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Do Americans Actually Move to Canada After Elections?


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"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."

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holidays
What Are the 12 Days of Christmas?
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Everyone knows to expect a partridge in a pear tree from your true love on the first day of Christmas ... But when is the first day of Christmas?

You'd think that the 12 days of Christmas would lead up to the big day—that's how countdowns work, as any year-end list would illustrate—but in Western Christianity, "Christmas" actually begins on December 25th and ends on January 5th. According to liturgy, the 12 days signify the time in between the birth of Christ and the night before Epiphany, which is the day the Magi visited bearing gifts. This is also called "Twelfth Night." (Epiphany is marked in most Western Christian traditions as happening on January 6th, and in some countries, the 12 days begin on December 26th.)

As for the ubiquitous song, it is said to be French in origin and was first printed in England in 1780. Rumors spread that it was a coded guide for Catholics who had to study their faith in secret in 16th-century England when Catholicism was against the law. According to the Christian Resource Institute, the legend is that "The 'true love' mentioned in the song is not an earthly suitor, but refers to God Himself. The 'me' who receives the presents refers to every baptized person who is part of the Christian Faith. Each of the 'days' represents some aspect of the Christian Faith that was important for children to learn."

In debunking that story, Snopes excerpted a 1998 email that lists what each object in the song supposedly symbolizes:

2 Turtle Doves = the Old and New Testaments
3 French Hens = Faith, Hope and Charity, the Theological Virtues
4 Calling Birds = the Four Gospels and/or the Four Evangelists
5 Golden Rings = the first Five Books of the Old Testament, the "Pentateuch", which gives the history of man's fall from grace.
6 Geese A-laying = the six days of creation
7 Swans A-swimming = the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, the seven sacraments
8 Maids A-milking = the eight beatitudes
9 Ladies Dancing = the nine Fruits of the Holy Spirit
10 Lords A-leaping = the ten commandments
11 Pipers Piping = the eleven faithful apostles
12 Drummers Drumming = the twelve points of doctrine in the Apostle's Creed

There is pretty much no historical evidence pointing to the song's secret history, although the arguments for the legend are compelling. In all likelihood, the song's "code" was invented retroactively.

Hidden meaning or not, one thing is definitely certain: You have "The Twelve Days of Christmas" stuck in your head right now.

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Big Questions
Where Does the Phrase '… And the Horse You Rode In On' Come From?
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Horses may no longer be the dominant form of transportation in the U.S., but the legacy of our horseback-riding history lives on in language. When telling people off, we still use the phrase “... and the horse you rode in on.” These days, it’s rare for anyone you're telling to go screw themselves to actually be an equestrian, so where did “and the horse you rode in on” come from, anyway?

Well, let’s start with the basics. The phrase is, essentially, an intensifier, one typically appended to the phrase “F*** you.” As the public radio show "A Way With Words" puts it, it’s usually aimed at “someone who’s full of himself and unwelcome to boot.” As co-host and lexicographer Grant Barrett explains, “instead of just insulting you, they want to insult your whole circumstance.”

The phrase can be traced back to at least the 1950s, but it may be even older than that, since, as Barrett notes, plenty of crude language didn’t make it into print in the early 20th century. He suggests that it could have been in wide use even prior to World War II.

In 1998, William Safire of The New York Times tracked down several novels that employed the term, including The Friends of Eddie Coyle (1972) and No Bugles, No Drums (1976). The literary editor of the latter book, Michael Seidman, told Safire that he heard the term growing up in the Bronx just after the Korean War, leading the journalist to peg the origin of the phrase to at least the late 1950s.

The phrase has had some pretty die-hard fans over the years, too. Donald Regan, who was Secretary of the Treasury under Ronald Reagan from 1981 through 1984, worked it into his official Treasury Department portrait. You can see a title along the spine of a book in the background of the painting. It reads: “And the Horse You Rode In On,” apparently one of Regan’s favorite sayings. (The book in the painting didn't refer to a real book, but there have since been a few published that bear similar names, like Clinton strategist James Carville’s book …and the Horse He Rode In On: The People V. Kenneth Starr and Dakota McFadzean’s 2013 book of comics Other Stories And the Horse You Rode In On.)

It seems that even in a world where almost no one rides in on a horse, insulting a man’s steed is a timeless burn.

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

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