My wife and I visited Montreal in 2004 (I reported briefly on it here), and ever since then I’ve had even more of an interest in the linguistic situation there. I was glad to find (via MetaFilter) a link to a discussion by Nicholas Little of the (now thankfully obsolete) phrase “Speak white!” that used to be directed at Francophone Québécois: “While the phrase itself is thought to have been borrowed from the southern United States, it was apparently used almost as a catch-all rebuke against anything not Anglo, not white, not born-and-bred. … The earliest recorded use of the phrase was supposedly in the Canadian Parliament of 1899 as Henri Bourassa was booed by English-speaking Members of Parliament while attempting to address the legislature in French against the engagement of the Dominion in the Second Boer War.” The MeFi post also has a link to a video (about four and a half minutes) of a 1970 recitation by Michèle Lalonde of her impassioned poem “Speak White” (Wikipedia); you will find the text at the end of the previous link. From it I learned a couple of new words (contremaître ‘foreman’; cambouis ‘dirty oil, dirty grease, sludge’); I might also point out that it is a macaronic poem, and thus fits well with yesterday’s post.

By a pleasing coincidence, Julie Sedivy has a post at the Log today about the current situation in Montreal, specifically the fashion among shopkeepers of greeting their customers with “Bonjour, Hi,” “often used as an advertisement that the customer can expect to be served in the language of his choice.” The pushback from the Office Québécois de la langue française causes a certain amount of drearily predictable arguing (“Linguistic fascism!” “Linguistic survival!”); while I can understand the emotions on both sides, as an outsider it looks to me like the situation is on the whole pretty healthy. And I very much liked Julie’s personal reminiscences at the end of her post:

For me, like for many people who’ve lived in more than one language, it’s true that each language is imbued with a different feeling and with different associations. And for me, Quebec French has always been linked with a broad and warm sense of pleasure. The language itself has its own attractions, with its spectacular swear words and the linguistic agility of many of its speakers who easily slide around between registers like virtuoso saxophone players. But there’s also this: it’s the language that I’ve had the most fun in. I never had to endure classes or write exams in it, or steel myself for family dramas in it (these took place in English and Czech respectively). French was my hanging-out language. And the French-Canadian friends of my adolescence were more rambunctious, inclusive and adventurous than my English-Canadian peers. My most animated political arguments took place in French, and ended not in stony silences, but in raucously funny insults and a collective decision to go get some food. And to this day any social interaction, even an incidental encounter with a shopkeeper, just feels more warm and spontaneous in French than it does in English. It’s like eating comfort food; it’s not so much that the food itself is inherently delicious, it’s that it comes attached to memories that soothe. …

So part of me thinks that, if a French-only greeting acts as a gentle implicit nudge for customers who command both languages to engage in French (as I bet it would), this is not such a bad thing. Shopkeepers can still readily accommodate those customers who might really prefer to use English.


  1. marie-lucie says

    Yes, Julie Sedivy’s post is very good, especially when describing her own experiences and related emotions.
    Contremaître and cambouis are good old internations French words.
    The contre in contremaître and its feminine counterpart contremaîtresse does not mean ‘against’ as an expression of hostility but of proximity (as in contre la porte ‘against the door’). Le cambouis is more specifically the thick, sticky black grease that mechanics get on their hands and clothes when working on engines, and that is so hard to get rid of.

  2. The situation in Quebec is an interesting one and one that I’ve only read about, being American and never having visited that area of Canada, but I’ll be honest and say that based on what I do know I don’t really have the best impression of the Quebecois in general, at least as it concerns the subject of language usage and education in Quebec. Insisting keeping French as their native language is fine, insisting on everything in Quebec (signs, instructions, etc.) being in French is fine (the native language of the area is French so this makes sense), what I do see as silly, backwards, and harmful is what appears to be the resistance of some Quebecois to the teaching of English in Quebec or, I suppose more specifically, to the requirement that it be taught. Look, the entire rest of your country speaks English not only as their native language but most of them also only speak English, as in they don’t speak French, not to mention the fact that Canada’s biggest trading partner (the U.S.) uses English almost exclusively AND the fact that the international language used by most other countries, even non-English-speaking ones, is…English!
    They just seem to insist upon shooting themselves in the foot just to spite everyone else who doesn’t speak French and it always just seemed so silly to me. They didn’t just protect their language and heritage, they went too far in the other direction and seemed to engage in a weird sort of isolationism where they didn’t want to allow anyone else’s culture or language into their society. Very strange and quite harmful (to themselves).

  3. Jeffry House says

    “Speak white!” sounds a lot more like a borrowing from the British Empire–India, maybe?–than from the American South.
    In the last two hundred years or so, American blacks spoke English only, albeit a patois. But speaking standard English would likely seem “uppity”, and therefore not a demand massa would make.
    By contrast, lots of Quebec Anglos had recent British connections.

  4. dearieme says

    “Speak white!” sounds a lot more like a borrowing from the British Empire–India, maybe?–than from the American South.
    Not to me it doesn’t: a Briton would say “Speak English”.

  5. marie-lucie says

    Andrew: the resistance of some Quebecois to the teaching of English in Quebec
    If so, those people are definitely in the minority. Most Quebecois want their children to learn English, just not at the expense of losing their French. There are far more English-only schools and services for the anglophone minority in Quebec than there are French-only schools and services in other provinces for the francophone minorities there.

  6. Andrew: No offense, but those are predictable reactions for an English-speaking outsider to have. If you take the trouble to read up on the situation, and specifically on why the French are so concerned (paranoid, if you prefer) about the encroachment of English, you may come to a more nuanced view. I’m not saying they’re right, just that their going a bit overboard is understandable. And having been there, I can assure you Montreal is not a brutal dictatorship of francophonie; people seem to get along quite well, and as an English-speaker I did not feel oppressed.

