It doesn’t happen very often. One doesn’t usually have an experience that totally reshapes the way that they think about something, one that fundamentally alters their view of reality. I have had one such an event in my life. This was the second.
It all started two weeks back, I went to Josh and Hiroko’s place to meet their new baby Sarah when Josh made a comment about my hat.
His observation was an obvious one really, I actually feel a little silly for not noticing it myself… "The plural of leaf," he said, "is not leafs, it’s leaves."
Dumfounded, I stared at him. Of course I knew that he was right, but how could this be? How could a Canadian product not use absolutely correct English? And more importantly, could it be that an American speaks better English than a Canadian??
"No, no no… that’s just crazy talk," I told myself… there is no way that such a thing could possibly be true. For the benefit of the Americans in the audience, let me digress for a second to highlight the three primary reasons why this is the case: (1) Canada’s closer ties to England (apparently Queen Elizabeth is still the ruler of Canada, no joke) makes their English better than ours… apparently, (2) their fine English educational system eschews speaking "American" and thinks that a grade 13 is a good thing and (3) well because Canadians say so… vehemently… In Canada, if you say anything vehemently enough, it becomes true. Especially if it is about the United States.
Determined to find a reasonable explanation for this I dusted off my old dictionary (for the first time since high school probably!). Thumbing through the book, I arrived at the letter L and located the word leaf.
Josh was certainly correct, the plural form of the noun leaf is leaves. However, I then noticed the transitive verb form of the word leaf is leafs. Of course… "to thumb or turn, as the pages of a book or magazine, in a casual or cursory inspection of the contents"
Slowly the pieces began to fall into place in my head. Maple Leafs is not a noun, as I mistakenly thought, but a verb phrase, to describe a tree that reads.
I imagine that the "Maple Leafs" must’ve originally been some sort of literacy program, a way to encourage kids to read with their mascot the book-reading-maple-tree. The popularity of this image, the famous tree "leafing" through a book must’ve been the inspiration for the "Toronto Maple Leafs."
That must be the reason… I will never look at hockey the same way again.