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What the French is a Canuck?

Vancouver Canucks Logo

Well we're all Chicago Blackhawks fans here at EZlocal (although there may be some rogue Detroit fans lurking) - so watching the Hawks take on the Vancouver Canucks in the Western Conference Semifinals series has without a doubt spurred the question among many, what the French is a Canuck?

Before rushing to Google to find out, take a look at the Vancouver Canucks team logo and see if you can figure it out. So what is a Canuck? We conducted a quick EZlocal office survey to find out. Here are the results (from a group of 25 surveyed):

Canuck Graph Results

If you answered "a Canadian", then perhaps you deserve to be an editor for Urban Dictionary. The word "Canuck" is slang for a Canadian citizen. Some of my favorite "others" included in our office survey were definitions such as a boat, rabid animal, and a Canadian puck. A puck? Seriously?

Here's what the Random House Dictionary had for an answer when I did a search for what is a canuck: "The term Canuck is first recorded about 1835 as an Americanism, originally referring specifically to a French Canadian. This was probably the original meaning, though in Canada and other countries, "Canuck" refers to a Canadian."

According to a Wkipedia search for meaning of Canuck, the actual term Canuck appears to have been coined back in the 19th century, but its origin is still a little unclear. I've summarized five of the most popular possibilities Wikipedia came up with for the origin of the term Canuck:

  1. According to Canadian Etymology, the term evolved from the French word "canule". The most likely possibility is that it came about from a mispronunciation among Benedict Arnold’s forces as they laid siege to Quebec in the winter of 1776.
  2. Some say the co-commander on the Canadian expedition, who loved word-play, made a joke on the word canule that was picked up by his troops.
  3. Another possibility comes from a result of the captured German mercenaries held in prison camps in Pennsylvania. They were eventually offered repatriation to the "Plains of Ottawa" and became the referred to as the Pennsylvania Dutch or "Genug Kanada." And the word Kanada derived from French was often misspelled "Kanuck" back in the 19th century.
  4. The word Canuck may have originated from the down-easters of Maine who picked up "Quelle Canule" from French-speaking neighbors and applied it when facing the navigational difficulties caused by the peculiar "flushing" effect of the famed tides of the Bay of Fundy.
  5. Yet another possible origin, although perhaps far-fetched, is that the many Scots who migrated to Canada between late 18th and early 19th centuries quickly absorbed Quelle canule into their vocabulary. As Scots, they would muddle the end of the term canule and end up with something like "Quelle canuhgk."

So what's with the Canucks and their Orca logo?

The Canucks logo refers to their team mascot, a big fat killer whale. The reason for this? The owners of the Vancouver Canucks is Orca Bay Sports and Entertainment. So it seems Orca Bay had just a tad influence in the whole logo redesign.

Here's the three-part evolution of the Vancouver Canucks logo:

Canuck Logos

From left to right: The "Stick-in-Rink", 1970–78; alternate logo, 2003–2007. "Johnny Canuck" RBK third jersey shoulder logo, modified in 2008. And the present Orca logo, 1997–2007.

The Vancouver Canucks aren't the only sports team to adopt the name Canucks. My favorite other example is the Crazy Canucks, a Canadian alpine ski race team who competed in the World Cup in the 70's.

If you'd like to take part in an active debate on the topic of yet another logo change for the Canucks, you can respond to a 2010 poll on Vancouver's official forum: Canucks logo change coming next year?