  7. marie-lucie says

    Speak white!
    Around the time of the poem in question, the journalist and political activist Pierre Vallières wrote the book Nègres blancs d”Amérique (translated as “White Niggers of America”). In tone and connotation the French word nègre was more like “Negro” than “nigger”, but the use of the term referred to the definitely subordinate and often despised position of the French-speaking population in Canada – something that is still common, although not always as blatant, in some other parts of the country.

  8. I probably won’t live long enough to enjoy the sight of English speakers attempting to protect English against the language of the (by then) hegemonic Yellow Pearl.

  9. “while I can understand the emotions on both sides, as an outsider it looks to me like the situation is on the whole pretty healthy”
    that’s about two languages used in one united country and so much as if like tolerance and understanding of the situation is displayed there, when in the discussions of our situation all my comments on our language and identity self-determination would have been interpreted as just paranoid nationalism, and that’s about two different countries and independent cultures, seems really like double standards are working there imo, so i am obliged to remind about that here
    “speak white!” that’s how that, stereotypically and inherently divisive mental quality in everything anglo-white shows there, one perceives, everybody else in any of the villages throughout the world would try to understand what an outsider, a foreigner struggling obviously with the language wants to say and would try perhaps to help using gestures even, i guess, but not the highly civilized fully eloquent native english speakers, hopefully it’s a thing of the past, the usage of such phrases as in the post
    just this week i have been trying to schedule an appointment to a x clinic and the nurse on the phone bluntly says she doesn’t understand me, when i talked to her using easy sentences in english in a not that difficult to understand accent
    i wouldn’t have called them too if they didn’t first call me saying the appointment is postponed due to their system shutdown, then in just an hour to the original appointment they sent me a message reminding me of the appointment! naturally i called them to confirm the cancellation and what i get? that they don’t understand me!! either stupid nurses they employ or such a stupid system, they don’t forget to get a concent form charging 75$/hr if a patient forgets about the appointment, but kept me waiting 30 mins the first time i’ve been there, so i wanted to ask for my 30 something dollars for waiting too, shouldn’t this kind of agreements be mutually serving both sides or what, such an exploitative system everywhere taking advantage of the customers and if it should be expensive at least provide the quality matching the charges, imo

  10. rootlesscosmo says

    I visited Montréal in 1969 and quite by chance read an article in the Star by a reporter who was touring the Prairie Provinces. He recounted hearing “Speak white!” when he used French, which I believe had by then equal status with English as an official language in the whole of Canada, not just Quebec. It was an eye-opener for me, a young white American who had never thought about what later came to be called the social construction of whiteness.

  11. marie-lucie says

    he used French, which I believe had by then equal status with English as an official language in the whole of Canada, not just Quebec
    “Official language” means a language used by government in its communications with citizens, it does not mean that all or most citizens speak more than one of the official languages. There are francophones all over Canada, but their distribution and unofficial social status is extremely uneven throughout the country. Forty years ago the federal government policy officializing bilingualism had just started and had not had much time to sink in popular consciousness yet. Once there was an advantage for government employess to be able to speak French as well as English, personal bilingualism was no longer despised but seen as a desirable asset. This change of attitude has not yet reached every last corner of the country.

  12. I love that idea, read.
    I remember there’s some sort of legal principle in US construction contracts saying that if there’s a deadline, a contractor can’t be made to pay the owner a penalty for finishing late unless there’s also going to be a reward for finishing early. Something similar ought to apply to doctors; if they want to charge me for coming late they should pay me for keeping me waiting.

  13. According to a recent decision by the Bremen municipal court, patients who cancel a doctor’s appointment are not liable for damages or compensation. From the verdict: “Making an appointment merely simplifies the running of a medical practice. It normally does not amount to a contractual agreement to be treated. After all, doctors who keep a patient waiting despite timely appearance for an appointment are not willing to pay damages to the patient”.
    I read this in the May 2012 number of the very useful publication “Test” put out by the Stiftung Warentest. This is a consumer service organisation established by the German State (and partially funded by it) to evaluate products and services for the public.

  14. Trond Engen says

    Speak white! is quite plausible in a sociolinguistic situation where black and white rural laborers spoke the same language and the all-white middle and upper classes spoke markedly different. It might e.g. have started out as a slogan of solidarity among the socially aspiring segment of the white underclass in need of a way to keep the advantage over blacks on the labour market, but soon it would have been used against blacks and those who were to be despised as “white trash”. Which as a concept probably was fluid enough for everybody to have somebody else to look down on and by that have something to lose by tying bonds with the black underclass.
    Long-range sociolingusitics/sociology with no evidence at all.

  15. dearieme says

    “the (by then) hegemonic Yellow Pearl”: ahem – ‘Yellow Peril’.

  16. Thanks for that, Stu. It’s a damn good argument, especially when I can cite the Bremen municipal court judgement. In Norway, medical costs are nothing (total $235 a year max.), but the dentist always makes me pay if I miss an appointment.

  17. marie-lucie says

    Trond, in Quebec the proportion of black workers used to be statistically negligible (there are more nowadays with recent immigration, especially from Haiti and the French Caribbean islands). It seems that Anglos tend(ed ?) to think of themselves as the “real whites”.
    When they said to French speakers (workers, not tourists or recent immigrants) “Speak white!” they did not mean “Speak correct English, I can’t understand you”, they meant “Speak English, not French (even among yourselves)”.
    Doctors’ appointments: if you are the first client in the morning, the doctor should be on time, but during the day many patients take up more time than expected. Should the doctor say “sorry, your time is up” and send a late patient home before completing the examination, prescription, etc?
    One of my nieces in France is a physiotherapist. She says that many patients miss their appointments and don’t warn her or apologize because there is no penalty to them. Meanwhile, some patients who need treatment and could fill the empty appointment slots have to wait unnecessarily. In Canada, most doctors’ (etc) visits are covered by government insurance, but a missed appointment without a timely warning or a very good excuse is not covered, and the patient is liable for paying the practitioner. Because of this, most doctors, dentists, etc have their staff phone the patient a couple of days ahead to remind them of their appointment.

