The naked truth about "NU"
Why can't we use "NU" as a short form for Nunavut on our mailing addresses? It's because Canada Post is afraid of offending francophones.
IQALUIT Use of the abbreviation "NU" on mail addressed to Nunavut has got Canada Post officials blushing for cover.
"We don't like NU mainly because of the French translation," said Leigh-Anne Stanton, who is in charge of address management at the corporation.
In French, 'nu' means naked, or nude, and Canada Post is worried that the term's naughty connotation will offend francophones, Stanton said.
"The issue is bigger than just the mail," Stanton said.
Shunning NU as a distinct locator for the new territory will leave Canada Post with few alternatives.
The post office intends to continue designating the Northwest Territories as NT until a new name for the western territory is agreed upon.
The letters NV already designate the American state of Nevada.
That leaves NN the abbreviation Canada Post currently favours. "We're leaning towards NN," Stanton said.
Some mailers, including government employees, have taken it upon themselves to begin using NU anyway.
That may be because NU turned up in an unauthorized list of postal codes for Nunavut communities published by Northwestel in the phone company's 1999/2000 directory.
"That's wrong, because as far as we're concerned Nunavut is still NT," Stanton said, "although you can spell out the full word Nunavut and our equipment will recognize it."
Revenue Canada is anxious to incorporate a new unique postal designator into its computer database to distinguish between Nunavut and the NWT.
The geography branch of the Department of National Defence has also enquired about selecting a new designator.
Computerized mail-sorting and processing equipment, however, does not recognize the letters NU, Stanton explained.
Still, she acknowledged that as long as the six-character postal code is correct, even mail sent to Nunavut with the NU abbreviation will get to its destination.
Stanton warned that delinquent corporate mailers who use the NU designator risk forefeiting their volume-based price discounts if they are detected by Canada Post's address-accuracy auditors.
"Those addresses will not be considered accurate, they will not pass the test, and depending on the overall level of accuracy of their mailing list, they may be subject to [price] adjustments."
While discussions with other agencies and government departments continue, the post office says it won't be forced to make a rash decision on Nunavut's official postal abbreviation.
"We're Canada Post," said Stanton, "and if anything's sensitive, we get smacked across the head if we take one wrong step. We're perhaps overly sensitive, but that's all there is to it."
No official change to the designator for Nunavut was foreseen before January 2000, because of the large expense involved in reprogramming the country's mail sorting system.
"To change now would cost thousands of dollars in our machinery and processing equipment," Canada Post spokesman John Caines said.