On National Anthems and such…

The past couple of days have seen a national dust up over two words in the Canadian anthem, and boy o boy, what it demonstrates about our knowledge of our country’s history is amazing.

OK, a bit of background: “O Canada” was first written, in French, in 1880, with the first English version appearing in 1900 or thereabouts. Truth be told, the first Anglo take wasnt very good: it was clunky and swam around the music like Taylor Swift coming in for a landing on a note. Since then, there have been some twenty eight English adaptations of the original French (which, by the way, has not changed one bit since 1880), even now after it was accepted as our national anthem in 1980, replacing the (in my mind) equally cool “Maple Leaf Forever”).

So a couple of days ago, Ottawa announced a small but important change in the lyrics: “in all thy sons’ command” would be changed to “in all of us command” — and a select part of the Canadian population went nuts. They’re changing our song! I’m not singing it that way! This is just another trainwreck on Canada! — and so on and so forth. When you point out that their claim of singing the original lyrics is a bit… uhm… incorrect, that “all thy sons” was put in there during World War One to honour the soldiers going off to Europe, the usual response is “What, dont you support our troops?” And when you point out that our troops are not just men anymore, you hear “Well, sons means everyone!”

… and so it goes. Look, to be honest, I dont care which version you opt to sing as long as you’re understanding which version you’re opting to sing. You want to sing the 1914? Go for it. You want to use the more includive one from 2018? I’d prefer it, but I’m not going to go nuts over it if you want to live in Edwardian times, when women were property when they were even acknowledged to exist. Times move on, as should national anthems. The song is supposed to be about the people and the country it represents, so let’s have it do its job, eh?

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