  18. during the day many patients take up more time than expected. Should the doctor say “sorry, your time is up” and send a late patient home before completing the examination, prescription, etc?
    No, but if that were the case then the doctor ought to allow more time per patient. I always have to wait at least half an hour, so they’re doing something wrong.

  19. Christopher Burd says

    I’m old enough and have hung out in enough different social settings that I’ve heard plenty of ethnic slurs and certain amount of anti-French Canadian sentiment, but I’ve never actually heard the phrase “Speak white”, only read about it. I always considered it a historical phrase associated with the Conscription Crisis of 1944 (English Canada accepted conscription, Quebec opposed it). It’s interesting to know it goes back to the 1890s.
    I don’t have any feel for how the phrase would have emerged. There was prejudice against blacks in my childhood (openly expressed among the working class, of course), but I don’t see black/white being a central enough social metaphor to make “Speak white” a natural thing for anyone to say. But, however it emerged, maybe it survived because it was a good way to enrage French speakers, should one wish to enrage them. Insults were part of working-class banter, and weren’t necessarily hostile, or, at least, as hostile as they sound.
    In the late 1960s Pierre Vallières’ “White Niggers of America” was well known among educated English Canadians, most of whom (as far as I could tell, as a child) felt the comparison was hysterical and self-pitying. At least if you lived in Ontario, you tended to see French-English relations as either something that was being dealt with by Ottawa or through the lens of personal relations between, say, English-speaking farmers and French-speaking millworkers in eastern Ontario, or French- and English-speaking miners or loggers in northern Ontario. That is to say, things weren’t all that bad, with a certain amount of social mixing and intermarriage. From that point of view Vallières’ oppressor/oppressed paradigm made little sense. I can imagine it was more credible in the stereotypical Quebec English-owned company town, where the linguistic divide would also have been a harsh class divide.

  20. J.W. Brewer says

    Don’t you have to be kinda racist to be really upset about other white people allegedly treating you as non-white? (In the U.S., one can find books written for a Irish-American audience claiming that Irish Catholic immigrants were considered non-white by certain snooty WASPs back in the 19th century. One wonders what black readers might make of these books and what conclusions they might draw about modern-day Irish-Americans who seem emotionally invested in the issue.) Maybe that’s why M. Bourassa was in favor of the even-more-racist-than-the-Brits side in the Boer War? Every petty ethnolinguistic nationalism from Montreal to Dublin to the Balkans is rooted in attitudes that are no longer tolerable in polite Anglophone society. Is that just an easy pose for us to strike because we’re currently on top (and have to a large extent decoupled language from ethnic/racial identity via linguistic assimilation in multiethnic societies)? Or is it patronizing on our part to hold non-Anglophone chauvinists to lower standards as if they were children who can’t be expected to do any better?

  21. Stu: actually, the city of Richmond, in British Columbia (part of the Greater Vancouver area), whose population is fifty per cent (first generation) Chinese has been in the news this year, as some Canadian-born residents wanted Chinese-only signage to be made illegal. An anomaly, or a sign of things to come?
    Andrew: the Canadian census is quite clear, knowledge of English among Quebec francophones has continually increased: the desire for French to be the common language in Quebec should not be mistaken for a rejection of English PER SE. That anglophones in Quebec should whine about it is unsurprising. Frankly, they have little to complain about: they can fairly be said to be the world’s best-treated language minority. I only wish the same could be said for French-speaking minorities in Canada outside Quebec.
    If you can read Spanish, you might want to have a look at the thread of “Multilingual debate in Spain” from earlier this year: I had a very fruitful exchange with a commentator named Julia (she wrote in Spanish, I replied in English). Replace Catalan with Quebec French, Spanish with English, and you’ll have my position on Quebec’s language issues.
    Read: you will thus see that I can understand a Mongol’s view of China. But the difference is that I fully recognize that Quebec has been and remains strongly influenced by the United States and anglo-Canada. Some instances of such influence today I like, others I dislike. I know that the further back into the past I go the harder it is for me to recognize instances of such influence. If a historical specialist (foreign or not, it doesn’t matter) tells me that something I thought was native was in fact an import from our neighbors, and if the reasoning behind this claim appears sound to me, I accept it.
    I recognize that my personal and national preferences and sense of identity on the one hand, and historical reality and research into that reality on the other hand, are two different things and must not be mixed. I think that recognizing that fact would make dialogue between you and others (not just myself) here easier.

  22. J.W. Brewer says

    http://tigger.uic.edu/~rjensen/no-irish.htm is an interesting revisionist article from a decade ago contending that the allegedly once-ubiquitous presence of “No Irish Need Apply” signs in the U.S. is a myth that serves to promote social solidarity among more recent generations of Irish-Americans but is not substantiated by actual evidence from contemporaneous sources without a polemical ax to grind. The wiki piece LH linked to seems to suggest that many modern-day Quebecois are sincerely convinced that “speak white” was a once-ubiquitous insult against Francophones but it is much harder to find individuals who can actually claim to have personally witnessed an instance of the usage, or point to reliable contemporaneous documentary evidence of the usage. This is not to say that the Quebecois (and/or Francophones living in the rest of Canada, whose situation is somewhat different) were not mistreated over the course of Canadian history, only that “loser’s history” – i.e. outgroup historical narratives aimed at stoking current feelings of resentment and/or solidarity and/or payback — is no more likely to be inherently factually accurate as to the details than “victor’s history.”

