Who called Ignatieff our “Sexiest Cerebral Man”?

We get the credit—if only we could confidently claim to having coined it


Who called Ignatieff our "Sexiest Cerebral Man"?

A New York Times profile of Michael Ignatieff, published this past Sunday, declares that “Maclean’s magazine once named him Canada’s ‘Sexiest Cerebral Man.'”

It’s an amusing phrase, and nobody minds being cited in the Times. If only we could confidently claim to having coined it.

In fact, Maclean’s has in the past been credited with bestowing this high honour on Ignatieff in publications as diverse as the Independent and the Winnipeg Free Press, the Australian and the New Humanist.

But here’s the problem: we can’t find any electronic record of having described him in those three words. Some online references to the “Sexiest Cerebral Man” title link it to a June, 2003, profile of Ignatieff, which I happened to write. But I didn’t describe him so pithily.

That cover story was sparked mainly by Ignatieff’s controversial support for George W. Bush’s invasion of Iraq. Under our main heading, “Smart Guy, Eh?”, our headline writers summed him up like this:

“Harvard prof. TV star. Sex symbol. Michael Ignatieff is Canada’s best-known intellectual—and supporter of George W. Bush’s war”

I wonder if the phrase “sex symbol” from that sub-heading might have been conflated, I don’t know by whom, with my description of him, in the body of the story, as a “cerebral media star.”

The words “Sexiest Cerebral Man” appear to have been used in a biographical note Ignatieff’s own office once distributed, but which is no longer available on Liberal websites.

A 2005 article from The New York Observer states: “According to Mr. Ignatieff’s bio on the Liberal Party’s Web site, Maclean’s magazine declared him Canada’s ‘Sexiest Cerebral Man’ in 2003, because of ‘his made-for-TV looks and effortless eloquence.'”

(That latter partial quote, by the way, is accurately taken from the first paragraph of my 2003 profile.)

A more recent version of the official Liberal biographical note on Ignatieff has been shortened to cite only our magazine’s 1997’s ranking of him in the “Top 10 Canadian Who’s Who.” The part about us declaring him Canada’s S.C.M., though, has been dropped.

If anybody wants to claim authorship the lapidary description “Sexiest Cerebral Man,” please contact us. We can’t in good conscience go on taking the credit.

So we’ve opened things up for nominations from you over here.


Who called Ignatieff our “Sexiest Cerebral Man”?

  1. I prefer your characterisations of Layton as the “Mustachioed Lion of Marxism” and of Harper as the “Latter-day latte-cowboy-corralling Spassky,” epithet-wise.

  2. National Newswatch has the answer for you…

  3. I’ve always felt that Canada’s sexiest cerebral man is Rex Murphy.

    • Admit it. It’s the avalon brogue that does it or you?

      • I admit it. It’s all about the brogue.

        • CR
          Not all about the brogue surely? It’s also that wonderful body language. Rex must conduct a symphany and a half each time he’s on. I wonder if he keeps it up on his radio show, or gives himself a well earned emphasis break?

    • No no, he’s our Rexiest Avuncular Lamb.

  4. Wow. The Times quoted a joke on This hour has 22 minutes as a fact?

    How embarrassing…i guess the fact checkers have been caught up in their latest financial woes.

    • Actually, the 22 Minutes joke, which is quite recent, came years after the Sexiest Cerebral Man phrase started popping up in many articles about Ignatieff. And, as I say above, the common assertion that it comes from Maclean’s, repeated by 22, isn’t backed up by anything in our files.

      • You can blame Andrew Potter for starting this myth. In a Jul 21, 2005 column in the National Post (pg. A.19) Potter wrote:

        ” a more realistic candidate arrives in the figure of Michael Ignatieff, currently the director of the Carr Center on Human Rights at Harvard. Invariably described as dashingly handsome (in 2003, Maclean’s named him Canada’s “sexiest cerebral man”), the cosmopolitan Ignatieff is a member of the closest thing Canada has to a landed aristocracy. “

        • I’m trying to figure out where I got that from. I might have made it up, but I don’t think so.

          • Perhaps you heard the phrase, or something like it, in conversation. However, I’m betting that you made it up, because a quick periodical search reveals that your 2005 article was the first time the words “sexiest cerebral man” appeared together in print – not just in Canada, but anywhere. Take a bow – you obviously have a gift for coining enduring phrases.

            Geddes called Ignatieff “cerebral” in his 2003 Macleans profile – maybe that was the cause of your mistaken attribution.

          • I might have made it up…


          • Doesn’t sound particularly Canadian. Weren’t hanging around with itinerant Brit journalists in any of your former lives ? Doesn’t sound like Hitchens but maybe someone trying to sound like Hitchens.

  5. ROFL – LMAO! where’s those old gravol pills? I almost projectile vomitted my tlast timbit.

    • They may be small, Wayne, but you are still supposed to chew them before swallowing.

    • Wayne you have elected to follow the path of pain. If you were to abandon the dark side you would be able to hang out in the tonier coffee joints and suck back amerianos n scoff brioche with a clear conscience, like me. No more Timmys, except of course when they rrroll up the rim to win!

