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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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To: Albion Wilde

I also remember it was used a lot in the movie "The Commitments"


21 posted on 12/12/2006 1:59:46 PM PST by dfwgator
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To: GMMAC

Back in 1970, I worked with some French-Canadian guys in the bush outside Pine Point, NWT.

"Tabernak!" has a damning force that must be heard to be believed. I think it's the 'ba-da-bing' pattern. ;^)


22 posted on 12/12/2006 2:08:45 PM PST by headsonpikes (Genocide is the highest sacrament of socialism.)
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To: GMMAC

23 posted on 12/12/2006 2:10:05 PM PST by Dont Mention the War (Giuliani '08: Why not p. o. BOTH sides?)
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To: GMMAC

--my command of Frog is almost zero--what am I missing about "tabernacle"--??


24 posted on 12/12/2006 2:10:07 PM PST by rellimpank (-don't believe anything the MSM states about firearms or explosives--NRA Benefactor)
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To: GMMAC

25 posted on 12/12/2006 2:11:54 PM PST by DTA (Mr. President., Condy is asleep at the wheel !)
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To: rellimpank

Yeah, why are "tabernacle" and "chalice" dirty words there?

Is this some Freudian thing (in that the words now refer to a woman's and man's private parts, respectively)?


26 posted on 12/12/2006 2:21:03 PM PST by pogo101
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To: headsonpikes
Years ago I was in the company of some francophones and an item came up in the conversation concerning a black man who'd done something - I can't remember what - considered socially appalling.
One of the Frenchmen exclaimed in French literally "the Host n*gger!"
The French women present were all incredibly shocked, not by his use of the 'n' word in polite company but by his tres gauche blaspheme.
27 posted on 12/12/2006 2:21:59 PM PST by GMMAC (Discover Canada governed by Conservatives: www.CanadianAlly.com)
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To: GMMAC
"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.

But surely it does mean something to people who are bilingual.

When you're fourteen and sitting in language class, "merde" or "mierda" or "Scheiße" are just funny sounding words. If you keep up with the language you studied and come across such a word as an adult, you know what it means and roughly what its impact on native speakers is.

28 posted on 12/12/2006 2:25:07 PM PST by x
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To: pogo101; rellimpank
"... why are "tabernacle" and "chalice" dirty words there?"

Not "dirty" - blasphemous.
Up until the 1960's, French Quebec was likely one of the most universally devout Roman Catholic societies on the planet. Although it's backslid an absolutely incredible distance over the last couple of generations, misuse of any religious terms (blasphemy) remains much more of a social taboo than what we'd consider profanity.

Au la belle province, sacrilege continues to trump vulgarity.
29 posted on 12/12/2006 2:33:41 PM PST by GMMAC (Discover Canada governed by Conservatives: www.CanadianAlly.com)
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To: GMMAC
--thanks--interesting.

Unrelated , but one of my former collegues who worked in northern Quebec for some months considered it to have the most corrupt government that he had encountered--

30 posted on 12/12/2006 2:44:40 PM PST by rellimpank (-don't believe anything the MSM states about firearms or explosives--NRA Benefactor)
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To: rellimpank
Unlike some locales where corruption is pretty much the accepted lifestyle, a surprising number of Quebecers are really fed up with it.
In many quarters the Liberal Party gangsters are actually far more despised than they are in English Canada because Quebecers know them just that much better.

Interestingly, this hatred for the Librano$ skews Quebec politics in ways most outsiders are unaware:
In many parts of the province a lot of the separatist vote is actually an anti-Liberal vote while, in others, people hold their noses to vote for them because they're more afraid of the separatists.

Both the Liberals & the separatist Bloc Quebecois are rightly terrified by the recent rise in popularity of our Conservatives since both well know the basis of their support is anything but firm in many parts of the province.
31 posted on 12/12/2006 3:19:04 PM PST by GMMAC (Discover Canada governed by Conservatives: www.CanadianAlly.com)
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To: GMMAC

What? The? Phoque?


32 posted on 12/12/2006 3:40:17 PM PST by Sender ("Always tell the truth; then you don't have to remember anything." -Mark Twain)
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To: Sender

What the phoque!

33 posted on 12/12/2006 3:57:25 PM PST by Loyalist (Social justice isn't; social studies aren't; social work doesn't.)
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To: Michael Bluth

It's actually "va te faire foutre." Not that I'm telling you to do it, of course... ;-)


34 posted on 12/12/2006 4:18:32 PM PST by kellynch ("Our only freedom is the freedom to discipline ourselves." -- Bernard Baruch)
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To: kellynch

PS... "la foudre" means "lightning"


35 posted on 12/12/2006 4:19:49 PM PST by kellynch ("Our only freedom is the freedom to discipline ourselves." -- Bernard Baruch)
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To: ReignOfError

From what I understand, in Canadian (and maybe generally) french, "merde" does not have the same sort of connotation as the English equivalent. "Tabernac" is a strong swear word in Canadian french, but not in Parisian french, again from what I understand. What do they use for comparable impact in Parisian french, I wonder?


36 posted on 12/12/2006 4:29:38 PM PST by -YYZ-
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To: pogo101

They are all words associated with the Catholic church, and up until the middle or so of the last century, Quebec was a place where the Catholic church had a very strong hold. So by using those words in that context, it was very much a profanity, in the true meaning of the word.


