CLOSE

Do Americans Actually Move to Canada After Elections?


Wikimedia Commons

"That's it, I'm moving to Canada." So goes the liberal response every time the Democratic candidate loses a presidential election. The prospect of four years of Republican rule makes America's northerly neighbor — where everyone has health care, gay marriage is legal, financial regulations are strict, and the death penalty is abolished — seem like a sanctuary of progressive values. However, conservatives in recent years have also jumped on the Canadian bandwagon, claiming that a victory for President Obama would necessitate packing up a U-Haul. (The concept, paradoxically enough, erupted in conservative circles after the Supreme Court upheld Obama's universal health care law.) Here, a guide to this enduring quirk of American politics:

Can Americans actually move to Canada?
Yes... but Americans obviously can't show up at the border and expect a welcome mat.

The main ways foreigners become Canadian residents are by marrying a Canadian citizen or receiving a job offer. Other options include possessing work expertise that is lacking in Canada, or promising to invest a lot of cash in a new Canadian business. Those fleeing America could also theoretically claim refugee status based on a "fear of persecution." However, despite the various doomsday scenarios concocted by both liberals and conservatives, it would be a stretch to make such a claim just because your presidential candidate didn't win.

Do any Americans actually try to emigrate after elections?
A small number do. However, "threats to move northward end up falling flat as Americans confront the hoops they need to jump through to get in," says Emily Sohn at Discovery News. "Statistically, numbers of immigrants don't actually peak every four years." The last time there was a significant immigration wave from America to Canada was during the Vietnam War, when many fled to escape the draft.

Is Canada really a political haven for liberals?
Canada has actually been led by the Conservative Party since 2006. However, like their counterparts in Britain, Canadian conservatives are veritable lefties compared to America's Republican Party. As for American conservatives thinking about leaving home, they would probably end up as part of a tiny political minority up north  — a full 72 percent of Canadians say they would support Obama in the election, compared with a measly 10 percent for Romney.

What do Canadians think about this phenomenon?
The responses are varied, "but the trend seems to be that Canadians find this funny and a bit flattering," says Max Fisher at The Washington Post. "Who wouldn't enjoy being seen as the preferable alternative to the world's richest and most powerful country?" However, some Canadians are not too keen on an American invasion. If disappointed Americans come north, "every Canadian I know will take exile in Florida," Craig Offman, an editor at Canada's The Globe and Mail, jokingly tells The New York Times. "A massive influx of Americans would generate widespread fear and terror."

nextArticle.image_alt|e
iStock
arrow
Big Questions
Are There Number 1 Pencils?
iStock
iStock

Almost every syllabus, teacher, and standardized test points to the ubiquitous No. 2 pencil, but are there other choices out there?

Of course! Pencil makers manufacture No. 1, 2, 2.5, 3, and 4 pencils—and sometimes other intermediate numbers. The higher the number, the harder the core and lighter the markings. (No. 1 pencils produce darker markings, which are sometimes preferred by people working in publishing.)

The current style of production is profiled after pencils developed in 1794 by Nicolas-Jacques Conté. Before Conté, pencil hardness varied from location to location and maker to maker. The earliest pencils were made by filling a wood shaft with raw graphite, leading to the need for a trade-wide recognized method of production.

Conté’s method involved mixing powdered graphite with finely ground clay; that mixture was shaped into a long cylinder and then baked in an oven. The proportion of clay versus graphite added to a mixture determines the hardness of the lead. Although the method may be agreed upon, the way various companies categorize and label pencils isn't.

Today, many U.S.  companies use a numbering system for general-purpose, writing pencils that specifies how hard the lead is. For graphic and artist pencils and for companies outside the U.S., systems get a little complicated, using a combination of numbers and letters known as the HB Graphite Scale.

"H" indicates hardness and "B" indicates blackness. Lowest on the scale is 9H, indicating a pencil with extremely hard lead that produces a light mark. On the opposite end of the scale, 9B represents a pencil with extremely soft lead that produces a dark mark. ("F" also indicates a pencil that sharpens to a fine point.) The middle of the scale shows the letters and numbers that correspond to everyday writing utensils: B = No. 1 pencils, HB = No. 2, F = No. 2½, H = No. 3, and 2H = No. 4 (although exact conversions depend on the brand).

So why are testing centers such sticklers about using only No. 2 pencils? They cooperate better with technology because early machines used the electrical conductivity of the lead to read the pencil marks. Early scanning-and-scoring machines couldn't detect marks made by harder pencils, so No. 3 and No. 4 pencils usually resulted in erroneous results. Softer pencils like No. 1s smudge, so they're just impractical to use. So No. 2 pencils became the industry standard.

nextArticle.image_alt|e
WANG ZHAO/AFP/Getty Images
arrow
Big Questions
What Are Curlers Yelling About?
WANG ZHAO/AFP/Getty Images
WANG ZHAO/AFP/Getty Images

Curling is a sport that prides itself on civility—in fact, one of its key tenets is known as the “Spirit of Curling,” a term that illustrates the respect that the athletes have for both their own teammates and their opponents. But if you’re one of the millions of people who get absorbed by the sport once every four years, you probably noticed one quirk that is decidedly uncivilized: the yelling.

Watch any curling match and you’ll hear skips—or captains—on both sides barking and shouting as the 42-pound stone rumbles down the ice. This isn’t trash talk; it’s strategy. And, of course, curlers have their own jargon, so while their screams won’t make a whole lot of sense to the uninitiated, they could decide whether or not a team will have a spot on the podium once these Olympics are over.

For instance, when you hear a skip shouting “Whoa!” it means he or she needs their teammates to stop sweeping. Shouting “Hard!” means the others need to start sweeping faster. If that’s still not getting the job done, yelling “Hurry hard!” will likely drive the point home: pick up the intensity and sweep with downward pressure. A "Clean!" yell means put a brush on the ice but apply no pressure. This will clear the ice so the stone can glide more easily.

There's no regulation for the shouts, though—curler Erika Brown says she shouts “Right off!” and “Whoa!” to get her teammates to stop sweeping. And when it's time for the team to start sweeping, you might hear "Yes!" or "Sweep!" or "Get on it!" The actual terminology isn't as important as how the phrase is shouted. Curling is a sport predicated on feel, and it’s often the volume and urgency in the skip’s voice (and what shade of red they’re turning) that’s the most important aspect of the shouting.

If you need any more reason to make curling your favorite winter sport, once all that yelling is over and a winner is declared, it's not uncommon for both teams to go out for a round of drinks afterwards (with the winners picking up the tab, obviously). Find out how you can pick up a brush and learn the ins and outs of curling with our beginner's guide.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios