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Quebec swears by its English curses
Toronto red Star ^ | December 12, 2006 | Sean Gordon

Posted on 12/12/2006 1:36:27 PM PST by GMMAC

Quebec swears by its English curses
But church-related expletives spoken in French not accepted on TV

Toronto red Star
December 12, 2006

SEAN GORDON
QUEBEC BUREAU CHIEF


MONTREAL - In English Canada it is among the baddest of the bad words, a wash-your-mouth-out-with-soap, four-letter epithet considered unsuitable for polite company, never mind broadcast.

And yet, it is heard almost daily on Quebec's f-bomb friendly airwaves, where French-speaking hosts — and their guests — cheerfully throw the word around as a colourful alternative to "heck."

The 1.6 million viewers of Tout le monde en parle, Radio-Canada's top-rated Sunday evening television talk show, are routinely treated to the planet's most popular monosyllabic Anglo-Saxon curse.

High-profile newspaper columnist Richard Martineau recently used the expletive on the show — coupled with its popular companion "off" — in his war of words with novelist Dany Laferrière (who had called Martineau an intellectual midget.)

This past weekend, the comedian and satirist Christopher Hall casually deployed the two-word form of "go forth and multiply" on Ouvert le Samedi, a popular Radio-Canada public affairs program.

"You have to look at the context. It's universally understood to mean `oh, darn' ... it's used as an exclamation, like `wow,'" said Hall, whose outburst prompted giggles and minor tut-tutting from the program's host.

But Hall said while he can get away with stevedore language in English, it would be a different matter if he swore in French.

"There would be official complaints, and you'd be out of there ... saying `tabernacle' on the air would be like saying the f-word to your grandmother," said Hall, who regularly appears on both radio and television in Quebec.

Private talk radio and television shows adopt a similarly laissez-faire view of one of the English language's most powerful taboo words.

And yet the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission's broadcast regulations state no broadcaster shall permit "obscene or profane language."

But that phrasing contains a key loophole: is the f-word obscene to francophone ears?

"No, it doesn't mean anything," said ethnographer Jean-Pierre Pichette, who's written on the subject and compiled a dictionary of French-Canadian swear words and expressions.

If anything, the francophone ear typically mistakes the oath for "phoque," which is the French word for seal.

But Pichette said use of the expletive goes beyond linguistic incomprehension — those steeped in the French-Canadian swearing tradition typically use bad words as a new form of punctuation.

"Swearing has become trivial now ... it's seen as a way to assert credibility and force, it's a popular intensifier of arguments," said Pichette, a professor at Université Sainte-Anne in Nova Scotia.

Whereas French Canadians have a long and distinguished history of using church-related swear words, the traditions in English Canada mirror the well-established scatological and sexual roots of most anglophone expletives.

That explains why eyebrows are seldom raised when words like "tabernacle" — or its phonetic form "tabarnak" — are uttered by French-speakers on English broadcasts.

Such words, and others like "calice" or chalice, and "ciboire" or ciborium, are still considered moderately scandalous in Quebec. Indeed, the Radio-Canada ombudsman has received several complaints about inappropriate language on its shows.

The Canadian Broadcast Standards Council is the body that accepts complaints from the public and can forward them to the CRTC, which has the power to levy fines and other punishments. According to the most recent figures, complaints about offensive language have fallen steadily in the past two or three years.

Communication policy expert Pierre Trudel, a law professor at Université de Montreal, said the CRTC has moved away from "decency" in favour of the more elastic and subjective criteria of "obscenity."

"That means individual remarks are interpreted in the context of the audience, of society's tolerance for them," he said. Earlier this year, the Montreal Catholic Archdiocese made headlines with an ad campaign that featured massive posters emblazoned with swear words like "calice" and "tabernacle" and their dictionary definitions. It was an attempt to both reclaim the words and give greater exposure to the Church.

Hall saw the provocative campaign as a comedic opportunity.

"I used them all on the air," he said. "It was the only time I have ever been able to say those words on Radio-Canada and I got to pin it on the Church."


TOPICS: Canada; Culture/Society; Foreign Affairs; Political Humor/Cartoons
KEYWORDS: blaspheme; blasphemy; french; linguistics
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1 posted on 12/12/2006 1:36:32 PM PST by GMMAC
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To: fanfan; Pikamax; Former Proud Canadian; Great Dane; Alberta's Child; headsonpikes; Ryle; ...

PING!
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2 posted on 12/12/2006 1:38:21 PM PST by GMMAC (Discover Canada governed by Conservatives: www.CanadianAlly.com)
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To: GMMAC

WTF exactly LOLOLOL!


