Atlantic Canada — A country with one of the lowest literacy rates of the developed world, Canada, is apparently filled with linguists when it comes to the names of animals. When the Royal Canadian Geographical Society chose the “grey jay,” sometimes called the “whisky jack,” as the national bird and CBC reported on it, letters and emails poured in with irritated Canadians correcting the national broadcasting corporation.
“I don’t know nothing about literacy or whatchamacallit, but I know my birds and that there’s a G-R-A-Y Jay,” proclaimed New Brunswick man Arnold Ferguson, pointing at one of the feathered friends perched near his birdfeeder. “I saw some stories on the CBC about it and just had to let them know they were wrong. I expect more out of my free news.”
Nova Scotian Jeremy Klein said he spent half of yesterday trying to call “someone up at CBC” to enlighten them on their grave error. “I have a Grade 11 education and I like to think I know a thing or two about birds,” he said when someone finally picked up. “My dad told me that the spelling back in, oh, the ’60s, and spelling don’t change.”
Prince Edward Island woman Ruth Norton said she learned about birds from a birding book her nephew gave her for Christmas in 2002. The book, published in the United States, lists the spelling as “Gray Jay,” with capital letters, not “grey jay.”
“I sort of did a double-take — I never knew CBC to make a mistake,” said Norton. “I pulled up my Outlook on the computer and sent an email to CBC headquarters down in Toronto. Well, some editor wrote back and said the spelling of ‘whisky’ without the ‘e’ and the lower-case ‘grey’ with an ‘e’ were straight out of something called the Canadian Oxford Dictionary. I don’t own that book, and lemme tell ya, I have my doubts it even exists.”
The Manatee contacted said editor, and asked him to clarify why CBC reporters felt justified in spelling the bird’s name in the correct yet controversial way.
“We went with our regular editorial standards and accurate Canadian spellings, and not what a bunch of hicks have always held to be true,” he said. “But to be honest, next time I think we will just spell things the most popular way and avoid the flood of letters — most of which were just riddled with errors.”