Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Lip-synching to O Canada?

ARE WE A NATION that increasingly only mouths the words to our national anthem? I could be wrong but viewing all the Olympic success at the podium seemed to suggest some folks don’t quite know the words (at least to the English version) of O Canada.

Perhaps this was due to excitement or for linguistic reasons. I don’t know how to sing the French version of O Canada. Nonetheless, it makes me wonder if the fact that more and more Canadian schools no longer sing the anthem regularly could be causing the confusion.

I liked singing the anthem every morning in elementary school. Although I didn’t realize it at the time, it gave us kids a sense of unity, if only for that moment. We came together from all walks of life and found common ground in a song that woke us up to the day.

To me, the anthem is not militarist, overly proud or nationalistic. Rather, it is respectful of a vast inclusive land that we strive to protect in many different ways.

Oddly enough, we were quick to protect the current lyrics, although the song has gone through previous transformations. A recent suggestion to change the anthem into something more “gender-inclusive” was rapidly rejected by the public. It seems that women do not require the validation of a politically sensitive anthem.

Ironically, the suggested minor change from “in all thy sons command” to “in all of us command” would probably have gone unnoticed by those of us who are challenged to remember the lyrics.


  1. Interesting post, Penelope. I was strangely glad to hang onto the original lyrics, even though I could never be described as a staunch nationalist. In Quebec, we sang the beginning and end of the anthem in English, with a middle portion in French. At my school, we have about 30 countries represented, but I always find "O Canada" to be a favourite among the band students. I think that is because it really is an excellent piece of music. I never get tired of it. As for the lyrics, it's true that we do put them up on a screen for those who will sing:)

  2. I tend to agree, Carol. I love the original song. People try making changes now and then, though. I also recently read of an idea to change “native” and “sons” to the original French version of the phrases, alternating from French and English to express Canada’s bilingual nature. But I’m not sure how well the translation: “land of our ancestors” and “thy brow is wreathed with a glorious garland of flowers” fits contextually with the English phrases. But people are thinking creatively!


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