3 posted on 12/12/2006 1:38:52 PM PST by SevenofNine ("Step aside Jefe"=Det Lennie Briscoe)
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Comment #4 Removed by Moderator

To: GMMAC
That explains why eyebrows are seldom raised when words like "tabernacle" — or its phonetic form "tabarnak" — are uttered by French-speakers on English broadcasts.

That's gonna be a little tough on that choir from Utah...

5 posted on 12/12/2006 1:42:02 PM PST by Billthedrill
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To: GMMAC
In English Canada it is among the baddest of the bad words, a wash-your-mouth-out-with-soap, four-letter epithet considered unsuitable for polite company, never mind broadcast.

Oh Fuuuuuuuuuuuuuddgge! Only I didn't say "Fudge." I said THE word, the big one, the queen-mother of dirty words, the "F-dash-dash-dash" word!

6 posted on 12/12/2006 1:42:35 PM PST by dfwgator
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To: SevenofNine

En Franchais au Quebec: 'QLF' ... definitely not to be confused with 'FLQ'.


7 posted on 12/12/2006 1:44:23 PM PST by GMMAC (Discover Canada governed by Conservatives: www.CanadianAlly.com)
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To: GMMAC

ROFL actually if I going curse somebody out it going be in English I don't need the French tell me elsewise LOL!


8 posted on 12/12/2006 1:46:37 PM PST by SevenofNine ("Step aside Jefe"=Det Lennie Briscoe)
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To: GMMAC

Merde alors!


9 posted on 12/12/2006 1:48:14 PM PST by Constitution Day ("Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored." Aldous Huxley)
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To: GMMAC

Merde alors!


10 posted on 12/12/2006 1:48:42 PM PST by Cicero (Marcus Tullius)
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To: GMMAC

I like the Irish TV shows, they use "Feck" and "Fup" and it is never censored out.


11 posted on 12/12/2006 1:49:19 PM PST by HEY4QDEMS (Sarchasm: The gulf between the author of sarcastic wit and the person who doesn't get it.)
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To: Constitution Day

Ah, bah! Ze software would not let me poste rapidment!


12 posted on 12/12/2006 1:49:43 PM PST by Cicero (Marcus Tullius)
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To: GMMAC

French people are weird. And they smell bad.


13 posted on 12/12/2006 1:51:06 PM PST by WestVirginiaRebel (Common sense will do to liberalism what the atomic bomb did to Nagasaki-Rush Limbaugh)
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To: GMMAC
In his book of essays, 'Lives of the Cell', largely dealing with biology, the author, Lewis Thomas, devotes an essay to the origins of the English f-word--without once, by the way, employing the word itself.

Thomas traces it back to its Indo-European roots, discovering that its sexual connotations are, historically speaking, fairly recent. The one commonality in its usage, over thousands of years, is its vile undertones. It is a literal curse word, filled with venom and spite and ill-feelings towards another. It is harsh on the tongue, hurts the ears, and speaks poorly of the one using it.

When I got out of the Service, I worked hard to clean up my language. 'Pass the effing potatoes' just doesn't go over well in good company. After my children were born, I worked even harder. I slip up every now and then, but I've worked hardest of all to eliminate the f-word entirely from my vocabulary. Besides, I can't call myself a Christian if I talk like a barfly.
14 posted on 12/12/2006 1:51:24 PM PST by Rembrandt_fan
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To: HEY4QDEMS

And they say "Shite" a lot.


15 posted on 12/12/2006 1:51:54 PM PST by dfwgator
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To: GMMAC
Mon DIeu!

I read things like this, and I think "Va Te Faire Foudre!"

16 posted on 12/12/2006 1:53:36 PM PST by Michael Bluth
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To: Cicero

:)


17 posted on 12/12/2006 1:54:13 PM PST by Constitution Day ("Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored." Aldous Huxley)
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To: SevenofNine

"ROFL actually if I going curse somebody out it going be in English I don't need the French tell me elsewise LOL!"

If you're going to curse someone out in English, you may want to work on your English.


18 posted on 12/12/2006 1:56:06 PM PST by brownsfan (It's not a war on terror... it's a war with islam.)
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To: GMMAC
Way back when I took high school French, the teacher told us that the French were adopting English swear words because Anglo-Saxon expletives are so much more blunt and forceful than their French equivalents. No doubt, "S--t!" can cut through the background chatter in a way that "Merde!" never could.
19 posted on 12/12/2006 1:56:44 PM PST by ReignOfError
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To: dfwgator
And they say "Shite" a lot.

The Irish, you mean. And they're not just talkin' about a Muslim sect.

20 posted on 12/12/2006 1:58:31 PM PST by Albion Wilde (...where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. -2 Cor 3:17)
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