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Monday, January 05, 2009

Winston Smith of the BMO

I do daily banking at the Bank of Montreal, as part of my job. I often see the funny faxes that a BMO wag sends around to the various branches, as they are put up where the customers can see them.

The latest fun fax shows a photo of people walking past a Bank of Montreal, with snow piled up well over their heads. The caption reads (slight paraphrase): "Yes, this is a real photo of Iqaluit, Nunavut, taken in 1959 (or 1969)."

I can almost hear Martin Lynch, in "Desker Heaven", sighing "But Nunavut didn't exist until 1999. Properly, that would be a photo in the Northwest Territories."

A small point, to be sure, but the historical record should be respected and not tweaked...even if only by accident, as I think was the case here. No reason to be politicially correct when we don't have to be, eh? 

Posted by Rick Hiebert on January 5, 2009 | Permalink


As my old colleague Terry O'Neill will tell you, Martin Lynch was a noted and brilliant retired Globe and Mail "desker" editor, who helped the Report magazines by giving them a final read before they went to press.
He could easily spot errors like the one in this cutline, and saved us from many mistakes

Posted by: Rick Hiebert | 2009-01-05 3:51:18 PM

That would be Frobisher Bay, North West Territory, as the town's name was changed about 1988?

Posted by: Brian Willoughby | 2009-01-05 4:39:13 PM


Actually, calling it "Iqaluit, Nunavut" is not wrong. The term "Iqaluit, Nunavut" picks out a place, not a place at a specific time. To pull out some jargon, it is a rigid designator of the place. So it does not matter what it was called then for the sentence to be true.

Take this as another example: "The twenty-second Prime Minister of Canada was born in Toronto." That's accurate, even though he was not yet the twenty-second Prime Minister on the day he was born. Similarly, "Muhammad Ali began boxing when he was 12" is true and accurate, even though his name was Cassius Clay at the time and he did not change it until he was an adult.

In fact, since many women change their names when they marry, sentences like this are common. "Margaret Thatcher graduated from Oxford" is true and accurate, even though she was named Margaret Roberts at the time, as she had yet to meet Denis Thatcher, her future husband.

So there is no error here. The picture really is a picture of Iqaluit, Nunavut.

Posted by: Fact Check | 2009-01-05 5:24:42 PM

Indeed...to be completely accurate, that would be a photo of Frobisher Bay, NWT at that time period. My bad.

Posted by: Rick Hiebert | 2009-01-05 5:37:48 PM

(Can't have Martin making an error, so thus my amended post. :) )

Posted by: Rick Hiebert | 2009-01-05 5:40:25 PM

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