Canadians Are Allowed to Say "Bomb" in Airports

Some sense from Canada:

The Canadian Air Transport Safety Authority, trying to clamp down on screeners who alert police every time they hear alarming words, has issued a bulletin urging staff to show more discretion.

A person who announces “You better look through my suitcase carefully, because there’s a bomb in there”, “I am going to set fire to this airplane with this blowtorch” or “The man in seat 32F has a machine gun” will still be arrested.

But someone who remarks “Your hockey team is going to get bombed (badly beaten) tonight”, “Hi Jack!” or “You don’t need to frisk me, I’m not carrying a weapon” will first be warned about their behavior.

Posted on July 17, 2007 at 6:42 AM44 Comments


Jo July 17, 2007 7:30 AM

Just when I thought I was hearing some common sense at last the final paragraph went and ruined everything.

Oh well, close, but no exploding cigar.

Legionnaire July 17, 2007 7:31 AM

There’s an old Greek song that somewhere in the lyrics says “calm down I’m no terrorist I’m just a victim of love” (it rhymes in Greek). I guess this should be banned too 😀

Watching what you say (and how loud) in an airport is more terrifying (that any moment the police may detain you) than the actual threat of an attack.

No matter how many times I say the word “bomb” I won’t be able to instantly produce one out of thin air. On the other hand if I do carry one I’ll make sure not to draw any attention. Makes sense right? I guess not to the screeners 😀

Thomas Mouse July 17, 2007 7:40 AM

What about deaf terrorists? What if they say ‘I´m gonna blow up this airplane’ in sign language?

Anonymous July 17, 2007 7:43 AM

You cannot be serious…

…someone who remarks
1. “Your hockey team is going to get bombed (badly beaten) tonight”
2. “Hi Jack!”
or 3. “You don’t need to frisk me, I’m not carrying a weapon”
will be warned about their behavior.

You cannot seriously suggest if I said “Hi Jack” or “Your hockey team is going to get bombed (badly beaten) tonight” would result in me getting a warning? A warning for what exactly?

Don’t speak in the goddamn airport! It is a clearly a security risk!

Tim Vail July 17, 2007 7:48 AM

Hmm…the sign for “blow up” or “bomb” is fairly obvious, I think anybody would be able to get what it means. As for if it is in context, that would be interesting.

Roy July 17, 2007 7:48 AM

Sadly, this represents an improvement.

They are going to be warned that sarcasm will not be tolerated. If people make jokes, the terrorists win?

Okay, so then just cut out the kidding? Tell them to their faces “You people are stealing your paychecks. You are thieves, bullies, criminals, and traitors.” Will that go over better?

Woo July 17, 2007 7:55 AM

yeah right.. as if a real terrorist would converse with his mates in clear english language.. “Hi Jack, we’re bombing this plane today?”
They should ban all normal language except bomb and hijack because it might be used by terrorists to pass each other messages in code words.

Devil's Advocate July 17, 2007 8:51 AM


(1) Please use a pseudonym next time.

(2) Of course you can be arrested for yor clothing. Look at Stephen Downs

Essentially, there is no space that is not private property. If you wear clothing that is offensive to the property owner, you can be ordered to remove it, cover it or leave. If you fail to do so, you are guilty of trespassing at the very least.
And while the Government is not allowed by the Constitution to abridge freedom of speech, there is no law that says that private property owners have to grant it. And there is no law keeping the Government from rewarding private property owners for abridging it.

Why do you all hate America? We wouldn’t have any freedom if anyone could say whatever he wanted!

Devil's Advocate July 17, 2007 8:54 AM

@Joe Patterson

How dare you say that the man in seat 32F has a machine gun? You’ve just blown the cover of a Sky Marshal, and will be subject to extraordinary rendition at once.

No Bomb July 17, 2007 8:55 AM

I would imagine the reason for requiring screeners to be alert only for the word bomb, hi jack or weapon is that they probably do not have a thorough understanding of the English language.

Kees July 17, 2007 9:22 AM

What if I say ‘bomb’, ‘hi jack’ or ‘weapon’ in Arabic, Pashtun, Dutch or any other language but English? Will I be warned too or do the screeners only understand Canadian English?

FooDooHackedYou July 17, 2007 9:25 AM

So, if I say “Hi, Jack” to my friend Jack that’s a problem? What would they hijack while waiting in the security line anyway? Sounds like the main character on Lost is in trouble 😉

Ed T. July 17, 2007 9:45 AM

@Kees: if someone is talking about a certain Indian city, the screener might mistakenly think they were saying “bomb” – “Bombay” = “Bomb-a”.


Ed T. July 17, 2007 9:50 AM

@Joe Patterson: the same thing goes if you actually have a bomb in the suitcase. It is entirely possible that you are being coerced into carrying the thing on board, in which case warning the screener is definitely the right behavior.

In any of these instances, the prudent thing to do would be to detain the individual involved for additional questioning, rather than simply slapping the cuffs on and shipping them off to Club Git’mo or someplace equally unsavory.


