Even in a nominally bilingual country like Canada, nothing makes a handier buzzword than an exotic-sounding French import. One example is ‘premier’ (or its feminine form, ‘premiere’), which is often trotted out as though it were a classy way to say, “We’re number one!”
Confusion can easily result, however, from its ambiguity. The preferred meanings of ‘premiere,’ for example, are a noun and a verb, not an adjective. A premiere is the first performance of a stage production or the first public screening of a movie. The intransitive verb ‘to premiere,’ similarly, means ‘to be presented for its first time.’
A premier, meanwhile, is the first minister of a Canadian territory or province. Yet, the adjectival form can mean ‘first’ not only in time (as with ‘premiere’), but alternatively in importance or in order.
One high-profile annual conference in Toronto, ideaCity, is billed as “Canada’s Premiere Meeting of the Minds.” For clarity’s sake, its organizers would be better off using the shorter ‘premier.’ As it is, newcomers may be left to wonder if it is the first time such an event is being held—which, celebrating its 10th anniversary in 2009, it most certainly is not.
The confusion runs both ways. On Sunday, March 22, 2009, BroadwayWorld ran a story with the headline ‘Modern Muse Theatre Presents Regional Premier of Reclaimed’—yet the accompanying text used the Broadway-standard spelling, ‘premiere.’ The headline was not wrong per se, but given the context, appeared to be a sloppy typo.