How To Lie With Statistics

A self taken shot of the Ambassador bridge on ...

Ambassador bridge on the Canadian/American border. Taken from the Canadian side of the border (Windsor) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

  I am beginning to sound like a broken record–but again I present to you my weekly newspaper column hot off the computer. If you are wondering, the Windsor I am talking about is in Ontario, Canada, right across the border from Detroit, Michigan. I live in a small town about 30 miles away or since I am Canadian, 50 kilometers away.  Toronto as most people now know, is under siege by Mayor Tom Ford, who refuses to give up the ghost.       

So who said: Laughter is the best medicine? Seems we do not know. One answer from Google was: “It is an old proverb”. Well, I could have told you that. So I continued my in-depth research and Ed from Yahoo Answers said: “The first one to coin this expression is unknown, but Harry Ward Beecher said “Mirth is God’s best medicine,” so the quote was probably “spun off that.” And you have to admit that some of the things God is given credit for creating are pretty funny (noses, ears that stick out {by the way thank you God for blessing me with just one ear that sticks out}, kangaroos, and mayors of big cities who refuse to take a hint.) My research ended there as there were over 200,000 answers and most of them were psychological in nature—and who wants to go there?

            Anyway, this whole laughter thing is just a prelude to my book review of the book “Stats Canada”, which sounds pretty dry at first glance—but wait—the subtitle says it all: “Satire on a National Scale”—so this is apparently not a dry document put out by the Feds, unless of course they are now hiring people with a sense of humour who are into counting the number of times the average Canadian says they are sorry. It is over 45,000 times a day in case you are interested. The real authors are a team of three and their names are Andrew Bondy, Ron Bostelaar, and Julie Davidovich. Bondy hales from Windsor and got a degree from my alma mater (U of Windsor – who says this institution of higher learning does not put out great humourists—Andy and I went there). Bostelaar admits to being from two towns in Ontario “that are not Toronto” and received the “lowest grades of his university career in statistics (hence this book); and Davidovich is proudly from Toronto but for some reason moved to Los Angeles as she “gravitates to smoggy atmospheres with dense, soupy air” because she “owns zero pairs of snow boots and would like to keep it that way.”

            So just being introduced to the authors paves the way for jocularity and hilarity and already we have not gotten as far as chapter one. (Yes, I wanted to use a word other than gotten, but it just seemed to fit.) The Introduction (which, just in case you were wondering is also not the first chapter) includes such interesting statistics as the fact that 30% of grade five students are not aware that New Brunswick is in Canada, which seemed to prove to the authors that the province is little more than a footnote; the statisticians only ordered pizza on Tuesdays; and only 15% of their findings came from Wikipedia. They also included this sentence: “Si vous êtes en mesure de lire ceci, s’il vous plait fermer le livre. Pas de Franchies authorises” which translated is anti-French so I will not translate as part of my last name is French, though I did not do the subject proud in high school (one teacher told me he would pass me if I promised not to take French in grade 13—I promised and then got pretty darn good marks in grade 13 once I dropped biology.)

            Anyway, back to the subject at hand—making fun of Canada and all things Canadian.  I am only allowing this book to do so because it is by two Canadians and an expatriate (who I believe only left because her calves were too big for boots). If anyone else makes fun of my home and native land, all bets and gloves are off.

            This being the last week of November, I felt that we all needed a few laughs, so this is my contribution to some pre-Christmas mirth and merriment. What follows are a few of the illustrious authors’ findings based on stats provided to remove you from eighteen dollars of your hard-earned money:

1. 79% of Canadians just mouth the words during the French part of the national anthem.

2. Some of the top Canadian pastimes include: cooking bacon; eating bacon; practicing loon calls; reading old copies of HELLO! Canada at the salon; not complaining; holding doors open; tobogganing (drunk); tobogganing (sober); waiting for tea to steep; being polite and courteous; counting Canadian Tire money; filling up the beer fridge; opening the cottage; picking fights with other parents in the stands during house league hockey games.

3. Canada’s highest rated TV show is “The Weather”.

4. Four out of five Canadians spend 7 hours a day commenting on the weather.

5. Toronto experiences an average of 28 smug alert days annually (Rob Ford has single-handedly brought that statistic down by at least 20.)

Topographic and bathymetric map of the Great Lakes

Map of the Great Lakes (Photo credit: NOAA Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory)

And last but not least:

6. 3 out of the 5 great lakes are just okay lakes.

*How To Lie With Statistics is the only book I remember reading at university and it was from a first year introductory psychology course. And I was there for six years! Explains a lot, I know.

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Published in: on November 25, 2013 at 1:39 pm  Comments (43)  
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43 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Fantastic post! Thanks for the laugh. I had no idea, as an average Canadian, that I apologized so frequently. I really must stop that. Sorry.