  23. ” is rooted in attitudes that are no longer tolerable in polite Anglophone society”
    i wish!
    “is it patronizing…”, yes, it is, to treat others as chauvinists at the least signs of any national identification, i guess that’s bc one projects into others what is in the person him/herself
    i’m glad Mr.E you find our situation remotely similar to the issue people discuss in the thread, so hopefully my objections in the past don’t sound too outrageous for you now to think that i deserved to be treated like spam and be deleted whenever i talk about it, but about the easyness of the dialogue, please, see the above two responses, i guess
    if the francophones in canada can afford to detachedly admit the influence of their neighbours on them w/o losing their self-identity, good for them, still they speak their own language even though called isolationist or atavistic etc so must be something is in there, not only pure so blamed nationalism what makes people to cherish one’s roots
    and if people recognize their right to do so, hopefully that recognition could be extended to anybody else who like themselves the way they are without being instantly labeled labels

  24. Trond Engen says

    m-l: I was responding to the commenter asserting that the phrase couldn’t have arised in the American south. I understand that the situation in Canada was different.
    JWB: I don’t think there’s any need for racism on behalf of the minority (but certainly of whoever from the majority would use such a phrase), only a knowledge of what was — increasingly around the world — seen as persistent institutional unjustice for blacks in the USA and a feeling of being a victim of the same cultural hegemony. Such a phrase used as a putdown would carry with it the notion that the speaker sympathizes with Southern segregation and that the Anglo-Canadian majority should (or could if it decided to) keep the French-speaking Canadians down in the same way.
    If the phrase weren’t actually used by Anglo-Canadians, beyond that one recorded occasion in parliament, it’s interesting, but it doesn’t change my view of racist implications. It may well have been taken up by French-Canadians as a shorthand for all dismissive or discriminatory attitude perceived to be veiled in non-chauvinist terms.
    (Not that French-Canadians weren’t racist at the time. They were hardly an exception.)

  25. consent and not a nurse, a receptionist, but the attitude like i am not obliged to understand you what made me to resent her, because of my accent and my foreign name too long for her to get my spelling, no doubt
    i understand that immigration is a serious problem everywhere and people don’t like immigrants understandably perhaps too, but shouldn’t it be something like abstract dislike if there is such a dislike, not taken out on a concrete person to whom you talk to right now, if the legally residing foreigners can be treated like that, illegal immigrants must be have a really bitter life and that’s when they work and contribute to the economy doing all the work which the citizens themselves wouldn’t take, they pay taxes like everybody else too
    when the large multinational corporations they say don’t pay, exempt of the taxes, they try to go without paying taxes in the smaller countries like ours too bc they stimulate the economy create jobs so it should be the best business environment created for them, it’s good for the country to attract the foreign investments bla bla when it turns out actually not much stays in the country anyway and everything goes just destroyed, nature, people’s traditional lifestyles etc, this trying to evade the taxes whenever possible is so so selfish, those factories for apple in china, for example, how they treat the workers there, too unfair, people have families to feed i understand everywhere, but still, it’s one thing to feed and educate your kids, another thing to have a luxurious lifestyle at someone else’s expense, i really really hate watching HGTV that’s why, how they can live such not just comfortable, but often times excessive ways when millions are homeless out there, there was a twitter post on ethical capitalism today, didn’t open the link though
    the programs how they renovate old farm houses in ruins into something nice i like though
    and compared to other places perhaps it is still safer though, one can go without much contact with other people except coworkers and health related situations and it’s safer maybe just b/c in the past there was the more punitive environment to instill in people more sense of respect for authority and order, i guess, especially regarding property, what’s with the largest prison population in the world even now and the lawyers, so maybe something like the old socialist system works there too to keep the social order, or crimes go away at some level of income growth when everybody’s basic needs are met
    i always thought so about the japanese being able to be so subordinate too, how their samurais were perhaps intolerant of any insubordination, so they just weeded out anyone insolent to their orderly codes long before i guess and that doesn’t seem happening in japan, crimes lowering with the higher income, i remember every day they arrest somebody on tv due to some or other crime, too many incidents, too easy to lose any faith in humanity watching that
    i say about projections meaning not the commenters personally of course, just the prevailing cultural attitude

  26. read: i understand that immigration is a serious problem everywhere and people don’t like immigrants understandably perhaps too, but shouldn’t it be something like abstract dislike if there is such a dislike, not taken out on a concrete person to whom you talk to right now …
    That is an extremely interesting idea, read: “abstract dislike”. I think that I myself hold a similar view in certain respects – but it often doesn’t seem to work out as I had expected. The fact that you brought this idea up has made me think about this harder than I have up to now.
    The notion of a disposition towards, or view of certain other people, as being “abstract” can be understood in many ways that sometimes overlap, sometimes contradict each other. First off, you have the very notion of “certain other people”, which itself is already a kind of abstraction. “Certain other people” might mean “all people who are alike in certain respects (such as “being a foreigner”), but may differ in other respects”. In this example, all respects such as age, gender etc have been “abstracted away”, leaving only “being a foreigner”.
    Suppose someone says: “I dislike foreigners in principle, although I often get along well with the foreigners I actually meet, and have nothing against them”. Here I have snuck in the expression “in principle” as if it were equivalent to “abstractly”. But is it ?
    In any case, the person clearly believes that he/she is telling us something useful about him/her, in the sense that we are being given to expect certain behavior by that person towards foreigners, and not other behavior. But what kind of behavior does one expect from someone who claims to “dislike foreigners in principle” and yet often doesn’t dislike individual foreigners ? How does that pan out in practice ?
    One way to understand that claim is to take it as qualified warning, resembling the sign that says “trepassers may be prosecuted”. On this interpretation, the person would be saying in effect: “I reserve the right to dislike individual foreigners when and if I choose, for the simple reason that they are foreigners, although I don’t often do so”. Putting it in pseudo-legal terms, we might call this xenophobia with saving clauses.
    Such an “abstract dislike” is intimidating, and liable to put everybody on the defensive, because nobody knows from case to case what to expect. It’s not clear that “I dislike foreigners when I feel like it” is going to make social relations more pleasant than just “I dislike foreigners”.

