results are that tourists frequently get lost in Nanaimo (please forgive the 30-second-preview; I can't find anywhere to listen to the full song that does not involve buying it or treading on murky paths in the lower reaches of the Internet). An old local joke is that Nanaimo's development plans are given to new communities as they're starting as guidance for what NOT to do. The roads follow the spoke-with-concentric-bands design except for when the landscape disagrees, so the roads are not only laid out with an inefficient and awkward paradigm, they're also inconsistent in following it due to terrain.
Nanaimo is also, sadly, going to be known (probably forever, or until records are lost) as the site of the deadliest coal mine explosion in British Columbia history. The 19th century was a booming time for Nanaimo, because the whole place sits (or sat) on generous coal seams, and the original established settlement that became Nanaimo was built around the needs of the coal mines and the miners.
Phew, I hope I've said something QI so far. Last, I want to tell you about my childhood home, Protection Island. Protection Island is an inhabited island in Nanaimo Harbour, approximately one mile by half a mile in area and about one mile offshore from downtown. It is connected by a private ferry service and has multiple private and community-managed docks. At very low tides, it is possible to walk across the exposed seabed to Newcastle Island, a provincial park separated by a narrow and shallow stretch of water.
Originally the second Douglas Island in the province, it eventually gained its current name from the November 1852 murder of Peter Brown by two native men (that link is a transcript of a primary source for the incident). The two natives were brought to Nanaimo to be kept in custody until their turn with the judge. I'm having trouble finding an online source for this next part, but the story was told to me (and corroborated by an official local-interest tourism sign by the city I saw later) as follows:
In the 1850s, it was pretty much simply taken as a matter of course that the colonial-era European population around here was quite biased against the indigenous "savages." As a result, when the two alleged murderers were brought to town for custody, people were quite ready to simply find them guilty and string them up right then and there. However, the men were still entitled to due process, even if it wasn't perhaps unprejudiced due process, and the police chief realized that the accused were not safe in an ordinary cell in town. As a solution, he held them in custody on the smaller of the two islands in the harbour, along with a small army of officers to discourage vigilantes from taking a moonlit hop across the harbour in a boat -- for their protection.
They were eventually found guilty and sentenced to death by hanging, and the sentence was carried out on the southern point of the island, now known as Gallows Point. Gallows Point has an unattended lighthouse, and the immediate vicinity is home to the Protection Island Museum, the Gallows Point dock, the one boat launch on the island, several private homes, and a sealed entrance to the old coal mines that run extensively under the whole city and under the harbour.
That's kind of a downer, so let me wrap it up with this happier tidbit: Since 1989, the island has had a seasonally-open floating pub and restaurant docked with the ferries' island-side berths. The Dinghy Dock Pub is open from spring through fall, and is actually a registered vessel. To my knowledge, it's the only floating pub in the world that is also a boat (without just being a boat with a bunch of alcohol and chips for sale on the deck).
I hope that contained some quite interesting stuff. If it's not too late to include, the elves might want to see if they can stump the panel with J for (Chinook) Jargon. e.g. "If I told you you were up the skookumchuck without a paddle, how fast would you be going?" Even though there's no single correct answer (there are four different rapids by that name and rapids vary in flow volume), I think it'd be a good stumper, the kind that produce the oddball answers.