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Canadians are earnest

Opinion Journal's Best of the Web by James Taranto is one of my favourite daily reads. He manages to effortlessly move between an authoritative command of what he's talking about to a breezy, conversational tone. One of his running jokes is to get an obvious fact wrong, or purposefully misunderstand something, and wait for the emails to pour in. A good example of this is when he mused that just as Bill Clinton was called the 'first black President' perhaps George W. will become known as the 'first Catholic President' for his efforts on some issue I can no longer remember. Of course he received hundreds of responses informing him that JFK was, in fact, Catholic. Well, duh. Taranto (who has written a book of presidential biographies) sheepishly admitted his mistake, but wondered why no one corrected him on referring to Clinton as black...

He cast another lure in the pond last week, this time hoping to catch a nice, juicy Canadian. He was writing about the non-migration of Americans to Canada following Bush's re-election and commenting on an proffered explanation that perhaps Canada is too cold in the winter:

The winter temperatures? How about the summer temps? According to the Globe and Mail, the expected high today in Toronto is a bone-chilling 28 degrees. This almost sounds appealing when you're in sweltering New York City (current temperature: 97), but then if we wanted subfreezing temperatures in the middle of August, we'd move to the Southern Hemisphere.

Of course, it turns out it isn't really that cold in Toronto. Weather.com gives today's high as 82, not 28. The trick is that Canada is on the metric system, in which temperatures are read backwards. What a clever way those Canucks have found of keeping undesirable immigrants out.

Granted, it's almost too easy catching smug and sensitive Canadians, but even with this very obvious lure, he manages to land a whopper. Canadian Chuck Morris responds and patiently explains how the metric system works to the poor insular Americans that read the Wall Street Journal's web page...
Ouch! I'm afraid you made a rather basic factual error in your explanation of why the expected high temperature in Toronto for that day was indicated as 28 on the Globe and Mail Web site, while Weather.com indicated the high would be 82. The explanation given was that "Canada is on the metric system, in which temperatures are read backwards," and while that may seem to be true, we learned otherwise in elementary school.

As is the case with most countries which have adopted the metric system, Canada uses the Celsius scale for temperatures, rather than the Fahrenheit scale used in the U.S. To convert a temperature from Fahrenheit to Celsius, you subtract 32 from it and multiply the result by 5/9. A temperature of 82 Fahrenheit thus translates to 27.7 Celsius, or 28 after rounding, and the fact that this is 82 backwards is purely coincidental.

Canadians pride themselves on their sophisticated senses of humour. Obviously there are a few exceptions.

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