    • I really am sorry that you are sorry and that this article made you sorry–truly I am sorry

      • That’s 4 for you for today! Sorry, I had to. ;)

      • if the goal is 45,000 I better get on it- sorry sorry sorry sorry sorry sorry

  2. Ha! Loved this and you should post your columns, Lou — they’re very well-written and very interesting. Oh, Ford — all I can say is we Americans have had our fair share of politicians that go about embarrassing themselves and others. It’s so commonplace now, I think most people just shake their heads and think, WOW, maybe I should run for office.

    You speak kilometer which makes my head hurt. I agree Canadians are very nice and so are we Americans. I’m like you, I can joke about my country, dialect — whatever, but YOU can’t. Kind of like family, you know?

    And most definitely, God has a sense of humor. I think many people forget that.

    Let’s hope Robby doesn’t spew out another diatribe, much of which seems to either be sexually or drug-related, any time soon. Those poor news people that are live on the air and ask him questions — I saw one and she was at a loss for words after he said something really, let’s say a bit unsavory. (smile).

    We had Weiner and he wouldn’t go down (ahem) without a fight. Comedians love it though, eh?

    Btw, New Brunswick is in Connecticut.

    Great post!

    • no wonder those grade 5 students didn’t know! I remember wondering why Weiner would not quit and now we have Rob Ford–just wondering what planet these guys are on?

  3. Hey, I resemble some of those remarks. :) Except for brawling in the stands. I’m more of a polite clapper.

  4. Enjoyed your post. I have always found Canadians much more polite and cheerful. Americans may mumble an apology when hitting your cart (or rear) in a grocery story when you’re face-to-face, but when driving they’ll lay on the horn until you’re ten feet right of the sidewalk.

  5. After reading this I wonder…Am I part Canadian? ;)

    • I will make you an honourary Canadian but that does not mean you have to say sorry 45,000 times a day

      • *SMILING BIG*
        Thank you!
        {Huge Hugs}

  6. I love your columns, lady.

    • thanks so much Audra–and I your poems when I can figure them out (today has me puzzled but I love the rhythm)

      • Yes I think I need to tuck my lunacy back on the box. I deleted my post. But thanks for being loyal

      • sometimes our lunacy has its way with us–don’t be so quick to tuck it back in–something is trying to get out!

      • Something is what frightens me

      • ha ha – ((((hugs)))) to shield you from the something

  7. I can’t say I have never been to Canada but I certainly am also a very sorry person :P
    Great laughs :)

    Cheers
    CCU

  8. Love #3…. so true! Very entertaining Lou.

  9. Great post! I was born and lived in Windsor till I was married. I also had my French teacher ask me not to take French in Grade 13, which of course they don’t have any more, do they? I heard one of the authors of the book being interviewed on Q this morning.

    • Wish I had heard it–bet they were funny–so we are both experts in French eh? I put my sons in French Immersion so they would not have the same problem as I did–

  10. 1. Yup, I’m in that 79% :).
    2. Actually counted Canadian Tire money on Friday night and used it towards some xmas presents. After years of saving, a whole stack totaled less than $3.00 LOL!!
    3. & 4. The weather was certainly the topic of conversation around here all weekend, considering it screwed with our weekend plans.

  11. Okay…about the weather…. we had a blustery cold day and tomorrow doesn’t look too good as far as snow goes….. how about you…lol You’re so right ..when in doubt as how to pass the time of day…talk about the weather…. Diane

    • it does affect us in so many ways that I am not surprised it is such a topic of conversation–when I was younger and oh so smart I made fun of people who had nothing more to talk about that the weather–now I understand why

  12. So how is the weather today? and sign me up for tobogganing (drunk). I would have to mouth the French words as well. Which ones are okay lakes? I’m trying to think if I can name all five … how’s the weather?

    • It is pretty darn cold! I imagine one of the okay lakes is the one I live on–Erie–but they did not specify–

  13. Ah, the weather thing. Of course, with me being in London now, all I ever seem to hear people talk about is the weather. Even among my friends (and none of us are Brits), we’re most often either griping about our schoolwork or griping about the weather. When I’m shopping at the grocery store, all I hear on the news that plays on tv there are weather reports. Is it bad that I genuinely like talking about the weather though?
    I had to laugh about the saying sorry thing. I’ll pay more attention to that next time I see my Canadian classmates. ;)

    • you have learned at a young age how important weather is to our lives–I was not so smart at your age
      -here are a few sorries to get you started – sorry sorry sorry–we are even sorry if something is not our fault!

  14. I think I’ve made my attitude to staistics amply clear on my blog on many many occasions. I too remember ‘How to lie…’ Darrell Huff, was it?

    • yeah but these people unabashedly made up their statistics so they should be off your hook–they are just comedians in authors’ clothing

      • Oh I gathered that, which is why I approve of the entire concept.

      • your approval is important to me (most of the time)!

  15. Thanks for the smiles, LouAnn. Greetings from the Costa Rican jungle. :)


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