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.

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