Monday, December 24, 2007

It's a good thing I'm not Catholic

I wonder if there will ever be a point in time when the words "Holy infant, so tender and mild" don't make me want to BBQ?

And now, for a Christmas tale of another kind:

It was early this month, when my west-coast roomate pointed out an intergral Christmas-time difference between Western Canada and Central Canada (or what westerners call Eastern Canada. But I don't want to offend anyone here).

"Did you notice that we don't get Mandarin oranges in Ontario?" Natty asked me. "Instead, they get clementines from Morocco." Natty was right. I hadn't seen a single "Christmas" orange in my last 4 holiday seasons in Toronto.

One day, I brought this up at a McClung's production meeting. "That's so true," said one of our art girls. "My Grandma is from Calgary, and you'll never guess what she calls Mandarin oranges--" she said, pausing for effect, "--Jap oranges!"

"So?" I asked, thoroughly confused. "What's wrong with Jap oranges? They're oranges. From Japan. Jap oranges."

Canice laughed at my small-town, northern-Albertan ignorance and explained to me that Jap is apparently a slur (who knew?) and I probably shouldn't run to Chinatown looking for "Jap oranges." (Although, on that note, I have to admit, I still don't entirely see the problem. Am I being racist against an orange? Is an orange going to feel like it is segregated because of it's origin? And am I not right--it's an orange, from Japan, and therefore, a Jap orange? And in that case, isn't "mandarin" orange, or even "Christmas" orange, politically incorrect? Should I start calling them Holiday Oranges, instead?)

"It's like calling people a wop," Canice patiently explained.

"What's a wop?" I asked.

My professors and my entire masthead quickly caught wind of my ethnic blunder (this is, of course, following a cheeky comment I made a week earlier about Brazil nuts, with the sole purpose of getting a rise out of the Ontarions--which it did--some of them had never even heard the phrase) and teased me about it before I went home for the holidays.

As Andrew and I drove back to Cold Lake on Saturday, taking the scenic route through Lac La Biche and the northern Alberta reserves (okay, I'll admit, it was a very scenic route) with a free-range turkey happily chilling in a cooler in my trunk (or perhaps not so happily, considering it's dead), I related the story of the Jap oranges to him. But when I got to the punch-line, he didn't bat an eye.

"What?" he asked, confused. "I don't get it. What's wrong with calling them Jap oranges?" This, coming from my brother who lives in Vancouver. I told him Jap was a slur.

"But. . .they're oranges. And they're from Japan," he pondered aloud, before concluding. "So. . .they're Jap oranges."

You can't escape where you came from. And that's not entirely a bad thing.


But even though I'm from Alberta, and my mom is the one I picked up the whole Jap oranges thing from, I have to give her props. I'm making vegan saskatoon waffles for breakfast, but she's taking care of the completely vegan-friendly Christmas dinner (with the exception of the turkey--which Alex ironically got from work for my mom). How awesome is that? We're not completely backwoods, after all.

I have to pick Alex up from the Greyhound bus station in 2 hours. I hope his ride is going well. Andrew and I explained to him that it's the milkrun, unlike Ontario buses in every way, hitting every small town you can name between here and Edmonton. But the length isn't the problem--it's the fellow travellers. "I've got my headphones," Alex told us, nonplussed. That's all nice and good, a nearly solid plan--but headphones can't take care of the smell.


  1. First: You can totally find Mandarin Oranges in Toronto. There's a box of them rotting in my Fridge right now (in retrospect, buying them two days before I went back to Edmonton was a dumb idea).

    Second: You're kidding about not knowing that "Jap" is a slur right ... right?

    Third: If they're Mandarin Oranges they clearly aren't from Japan. (Although some of them are I know).

    Fourth: I was going to make fun of you for the wop thing and then chastise you for a poor showing for Alberta, but then I realized that not knowing what a wop is, is in fact a GOOD showing for Alberta so I won't.

    1. Anonymous7:01 PM

      "Jap" was not a slur until WW2, when the Japanese people were "the enemy." "Jap oranges" were rebranded "mandarin oranges" in the post-war period, because that "enemy" business was bad for business.

      And just FWIW, the clementines from Morocco are a very poor sugstitute for *real* jap oranges. I grew up marking the beginning of Christmas with the bundle (two crates, tied together with twisted fibre rope) that arrived on Dad's shoulder when he returned from work. I moved to Ontario in the early 70s and (take it from me) the difference is great enough that it's not "worth it" for the sake of Christmas tradition, to bring clementines into the house.

      Maybe one day I'll be back in BC at Christmas ...

  2. I seriously didn't know what a Jap was. For real, yo'. I thought it was short-form for Japan, or Japanese.

    Which, really, it is.

  3. Oh, also, it must be noted that I actually prefer the clemetines to the jap oranges.

  4. Oh, also, clementines are actually a kind of Mandarin orange, regardless of the country of origin. True story. Which is why "mandarin" orange isn't exactly correct, either.

  5. Anonymous11:27 AM

    It's my hope that someday, everyone will hear words that we all concider slurs and wonder what they are, as they've not been used in hate in so long that they've fallen out of the vocablulary. You're not "back-woods" for not knowing the meaning of the word, you've just never been exposed to the hate that is normally behind it.

  6. From Wikipedia:

    "Jewish-American Princess or JAP is a pejorative characterization of Jewish-American women. The term implies materialistic and selfish tendencies, attributed to a pampered background."

    You actually had a two-fer with the term "JAP".

    1. Anonymous7:03 PM

      Are you suggesting there is or should be a non-pejorative characterization of materialistic and selfish people from pampered backgrounds, of whatever sex?

  7. Why does the vegan meal exempt you from the "backwoods" label? Wouldn't the ability to process meat and dairy somehow suggest a higher technological level than that of, oh say... an ancient and primitive Australopithecus man, who probably had a diet closely akin to the vegan one because, biologically and technologically, he couldn't process meat or dairy? I like to think that I'm not really "backwoods" even though I am from Alberta, don't ascribe to a Vegan diet and like my steaks BBQed oh "so tender and mild".

  8. Anonymous12:33 PM

    ratty tat tat tat