  27. mollymooly says

    The Irish-in-Britain folk-memory sign said “No dogs, no blacks, no Irish”, which if real could only date from some time between the Windrush in 1948 and the Race Relations Act in 1968.
    I have been told the Castilian-to-Catalan equivalent of “speak white” is “speak Christian”, by someone who claimed to have been so addressed by a functionary in Barcelona.
    Any single instance where (a member of) group X treats (a member of) group Y badly is likely to be explained by Y as the Mask Slips, and explained away by X as One Bad Apple.

  28. J.W. Brewer says

    Looked in google books and lo and behold none other than Barassa himself used the string “speak white” on the floor of the Canadian House of Commons (May 13, 1901), saying pejoratively of (if I’ve got the context right . . .) the Hon. Colin Campbell, Attorney General of Manitoba, that “either as a lawyer or a minister of the Crown, he cannot speak black and speak white.”
    I am skeptical of Trond’s implicit premise that as of either, say, 1899 or 1944 the mistreatment of blacks by whites in the American South was the leading or paradigm case of white/non-white tension worldwide and thus the default source of any racially charged turn of phrase used anywhere in the world – not when the British Empire and its various European rivals were all still run on frankly racial and inegalitarian lines. Now, by circa 1970 when modern Quebecois separatism was heating up with tracts and poems etc., the situation had changed, and the plight of blacks in the American South had a lot of worldwide sympathy and positive brand value, as it were, that other aggrieved groups around the world might try to cash in on by metaphorical comparisons. I tend to think such comparisons are often patronizing/insulting to the actual historical experience of the group that the other group is trying to appropriate, but ymmv.

  29. Bathrobe says

    Such an “abstract dislike” is intimidating
    Could it have anything to do with the idea that people tend to form groups and communities? You may not dislike individuals, and yet you may feel threatened if your community itself is threatened by another one. It is quite possible to like individuals and yet dislike the community or State that they belong to and (in a sense) represent.
    If you belong to a peace-loving pod of kangaroos with an instinctive dislike of human beings and their noise, their smell, their guns, and their dogs, even if you actually find certain human beings that you like and get along with, it will not stop their guns and their dogs from destroying you in the end.

  30. Bathrobe says

    I’m not saying that immigrants can destroy you like people destroy kangaroos (or Na’vi), but unfortunately people tend to move and interact in groups, not as individuals.
    I’m sure read would like lots of Chinese as individuals, but ‘liking them’ doesn’t mean giving up your language and culture out of politeness to the fact that they (nice people that they are) never felt it was worth learning your language.
    I wonder how many Anglophones there are in Quebec who never felt it was ‘worth their while’ to learn French….

  31. J.W. Brewer says

    “Granting a conscience, it would be impossible to call black white, or to speak white and act black.” Another apparently (?) non-racial usage from the 1880’s from a British “secularist” named George William Foote. See also Tennyson’s “to speak white truth.” I used google books to look for instances of “speak white” from 1880 to 1920 although I lost steam before going through the entire pile, but I found nada/zilch/rien relevant to this alleged pejorative usage except . . . a hit on a 1902 tract by the ubiquitous Monsieur Barassa. But that was a false alarm because whoever had scanned that document into google books had appended in the same file a 1965 Canadian document from some Royal Commission on Bilingualism which was then miscoded as from 1902.

  32. If the phrase weren’t actually used by Anglo-Canadians
    Of course it was. For reasons of his own, J.W. Brewer is discounting the personal testimony of French Canadians in favor of his own random trawling through Google Books.

  33. Could it have anything to do with the idea that people tend to form groups and communities? You may not dislike individuals, and yet you may feel threatened if your community itself is threatened by another one. It is quite possible to like individuals and yet dislike the community or State that they belong to and (in a sense) represent.
    Fair point – people may have all kinds of understandable reasons for disliking situations that seem to threaten. It was a wee bit tendentious of me to dismiss those involving foreigners as “xenophobia with saving clauses”.
    Still, my main question was: how does the other guy feel when confronted with such an attitude towards him, however indirect and understandable ? Uncomfortable and maybe even intimidated, especially when his relations with the others are superficial, he can’t speak the lingo well and is having trouble finding a job.

  34. J.W. Brewer says

    I didn’t see any personal testimony in the sources hat linked. Perhaps I didn’t read them closely enough. I saw a lot of stuff that had an urban-legend feel, but I’m open to contrary evidence. The contributions to this thread by people who’ve spent time in Canada seemed to indicate that they’d never heard it themselves but had formed the impression that it had previously been common – but I can’t tell whether they are basing this on conversations with older people who had credible-seeming first-hand experience or just on the ubiquity of the possible-urban-legend by some time in the 1960’s. I am certainly convinced that in post-1970 Qubecois-nationalist circles everyone knows that this is how it used to be. It’s just sometimes the case that things everyone knows to have been the case turn out not to have been the case, and when what everyone knows serves a particular political narrative there is perhaps reason to be more skeptical. (Obviously there’s also a very wide range between ubiquity and never-happened-even-once.) But the availability of modern corpus linguistics is a good way to check claims like this, which is not to claim that the brief glance I took this morning is in anyway sufficient to prove the negative.

  35. My point was that the “abstract” or group-motivated behavior and the personal behavior are hard to keep in separate boxes. They interfere with each other whether you like it or not.
    When I originally remarked that similar views on my part haven’t worked out that well, I meant something rather specific. Since to go into it would bring down a tiresome chorus of disapproving “Tsk! Tsk!” on my head, I will say no more.

