GLOSSAIRE FRANCO-CANADIEN.

The Glossaire franco-canadien et vocabulaire de locutions vicieuses usitées au Canada is a Project Gutenberg reprint of an 1880 book by Oscar Dunn explaining, and frequently deploring, the local form of French. Anyone interested in the subject should find it useful and occasionally amusing; my favorite entry so far is:

U. Il est grand temps pour nous d’apprendre que l’u diffère de l’ i, et que le premier jour de la semaine est lundi, non pas lindzi, V. D.

‘It is high time that we learned that u is different from i, and that the first day of the week is lundi, not lindzi; see D.’ The D entry is:

D. On serait tenté de dire que le d n’existe pas dans la langue franco-canadienne, car, dans la prononciation, nous remplaçons cette lettre par une autre qui renferme un son sifflant et que l’on pourrait indiquer par dz. Bien peu de personnes au Canada prononcent correctement le verbe dire. Nous prononçons dzire. Cet accent passe inaperçu chez nous, mais écorche l’oreille de l’étranger. C’est dans les écoles primaires qu’il nous faut commencer à le combattre.

‘One might be tempted to say that d does not exist in Canadian French, because in pronunciation we replace this letter with another which includes a sibilant and which one might indicate by dz. Very few Canadians pronounce the verb dire ['to say'] correctly; we say dzire. This accent passes unnoticed among us, but grates on the ears of foreigners. We should begin combatting this in primary school.’ (Via wood s lot.)

Comments

  1. A better thing to combat would be the strange practice noted while passing through Quebec this past summer: the response to “merci”, which, once upon a time (i.e. as recently as a decade ago) has gone from “de rien” to “bienvenue”. I kid you not.

  2. Pardon the strange circumlocution in that one … that’s what happens when your kids begin scrapping while you’re trying to type.

  3. I’m thrilled that “see D” in French is V.D.
    As it is said: one night of bliss, a lifetime of agony.
    (Of course, I refer solely to the ardors of learning French).

  4. Eve Léonard says:

    Yes I agree that French is beautiful and that it is worth speaking well… but to ask that a language be frozen in time (“Mais conservons-la intacte”) is asking for its death.
    I think my Quebec brand of French is just as beautiful in its own way, even if I do pronounce “d” as “dz”… among other things.
    To try to control the evolution of a language for purely esthetic concerns denies its very nature.
    If French is indeed an artwork that was developed through centuries (as M. Dunn says: “c’est une oeuvre d’art travaillée par les siècles”), then who is to say this evolution has to be over?
    Although I do agree with him on the following:
    “La langue française, c’est un diamant d’un prix inestimable, d’une beauté à nulle autre pareille”, he would no doubt be outraged at my speaking it at all!
    And to answer rogueclassicist, I am not certain why you question the use of “Bienvenue” as a response to “Merci” as it literally means “Welcome”, which is a standard response to “Thank You”… no?
    Eve

  5. to ask that a language be frozen in time (“Mais conservons-la intacte”) is asking for its death.
    Exactly, which is why I found the piece amusing as well as informative. It shows the hidebound attitudes of a century ago (still preserved in some quarters!) in all their insane purity.
    And yes, I imagine “Bienvenue” is a calque of “You’re welcome” — it’s one of those things that happen when languages rub up against each other in close quarters.

  6. Disclaimer: knowing none of French, my comment has to do only with response to “Thank you”.
    In Russian middle school, when I started on English (about 30 years ago), I was taught the correct response was “Don’t mention it”. Interesting to know, how outdated that was at the time?
    Even considering we were taught British English, I never heard that response here in NY. I heard all kinds of weird (for me) answers – like “You betcha”, but not the “classic” pounded in my head in 5th grade.
    I assume that was antique usage even for 70′s.

  7. Eve Léonard says:

    LH: I guess that this hits too close to home for me to find this as amusing as you do!
    Unfortunately, this attitude is still very much alive in my part of the world… as well as others…

  8. Michael Farris says:

    Tatyana, not being British, I have to say that I sometimes say “Don’t mention it.” but it’s pretty far from my standard replies. (I think I’d add ‘please’ to the beginning to not sound bossy, though).
    “You’re welcome.”
    “It’s nothing.”
    “No problem.” (this does seem odd when I think about it but I do say it)
    “I’m glad you like it.”
    I’m just waiting for some Pole to answer my “dziękuję” with
    “Jesteś mile widziany.”
    or
    “Witam.” (Or “Witamy.)
    BTW, what are common responses to “spasibo”?

  9. Generally – “pozhaluista” (пожалуйста), sort of old-fashioned, but polite “ne stoit blagodarnosti” (не стоит благодарности), in food/drink[ non-alcoholic mostly] situations “na zdorov’e” (на здоровье).

  10. Tatyana: I’ve heard “Don’t mention it” very occasionally, but it’s certainly uncommon in NYC; I suspect it’s more common in the Midwest. Any readers have direct knowledge?
    What I find interesting is the increasing use of “Thank you” or “Thanks” as a reply to “Thank you” — it’s sort of the reductio ad absurdum of the democratic ethos (“Who am I to be thanked? I’m no better than you, and I’m sure you deserve thanking as much as I do”).

  11. Of course bienvenue is a calque, but in Canada, language is political. My wife and I regularly go to Quebec (she’s a French teacher) and this past summer was when we first heard ‘bienvenue’ as a response to ‘merci’. This is in the same province which has regulated how much English can appear in signs (and there was a big argument years ago whether McDonald’s could have its ‘s). Then again, it’s the same province which will say ‘bon weekend’ to you while French teachers in the rest of Canada teach ‘bon fin de semaine.’ Getting back to ‘de rien’, though, a decade and a bit ago when I myself was doing a French immersion in Quebec, I was semi-amused to hear ‘de rien’ shortened simply to ‘de’.

  12. If it matters at all, what they say in France is «bon weekend».

  13. I would say “don’t mention it” is used by very polite older women. And I meet them in the Midwest.

  14. There’s no question that Quebec French is influenced by English; it’s the only other language around our border. There is a difference between the language-on-signs issue and the evolution of French. While the protection of French has always been used as a political issue, the day-to-day reality is quite different.
    Where I come from (Laurentians region), “merci” has always been answered with “bienvenue” and “bonne fin de semaine” is used, never “bon weekend”. Ironically, “bon week-end”, as noted by Marco, is an import from France…

Speak Your Mind

*