O Canada! Au Canada: le huard!

Today is Canada Day, the 150th, and also the 30th anniversary of the Canadian dollar coin, the loonie (le huard):

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Background: Canada Day. From Wikipedia:

Canada Day (French: Fête du Canada) is the national day of Canada. A federal statutory holiday, it celebrates the anniversary of the July 1, 1867, enactment of the Constitution Act, 1867 (then called the British North America Act, 1867), which united the three separate colonies of Canada, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick into a single Dominion within the British Empire called Canada.

Background: the loonie. From Wikipedia:

The Canadian one dollar coin, commonly called the loonie (French: huard), is a gold-coloured one-dollar coin introduced in 1987. It bears images of a common loon, a bird which is common and well known in Canada, on the reverse, and of Queen Elizabeth II on the obverse. It is produced by the Royal Canadian Mint at its facility in Winnipeg.

The coin’s outline is an 11-sided curve of constant width. Its diameter of 26.5 mm and its 11-sidedness matched that of the already-circulating Susan B. Anthony dollar in the United States, and its thickness of 1.95 mm was a close match to the latter’s 2.0 mm. Its gold colour differed from the silver-coloured Anthony dollar; however, the succeeding Sacagawea and Presidential dollars matched the loonie’s overall hue. Other coins using a curve of constant width include the 7-sided British twenty pence and fifty pence coins (the latter of which has similar size and value to the loonie, but is silver in colour).

The coin has become the symbol of the Canadian dollar: media often discuss the rate at which the loonie is trading against other currencies. The nickname loonie … became so widely recognized that in 2006 the Royal Canadian Mint secured the rights to it. When the Canadian two-dollar coin was introduced in 1996, it was in turn nicknamed the “toonie” (a portmanteau of “two” and “loonie”).

The common loon. From Wikipedia:

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The common loon (Gavia immer) is a large member of the loon, or diver, family of birds. The species is known as the great northern diver in Eurasia; another former name, great northern loon, was a compromise proposed by the International Ornithological Committee.

… In the spring and summer, most common loons live on lakes and other waterways in Canada and the northern United States. The summer habitat of Common Loons ranges from wooded lakes to tundra ponds. The lakes must be large enough for take-off and provide a high population of small fish. Clear water is necessary so that they can see fish to prey on. As protection from predators, loons favor lakes with islands and coves.

… This species, like all divers, is a specialist fish-eater, catching its prey underwater, diving as deep as 60 m (200 ft) and can remain underwater for as long as 3 minutes. Having large webbed feet, the loons are efficient predators, powerful swimmers, and adroit divers. Freshwater diets consist of pike, perch, sunfish, trout, and bass; salt-water diets consist of rock fish, flounder, sea trout, and herring. The bird needs a long distance to gain momentum for take-off, and is ungainly on landing. Its clumsiness on land is due to the legs being positioned at the rear of the body; this is ideal for diving but not well-suited for walking. When the birds land on water, they skim along on their bellies to slow down, rather than on their feet, as these are set too far back. The loon swims gracefully on the surface, dives as well as any flying bird, and flies competently for hundreds of kilometres in migration. It flies with its neck outstretched, usually calling a particular tremolo that can be used to identify a flying loon. Its flying speed is as much as 120 km/h (75 mph) during migration. Its call has been alternately called “haunting,” “beautiful,” “thrilling,” “mystical,” and “enchanting.”

You can watch a Cornell Ornithology video on the call of the loon here.

The common loon is le plongeon huard (plongeon ‘a plunge, dive’) — loons in general are plongeons — or just huard for short;  huard then refers to either the bird or to the loonie.

The Song of the Loon. Say the word loon to an American gay man of a certain age, and he’ll probably call up the book or the gay porn flick The Song of the Loon. Start with the author of the book, from Wikipedia:

Richard Amory (October 18, 1927, Halfway, OR – August 1, 1981, San Jose, CA), born Richard Wallace Love, was an American writer. He obtained a bachelor’s degree in sociology from Ohio State University, a M.A. in Spanish from San Francisco State University, and began an uncompleted Ph.D. in Spanish at University of California, Berkeley. A high school teacher by profession, he achieved success as a novelist in the late 1960s while still a graduate student and before coming out.

Amory is best known for his 1966 novel Song of the Loon: A Gay Pastoral in Five Books and an Interlude and its two sequels, Song of Aaron and Listen, the Loom Sings. Variously described as “a gay American version of famous sixteenth-century Spanish pastoral novels” and “a gay version of The Last of the Mohicans,” Song of the Loon is now considered “one of the most important gay books of the 20th century.” An estimated one third of American gay men have read the novel [this might have been true at one time – the claim is from 1994 — but it’s surely not true now]. It was adapted as an erotic film in 1970 without Amory’s involvement and much to his disgust.

A Google Books review:

Published well ahead of its time, in 1966 by Greenleaf Classics, Song of the Loon is a lusty gay frontier romance that tells the story of Ephraim MacIver, a 19th-century outdoorsman, and his travels through the American wilderness, where he meets a number of characters who share with him stories, wisdom and homosexual encounters. The most popular erotic gay book of the 1960s, Song of the Loon was the inspiration for two sequels, a 1970 film of the same name, at least one porn movie, and a parody novel. Unique among pulp novels of the time, the gay characters in Song of the Loon are strong and romantically drawn, traits which have earned the book a place in the canon of gay American literature.

The book was one of the earliest to treat homosexuality as simply a (highly romanticized) way of being, and a great many gay men took to it for that reason.

Now, as far as I can tell, there’s only one movie, featuring actors Jon Iverson, Morgan Royce, Lancer Ward, Jon Evans, and Brad Fredericks (not names you will be familiar with), filmed in Northern California, with a Noble American Indian subtheme, and listed as “gay erotica” or “adult” in sources (though at least one lists it as from 1968 rather than 1970). You can watch the trailer here.

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(I haven’t read the book, and what I’ve seen of the movie gives me the giggles: men so earnestly in luuv, with sex breaks. But for its time…)

au Canada. The national anthem “O Canada!” took me right to au Canada ‘in Canada’, and then to the song “Ma Cabane au Canada” (“My Cabin in Canada”), first recorded (in France) by Line Renaud in 1947. An image of a cabin in Canada:

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And a record cover for the song:

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You can listen to the song here. For Canada Day.

One Response to “O Canada! Au Canada: le huard!”

  1. [BLOG] Some Sunday links | A Bit More Detail Says:

    […] Zwicky considers the surprisingly deep historical resonance of the loon in […]

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