  36. J.W. Brewer says

    Correction – one of hat’s links had one first-hand account, coupled with stuff from others who had never witnessed but had heard tell of it. The fact that everyone quickly mentions this famous poem contributes to the urban-legendy-vibe for me, fwiw. If there are good contemporaneous sources for it having been used circa the Conscription Crisis of 1944 (where again the Quebecois nationalists were uninterested in fighting against anyone who was fighting the Brits, no matter how unsavory . . .), those would be interesting to see.

  37. marie-lucie says

    CBurd: The reaction you are describing is that of educated anglophones who obviously had little contact with the average, working-class French-speaking Québécois or Ontarian. It is easy for an outsider to a group (however defined) to dismiss complaints by its members as exaggerated because the situation “could not be as bad as that” and the outsider (who is not familiar with group members and the day-to-day conditions of their lives) has never personally witnessed abuse.
    JWB: Not everything in spoken language makes it into print.
    Michèle Lalonde would hardly have written her impassioned poem Speak White! in the 60’s if the only Canadian instance of the phrase had been in a politican’s speech or intervention at the turn of the century, possibly influenced by obscure British references around the same time. The poem is about the permanently subordinate position of French-speaking Canadians, especially workers in English-dominated factories (not just in “company towns” but in Montreal itself), where the French workers are the ones whose hands are permanently stained with cambouis and who cannot rise even to the rank of foreman unless they speak English, while the English-speaking foreman is not expected to learn French and tells the workers to “speak white!”. The right to work (and be heard) in their own language was a major demand and later victory of francophones – by far the majority population – in Québec.

  38. But what kind of behavior does one expect from someone who claims to “dislike foreigners in principle” and yet often doesn’t dislike individual foreigners? How does that pan out in practice?
    It sounds to me like what Himmler said: there are “eighty million good Germans, each of whom has his decent Jew. It is clear, the others are pigs, but this particular Jew is first-rate.” H.P. Lovecraft was a marvelous example of an abstract Antisemite and Know-Nothing: he wrote whole volumes of letters and essays about how the Jews and the immigrants were destroying America, and yet he not only had many Jewish friends, he married a Jew as well.

  39. I was born, raised and spent almost five decades in Toronto. I had never heard the expression “speak white” until encountering it here at LH.
    Even though every two years or so during my childhood we visited (anglo) family in Montreal, French Canada as a cultural entity was something unknown and vaguely looked down upon. Certainly part of that attitude was due to the legacy (read: weird and corrupt politics) of Maurice Duplessis, Quebec premier back then. I never heard a word of French during those visits, though I recall it from store windows, street signs and the like. It never even crossed my mind to ask whether anyone in the Montreal branch of our clan understood any French at all. Only in early adulthood, when I began traveling to Quebec independently — and Northern Ontario too — did I begin to meet French Canadians and directly sense something of the Quebecois/French Canadian culture.
    (As I’ve noted elsewhere on this blog, I studied French for six years in the Ontario school system. Couldn’t understand a word in Montreal, but got by — just — in Paris.)
    Telling anecdote: While at college I delivered parcels on Saturdays and over the summers for Simpson’s, a large department store chain with branches in Toronto and Montreal, since deceased. The company maintained its own fleet of delivery vans and the drivers wore uniforms. One day I came home after work, and as I stepped through the open door, was greeted in French by one of those family members from Montreal, now in Toronto for a visit. My uniform threw him completely. He didn’t recognize me and assumed, naturally enough for a Montreal anglo back then, that any deliveryman would be French.
    Telling fact: Enroute, Air Canada’s in-flight magazine, publishes all articles in both languages. All Air Canada information and all advertisements placed by government agencies appear in both languages. I do not ever recall seeing a commercial advertisement in French.
    Hugh MacLennan’s 1945 novel Two Solitudes is a Canadian (well, Anglo-Canadian anyway) classic whose title, nearly four score and ten on, retains currency.

  40. But what kind of behavior does one expect from someone who claims to “dislike foreigners in principle” and yet often doesn’t dislike individual foreigners? How does that pan out in practice?
    In my opinion there are a lot more people who think this way than one might suspect.

  41. J.W. Brewer says

    Look, either there are substantial pre-1960’s traces in the Canadian documentary record (maybe dialogue in low-brow genre fiction where characters can be confrontational and insulting w/o the publisher censoring it?) of the “speak white” phenomenon or there aren’t. I have an open mind on that because I haven’t looked into it. (Or perhaps the usage was uncommon before the 60’s but suddently became more common among Anglo-Canadians just as white-supremacist rhetoric was rapidly becoming highly taboo in most English-speaking countries, although that seems pretty counterintuitive.) Not everything spoken makes its way into print, but things quite widely spoken will tend to leave traces in print unless there’s a plausible reason (in terms of the censorship/politeness conventions of journalists/publishers in the relevant time and place) why they wouldn’t.
    Jensen’s claim as to the extreme rarity of actual “No Irish Need Apply” signs points to a popular mid-19th-century song with an essentially fictional depiction of such a sign as one of the bases for the (on his telling) myth. Obviously to get the myth rollling the song must have had for many Irish-Americans the “ring of truth” (or truthiness?) even if it was not actually historically true. I see no a pariori reason why Lalonde’s poem could not have played a similar role – it would not have been successful had it not felt subjectively true to the experience of many Quebecois, but that’s not the same as treating its success as proof of its empirical accuracy. Or it could also be that there’s lots of pre-1960’s contemporaneous evidence out there of the usage just waiting to be googled up.
    None of this is intended to dispute that Canadian Francophones had very legitimate grievances about language-policy issues and that it is certainly understandable as a matter of psychology and politics that they might have overshot a bit in the other direction once the political situation changed without being uniquely malicious/bigoted/intolerant themselves. (Or rather, no more malicious/bigoted/intolerant than tends to be inherent in ethnolinguistic nationalism/chauvinism around the world.)