  6. We actually called him Canada’s Mexican Cereal Ham. The confusion was inevitable.

    • Serially?

      • Cereously!

    • I get the Cereal Ham part, but why Mexican?

      • As soon as people leave the country we get confused about their whereabouts.

  7. You should have asked: Who FIRST called Ignatieff our “Sexiest Cerebral Man”? ;-)

  8. I thought they were referring to the early ’90s when he was getting listed on Booker short-lists, getting Governor General awards, getting his book turned into a CBC movie, showing up on the cover of GQ magazine and hosting his show.

    John, did you check your files from back then? Would you even be able to?

  9. Answer: The Liberal Party

  10. Is this an opportunity for Stephen? A little payback perhaps. Clearly a case of plargiarism or sexual identity theft or whatever [ good enough for the Tories at any rate ] Stand up on yr hind legs Mr Harper and protest vociferously, all together now Canada: Michael Ignatieff – not a sexy beast. Sexiest man in Canada indeed. Everyone knows it’s Peter Mansbridge, i watch him every night before bed! Ah well enough of that.

    • Oh s** i missed the cerebral bit. Forget it then!

  11. Remind me of that oft-mentioned tidbit that the UN named Toronto as the most multicultural city in the world, when in fact there is no record of this ever happening. Yet, it continues to bounce around the internet and other media because no one seems to check the primary source.

    • LOL. I hear this from Torontonians all the time. They have rarely left Toronto and assume every other city in Canada only has white people.

  12. So many to choose from, so little time. Hmmm….Wayne Easter (the voice), Dean del Mastro, Maxime Bernier not in the running anymore?, Larry Miller, oh it’s just so hard to pick one.

  13. I prefer my sexy cerebral men with a little less bushy eyebrows and much less arrogance.

  14. What’s all the fuss? Does being a sexy cerebral man make him any more qualified to be Prime Minister? I doubt it.

    • TC…don’t you get it? The LPOC is trying to convince Canadians that Iggy is another Trudeau. So they lied about the ‘sexy’ thing in order to get Canadian women turned on to him. It’s too bad for them that Canadians are not that stupid.

      • I knew Trudeau, and Iggy is no Trudeau.

        You are absolutely correct. Canadians are not that stupid. If some of our more gullable media reps knew that…

  15. He clearly has more sex appeal and conscience than Jack Layton who looks like the cartoon version of Lex Luther.

    • I get it! They’re both bald, right? BWAHAHAHAHAHA!

  16. The MOST SEXY CEREBRAL MAN moniker was laid on Iggy by Helen Thomas when she was with the White House Press Corps. She liked him a lot and had a special fondness for his eyebrows. Goggle Helen Thomas.

  17. Likely some spinmeister inside the Liberal party who would start the “buzz” that a late middle-aged professor is somehow “sexy”. Maybe to a similarly aging cougar. I’m a lot more concerned about “competent” than I am about “sexy”, and lately I’ve just about had my fill of professors who would be king.

    • Get a bad grade?

  18. Count Iggy comes across as a arrogant Patrician that really has difficulty in relating to the common person. His pedigree speaks volumes given his genetics are derived from the upper class of Russia at a time when arrogance and totalitarianism was the norm.

    Iggy is also cavalier in that he really has no home; he likes the UK, the United States, and only very recently Canada. Iggy dabbles in writing books, TV Hosting and teaching in a crusty out moded University like Harvard is. Harvard is the prime example of arrogance and concentration of the affluent power of the United States.

    Iggy is Canadian by birth only, his understanding of the Canadian mosaic is completely lacking.

    • Well that’s it then. Can we all go home now?

  19. Pierre Bourque is linking to this blog entry with the headline: “IGNATIEFF RESUME INFLATION SCANDAL”. He also has a poll asking: “Is Ignatieff Canada’s ‘sexiest cerebral man’?” with 1,361 responses (83% No. )

    I can only imagine what will come next: “MACLEAN’S WRITER MAY HAVE COINED IGGY PHRASE WRONGLY ATTRIBUTED TO MACLEAN’S MAGAZINE.” Gripping stuff, indeed.

  20. Fact is; ONLY Michael Ignatieff thinks Michael Ignatieff is sexy. He reminds me of Lerch from the old show the monsters…I think he has a face that scares babies and small children. But, that’s just my opinion.

  21. Layton with his porn star mustache looks like the video professor. Harper looks like a separated at birth photo of Mike Harris.

    Hey, watch what you say about bushy eyebrows – my dad had bushy eyebrows and was a great guy and from what I heard from old girlfriends at his funeral – was forever being chased by women.

    • Layton with his porn star mustache = now this was just too funny!

  22. Pleaseeeeeee, he is not attractive at all, as a matter of fact , a turn off, big time !!!

  23. Well he sure beats Harper and those croonies. He’s right up there in the big leagues with Obama.

    • No, he does not. And also, he and Obama are so different, can’t even compare them!

  24. If the NY Times is making this statement, well then you know that its not true. Since they struggle with report true facts at times.

  25. Since when are dinosaurs considered “sexy”?

Sign in to comment.