Saved From The Twilight Zone

Items found. While looking for something old, I stumbled across something new. Make that “new for me.” I was searching for background on events 150 years ago leading to the eventual creation of a new country – Canada. It was during a pre-Confederation meeting in London, England, that delegates from Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and, what we now know as Ontario and Quebec, decided to name the new country Canada – but it wasn’t the only name under consideration.

Wikipedia (https://wiki.org) doesn’t tell us the names of the delegates who advanced Canada and seems a little uncertain as to whether it was a Nova Scotia or New Brunswick delegate who would claim the honour. It does note “Canada” was unanimously accepted after little discussion, though other names were suggested. “Kanata” was a local First Nations word for a settlement or village and had been easily adopted as Canada by explorers and early British and French settlers in Upper and Lower Canada, and what became the British Province of Canada in 1841.

What intrigued me was the note “other names were suggested” before Canada was chosen unanimously. Wikipedia provides the list for edification, few chuckles, brief consideration, and thankfulness that the authors of Confederation listened to New Brunswick and Nova Scotia.

So – the names our forefathers rejected: “Anglia” was discarded quickly for sure. “Albionoria,” or “Albion of the North,” sounds silly today but “New Albion” was the name British explorers wrote on their maps when they discovered new lands but didn’t have the time or means to explore them. If Albionoria was a little too fancy, New Albion was a recommended alternative. Both were discarded quickly

“Cabotia,” in honour of John Cabot, the early explorer, disappeared speedily, as did “Colonia” – whatever its root. Then there was the delightful “Efisga” – which sounds like a rude expletive until Wikipedia points out it’s the all-embracing acronym of English, French, Irish, Scottish, German, and Aboriginal. Also on the list were “Ursalia” – “place of bears”; “Vespatia,” “land of the evening star” and “Victorialand.” I wonder if Amor de Cosmos, one of British Columbia’s contributions to the weird political leaders’ club, proposed that one?

I’m skipping “Laurentia,” “Norland,” “Superior” and “Transatlantica” to give a little space to three specials:

“Mesopelagia” – “The land between the seas” was derived from mesopelagic and by dictionary definition “the middle pelagic or twilight zone” that extends from an ocean depth of 200 to 1,000 metres. Think of presenting a “twilight zone” passport at a Homeland Security checkpoint.

“Tupona” – To honour the United Provinces of North America and affirm staunch rivalry with the United States and resistance to sporadic attempts by the USA to absorb the fledgling country.

And last on today’s list: “Hochelaga” – Listed by Wikipedia as an old name for Montreal. When Hochelaga and Tupona drifted back to Ottawa, poet, statesman and fearless debater MP Thomas D’Arcy McGee rose in the House of Commons to “… ask any honourable member of the House how he would feel if he woke some fine morning and found himself, instead of Canadian, a Tuponian or a Hochelegander?” They never again appeared in debate.

We have much to be thankful for. “Oh, Hochelgander, our home and native land” just doesn’t inspire; “Oh, Tupona” is as bad; and “O ,Mesopelagia” can remain where our founding fathers hopefully placed it … forever sealed in a heavy lead box in the twilight zone, at maximum depth.

And, we can thank those old bearded guys who trekked back and forth across mountains, prairies and oceans in maximum discomfort and with great family sacrifice, to give us a strong foundation and the name to go with it.

(A footnote for history fans: D’Arcy McGee was assassinated on April 17,1868 by an Irish Fenian fanatic with opposing ideas on “the Irish question.” He was the first of three prominent political figures to be murdered in Canada. The other two were George Brown, March 2, 1889, and Pierre Laporte, kidnapped October 10, his body found October 17, 1970.)

2 comments

  1. Thoroughly enjoyed your brief glimpse into our history. Some of those proposed names for Canada sound as if they were thought up by Jonathan Swift for his Gulliver’s Travels

  2. I can’t imagine living in a country identified by one of those alternatives. But, then, I and the rest of my fellow citizens would probably have accepted it.

    There are many countries with weird names: Azerbaijan, Burkina Faso, Cabo Verde, Djibouti, Kiribati, Kyrgyzstan, Tuvalu, Vanuatu. Presumably their citizens are OK with them.

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