  42. Garrigus Carraig says

    “Speak white!” reminds me too of the “Speak Christian!” said to have been current in Barcelona under Franco. Says a certain Vicenç Navarro:

    En Cataluña, en mi infancia, no se podía hablar catalán. No era infrecuente que la policía nos interrumpiera gritando: “¡No hables como un perro, habla como un cristiano!”.

  43. Garrigus Carraig says

    In the last two hundred years or so, American blacks spoke English only, albeit a patois.

    We are quite rapidly approaching four hundred years.

  44. Rodger C says

    Leonard Roberts’ collection of Kentucky folklore contains several humorous 19th-century tales of the type “The two Irishmen and the white man.”

  45. I don’t see why “speak white” would necessarily have to have been borrowed from either the American South or from the (other) British colonies. A more direct source might be the Western frontier of both the US and Canada, where speaking French often indicated a fair amount of indigenous blood.

  46. Commenters here have concurred in assuming that “speak white” refers to skin color, or referred to it originally or primarily. However, I’ve been wondering whether there might also be some French expression standing godfather – where blanc connotes honesty and straightforwardness, de l’ingenuité. “Toute la personne de Cosette était naïveté, ingénuité, … blancheur, candeur” [Hugo].

  47. Despite what the OED suggests, I’m not convinced that the expression “that’s mighty white of you” originally, or always thereafter, was intended and understood to mean “like a white man”.
    Remember these non-racial 19C uses: “There can be no harm to my white Hilda in one parting kiss.” [Hawthorne]. “They be mortal feared of witches,‥and mortal hard on ’em, even on a pure body like me, that doth a bit in the white way.” [Kingsley, Westward Ho!]

  48. Don’t know whether it’s racial or not, but a character in John Ford’s ‘Tis Pity She’s a Whore says (of his doting rich uncle) “I am his white boy” and the latest commentator has no more to say than that “white” = “favorite” here. Thanks, professor! We already figured that out from the context.

  49. J.W. Brewer says

    http://languagelog.ldc.upenn.edu/nll/?p=3179 is a thread from last year about “mighty white of you” and other related-by-drift topics, although I’m not sure it reached a particularly strong consensus on anything.

  50. If you belong to a peace-loving pod of kangaroos with an instinctive dislike of human beings and their noise, their smell, their guns, and their dogs, even if you actually find certain human beings that you like and get along with, it will not stop their guns and their dogs from destroying you in the end.
    You may not be interested in war, but war is interested in you. — attributed, probably falsely, to Leon Trotsky.

  51. dee_doubleyew says

    The “Speak White” statement is probably related to sentiments similar to those expressed by Benjamin Franklin who said in 1751 that: “…the Number of purely white People in the World is proportionably very small. All Africa is black or tawny. Asia chiefly tawny. America (exclusive of the new Comers) wholly so. And in Europe, the Spaniards, Italians, French, Russians and Swedes, are generally of what we call a swarthy Complexion; as are the Germans also, the Saxons only excepted, who with the English, make the principal Body of White People on the Face of the Earth.”
    In other words, B. Franklin believed that only the English and the Saxons were “white”.

  52. The reflexes of Christianus in the Romance languages often mean ‘plain(-spoken) person, ordinary person’; French and English cretin is an extreme example of this. That’s clearly what Vicenç Navarro’s cop has in mind: don’t speak like a dog, speak like a human being!
    Kingsley’s character is clearly saying that he or she is a white witch, if only on a small scale.
    I sort of vaguely remember that white boy and its equivalent fair-haired boy ‘favorite, darling’ are some kind of calque on an Irish expression, but no luck in finding the expression in question.

  53. I wonder: back when slavery and other forms of servitude in Europe were mostly a matter of whites enslaving other whites or keeping them as serfs or servants, would “white boy” be equivalent to “house slave” or house servant with easier duties, hence “favorite”? Horace in one of his Satires (2.7 I think) clearly states that being his house slave in town is far preferable to being sent to his country estate to work in the fields. The latter class of slaves would of course have been thoroughly tanned by having to do most of their work in the hot sun.

  54. in my language white is associated mostly with mother’s milk, so the epithet white would mean something pure, wholesome, innocent, for a baby like quality, or at least some white flowers, snow, birches whatever, but surely not human skin color, but the rage could be white or being shameless could be white too, so it’s pretty close to the meaning in the comment calling for honesty, so white means intensity of something, i guess, from how iron turns white from heat
    while people of the caucasian race would be called yellow, bc of their blonde hair and its variations, pretty clever and nothing mean, i always wondered why they wouldn’t have called themselves not white but more like pink or beige from the beginning if it’s the skin colour, would have sounded pretty neutral for everyone i guess, i think i told this before somewhere in the threads, pretty long time ago
    i read Ben Franklin’s autobiography and liked it a lot, seemed a decent person except his words about rum being a good instrumental in exterminating indians making a room for the settlers, so he was a racist like all other american founding fathers slave-holders, what to do their times was such, but he was one of the early abolitionists too, so he gets credits for that and is off the hook perhaps
    people are not saints and there are always individual preferences and dislikes, one can’t like everybody, i understand people’s disliking other than their own groups of people, just if everybody interacted with that “other” person, when faced them directly, as decently as possible, as an equal an equal, bc if to treat people some other way one would just lose one’s own self-esteem, than no any misunderstanding could happen even between those larger groups perhaps, so it is of course nothing new, good karma etc, all is thought and said by the great minds long before and i surely like to find that i shared thoughts with famous people,
    but sharing a thought with himmler would be like a strange personal record, it’s nothing similar imo, his conclusions were directly the opposite, even though, he said, every german knows a decent jew, he meant as a whole the group is no good for the germans as a group and deserved their inhumane treatment in his opinion, seems like it’s totally different from what i said, so i mean i object to that comparison
    when i read the internet discussions on racism, people say something about teaching their preschool even 3-4 yo kids about race and racism, talk “the talk” which seems is pretty popular among the well meaning white educated parents, i think that is not right, that is maybe teaching them first racism itself, teaching the little kids how to divide people to races, or to poor and rich, as if like reinforcing those beliefs from generation to generation, one needs to teach their kids only what is it to be a decent, ethical person, and in their time, maybe in the school it should be taught of course, they’ll figure out what is mean and shameful, what is not, just naturally, without all that harmful “talk” imo

