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.