37 posted on 12/12/2006 4:32:21 PM PST by -YYZ-
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To: -YYZ-; ReignOfError
Presumably, the Parisian French are pretty careful about what they say as, who knows when they may be surrendering to the whomever's on the other end of any conversation.

Seriously though,"Tabernac" and other blasphemies are more socially shocking & unacceptable in French Quebec because it's only a couple of generations removed from being among the most universally devoutly Catholic societies anywhere.
France, on the other hand, has been largely irreligious since it's Revolution in the 1790's and most certainly so since the Paris Commune of 1870.
38 posted on 12/12/2006 4:44:03 PM PST by GMMAC (Discover Canada governed by Conservatives: www.CanadianAlly.com)
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To: x
But surely it does mean something to people who are bilingual

It means something, but there's no emotional connotation. I remember my first visit to Quebec when my French-Canadian buddy (we were seated around the dinner table with his very Catholic Mom and Dad) started off (in French) with f*** this and f*** that.

I was shocked but Mom just smiled and kept eating. But if he so much as muttered "chalice" under his breath, she beat him with both fists.

Il a tout fucké l'affaire just means "he screwed up." And if you translated it literally with the equivalent French verb, it wouldn't bother many.

French Canadians are pretty blasé about sex. But even though most of them don't go to church anymore, don't even think about using religious terms as oaths.

39 posted on 12/12/2006 5:56:11 PM PST by BfloGuy (It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker, that we can expect . . .)
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To: GMMAC

The talking parrot had been warned by it's owner to cease the obscene curses that it's previous owner had taught it, to which the irreverent bird would respond "Hell yes!" or "ahhhh sh*t!", finally the owner, a respectable church lady could take no more, and took the parrot, opened the freezer and put him inside to think over his wayward speech.

Inside the darkened freezer, the parrot is rustling his feathers trying to stay warm, his eyes adjust to the darkness and he sees a frozen Butterball turkey, to which he says, "BAWK! What in Hell did YOU say, *F--K*?!?"

Yeah I know it's old but it's still funny. :)


40 posted on 12/12/2006 8:17:21 PM PST by mkjessup (The Shah doesn't look so bad now, eh? But nooo, Jimmah said the Ayatollah was a 'godly' man.)
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To: GMMAC

i have to admit when i went to live in Quebec with hubby i was shocked when we went to a pet store and the young guy that waited on us said 'fock' every other word (didn't help that he rubbed himself uh hum at the same time) we never could remember this guys name so you can guess what we called him. he said fock very loud in the crowded little store and i was the only one that flinched. LOL i felt really ripped off when the movie "Meet the Fockers" came out. :(


41 posted on 12/12/2006 11:55:59 PM PST by ferri (Be Politically Incorrect: Support the Constitution!)
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To: GMMAC
How about "semprini"?

(obscure Python reference)
42 posted on 12/13/2006 12:09:37 AM PST by decal (Too many people mistake "tolerance" for "approval.")
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To: ferri; mkjessup; fanfan; Pikamax; Former Proud Canadian; Great Dane; Alberta's Child; ...

"Charlie Brown Christmas Jihad"

43 posted on 12/13/2006 6:40:28 AM PST by GMMAC (Discover Canada governed by Conservatives: www.CanadianAlly.com)
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To: decal
'THE CHEMIST SKETCH - AN APOLOGY'

These are the words that are not to be used again on this programme.
He clicks the clicker. On screen appear the following slides:
B*M
B*TTY
P*X
KN*CKERS
W**-W**
SEMPRINI

Girl: Semprini!?
BBC Man (pointing) Out!
Cut back to the chemist's shop. The chemist appears again.
Chemist Right, who's got a boil on his Semprini, then?
A policeman appears and bundles him off.
Cut to another chemist's shop with a different chemist standing at the counter. .....


Source: Monty Python's Flying Circus Scripts
44 posted on 12/13/2006 6:57:40 AM PST by GMMAC (Discover Canada governed by Conservatives: www.CanadianAlly.com)
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To: GMMAC

Eh? The people in Quebec are obsessed with baby seals? Who would have thought?


45 posted on 12/13/2006 7:10:01 AM PST by Darnright
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To: Dont Mention the War

Doggone it! You beat me!!! GMTA!


46 posted on 12/13/2006 7:11:23 AM PST by Darnright
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To: GMMAC

We cannot turn right on dee red light, but tabernak, we go right trew dem!

Montreal is a hoot! It's the only city I ever lived in that had a sign on every red light that said "Wait for the green light".


47 posted on 12/13/2006 7:13:05 AM PST by Technocrat
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To: GMMAC
saying `tabernacle' on the air would be like saying the f-word to your grandmother,"

WTF????????????

48 posted on 12/13/2006 7:13:51 AM PST by Tribune7 (Conservatives hold bad behavior against their leaders. Dims don't.)
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To: BfloGuy

"But if he so much as muttered "chalice" under his breath, she beat him with both fists. "

Exactly what occasions a man to mutter "chalice" under his breath?


49 posted on 12/13/2006 7:28:40 AM PST by No.6 (www.fourthfightergroup.com)
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To: Tribune7
Yup.
(see my posts #27, 29 & 38)

Actually, when you think about it, the Quebecois are right:
For any Christian, blasphemy and/or taking the Lord's name in vain should rightly be viewed as far worse than mere profanity or vulgarity.

I know I put a lot more effort into avoiding the former than I do the latter.
50 posted on 12/13/2006 7:38:27 AM PST by GMMAC (Discover Canada governed by Conservatives: www.CanadianAlly.com)
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