Maple Laughs July 17, 2007 10:05 AM

When people say “Your hockey team is going to get bombed (badly beaten) tonight” they are talking to a Torontonian. That is very common expression here in Canada because Leafs suck.

Michael Ash July 17, 2007 10:22 AM

Let me get this straight. If I tell somebody in charge that somebody else has a gun, I get arrested? Talk about negative incentive. Maybe if I see some crazy with a gun I’ll just shut up and hope somebody else notices it.

bovine Love July 17, 2007 11:12 AM

I have been a Canadian for more then a few decades and in all my experience, “bombed” in this context is drunk (very), not beaten.

I am happy to see some progress in the good sense department, but sorry to see it seems to be required to write it down and also sorry that so many don’t seem to appreciate progress, even if it isn’t perfect.

Andre LePlume July 17, 2007 11:44 AM

Rather than arrest, such people will now be warned… to watch their mouths while travelling in the US, lest they be imprisoned.

It’s part of a trans-border cultural awareness program :^)

rapier57 July 17, 2007 12:12 PM

I have a t-shirt I bought at a pow-wow a couple years ago. It has a picture of some old Commanche warriors with the words “Homeland Security” above, and “Fighting Terrorism since 1492” below. I make it a point to wear this if I ever go through airport security. I don’t think they like it much. Hope they choke on it.

Nostromo July 17, 2007 3:03 PM

“Watching what you say in an airport is more terrifying (that any moment the police may detain you) than the actual threat of an attack.”
Aha! Enlightenment!
At almost all times, in almost all countries (and definitely at almost all times in the USA and Britain) the main threat to your property and your person is not criminals. It’s the government, and its law enforcement bodies.
That’s just more obvious now than it has been in the last couple of decades.

Anonymous July 17, 2007 3:20 PM

Actually, the screeners in Canada have to speak English and French — they are effectively federal govenmentemployees and those types of positions usually require the person to be fluent in both official languages.

Paeniteo July 18, 2007 1:43 AM

A person who announces (…)
“The man in seat 32F has a
machine gun” will still be arrested.

Uhm, wouldn’t it make more sense to arrest the man in 32F (provided that he has a machine gun)?

Spike's Copilot July 18, 2007 9:22 AM


There were two teens on my flight to Orlando last week (Friday the 13th, oddly enough) who were wearing shirts that said:

If you see me running, try to keep up!”

When I arrived in Orlando, all of the gift shops were selling the shirt. It looked very much like this one:

James July 18, 2007 11:10 AM

It is not unusual my company has a large number of traveling people who handle installs. We used to use a standard term BOM (pronounced the same as bomb) and = Bill of Materials, and it was not uncommon for someone to say “hey can you be sure to send me the BOM today” or “It doesn’t look like the BOM is right, can you fix it”. We had to change the name of the document because one of our technicians ran into serious problems because someone heard the word of out of context and he was interviewed for sometime. Showing that he was referencing a document on his laptop that was entitled “BOM” helped, but we still changed the name to avoid a potential for this in the future.

anonymous canuck July 18, 2007 12:02 PM

Two business aqcuaintances of mine were very briefly questioned while going through pre-911 security at Montreal’s airport. They had been discussing the book “The Hut Six Story” and the enigma cracker. They had two good stokes of fortune when questionned about their use of the word “bombe”; the supervisor had some experience and they had the book in their carry-on.

SteveJ July 18, 2007 1:18 PM

Is there a list anywhere of these words which, prior to this change, could get you arrested simply for saying them, regardless of the context or your intent in using them?

Is it actually a crime to use the words, or are they merely considered sufficient grounds for arrest on suspicion of intent to commit a real crime?

derf July 18, 2007 1:43 PM

Sounds like the director that was detained for hours at the airport:
“I’m here to shoot a pilot” would be obvious to most people, especially once you knew he was a Hollywood director type, but apparently not for the TSA.

h July 19, 2007 4:01 AM

Actually, belief in the power of words has been known in many cultures throughout the history of mankind. The underlying idea is that words are somehow connected to or identical with the things they’re naming, so that e.g. the distinction between a bomb and the word “bomb” becomes blurred. This belief has been the basis for countless rites and magical invocations, influencing many cultures. So it’s not all that surprising that it still resurfaces now and then.

Waldo Nell July 19, 2007 4:58 AM

I am sorry but I just do not get it. Why can one not say bomb or whatever at an airport? It is absolutely ridiculous.

I guess if I go to security in a US Airport and informing them I think I saw a briefcase that might contain a bomb left by someone, I will get arrested?


Hadi Hariri July 19, 2007 6:57 AM

“Your hockey team is going to get bombed (badly beaten) tonight”…..will first be warned about their behavior.”

Obviously because the security officer is of the hockey team being badly beaten?

Sylvia Else August 15, 2007 5:18 AM

The odd thing about the paranoia displayed by airport screeners is the apparent lack of a legal basis for their behaviour. It appears that in Canada, the law relating to jokes etc is

Now, can anyone tell me how you can ever view a statement such as “I don’t have a gun” in a way that makes it an offence under that section.

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