  55. I found it strange that цагаан архи (‘white spirits’) means ‘vodka’ in Mongolian, but хар архи (‘black spirits’) means the same thing (although this may depend on the dialect).
    Slightly off topic, Хар мах (‘black meat’) means ‘lean meat’.

  56. xar arxi has a negative meaning, it’s called xar us black water if to say it as if like in cursing the damn thing like intonation, so everything black is considered not very auspicious, maybe from dark night, but khar khun black man (lay man) as opposite to shar (a monk in yellow robes) is an honorable description of a man, the statesman would sound as töriin khar khun

  57. also khar khun means husband, nökhör/nuker, khani (it sounds something similar to russian tovarish -friend/companion/colleague even), which i find pretty great and as if like a sign of gender equality from pretty long before, it’s a pity there is no english equivalent of the word, mate sounds too animalistic, as if like from mating, partner sounds too business like
    and there is no expression tsagaan khun (white man) in my language, there is tsagaan ar’stan white skinned people, black skinned people as description of races, if to drop that skinned and people and call just by colours, it would start sounding offensive, well, perhaps just because we were pretty far from any other racial contacts, except russians and chinese and with them we’ve developed not lesser, but even stronger animosities compared, i can’t say that we would have been more tolerant of others, so i should not perhaps judge others for their real or perceived prejudices too harshly

  58. Sir JCass says

    Funnily enough, I was just reading James Shapiro’s 1599: A Year in the Life of William Shakespeare last night when I came across this:
    “Another account [of Essex’s Irish campaign] was provided by the famously blunt Sir James Perrot (who had said of Elizabeth’s tendency to pay attention to her skilled soldiers only in time of war, ‘Now she is ready to piss herself for fear of the Spaniard, I am again one of her white boys’).”
    I suppose the modern equivalent of “white boy” would be “blue-eyed boy”. As John Cowan suggests, the “white” must refer to fair hair. Charles the Second was nicknamed the “black boy” because of his dark hair and complexion. It’s usually gingers who come in for hating in this game of trichological oneupmanship (“a red-haired stepchild”).

  59. I loved that Shapiro when I read it.

  60. Sir JCass says

    I loved that Shapiro when I read it.
    Yes, it’s great. I’m allergic to the majority of literary criticism out there, but this is different.

  61. “I sort of vaguely remember that white boy and its equivalent fair-haired boy ‘favorite, darling’ are some kind of calque on an Irish expression, but no luck in finding the expression in question.”
    John, you’re looking for ‘muirnín bán”. Brendan O’Hehir translated it as “blond darling” when it came up in class and our term “fair-haired boy” sounds like a calque. It sounds like it came from Irish because of the high value on blond hair in Irish culture, where blond is the color of royalty – even jewish jesus gets portrayed as blond in illumionated manuscripts. I don’t think the same holds in AS or Scandinavian cultures, for obvious reasons.

  62. the high value on blond hair in Irish culture, where blond is the color of royalty – even jewish jesus gets portrayed as blond in illumionated manuscripts. I don’t think the same holds in AS or Scandinavian cultures, for obvious reasons.
    What obvious reasons ? Because blond is nothing special in those cultures ? Even if that were true, it wouldn’t explain why the vast majority of Jesus Christ pictures show him with black or brown hair, which is nothing special either.
    Green permanent waves, now, that would be special. Even old ladies don’t take it farther than a blue rinse.

  63. Trond Engen says

    I don’t think the same holds in AS or Scandinavian cultures, for obvious reasons.
    But now I wonder if Hárfagri “fairhair” as a royal byname (for the (possibly more mythical than historical (but don’t tell anyone I said that)) first king of Norway) might be a cultural loan from Celtic.

  64. @J.W. Brewer: I agree. Another example of invented or very-greatly-exaggerated folk-memory of victimization is the myth that Vietnam War veterans were spat upon by protesters.

  65. @J.W. Brewer: I agree. Another example of invented or very-greatly-exaggerated folk-memory of victimization
    If you’re saying that French Canadians are inventing or very greatly exaggerating their history of victimization, you’re not agreeing with JW, you’re making stuff up.

  66. J.W. Brewer says

    To be clear, I wasn’t saying that the claims about the “speak white” usage are necessarily “invented or very-greatly-exaggerated folk memory,” only that the sources linked to are not inconsistent with that hypothesis (note how remarkably hedged the first quote hat cites is, with “thought to have been . . . apparently . . . supposedly”). There well may be pre-1960 evidence out there of this as a common use; one just can’t tell one way or another from the sources adduced thus far and one can, for example, read the wikipedia piece hat linked to and see that the southern-U.S.-origin hypothesis seems to have been devised in the 1960’s by a Quebecois grandee with no apparent formal training in linguistics who (following the intra-wikipedia link from his name) reportedly first made a splash in Quebecois separatist circles as a young man back in 1933 at a rally denouncing “politicians and Jews.” Not that amateurs with unsavory politics can’t in principle make valuable scholarly contributions, of course.

  67. J.W. Brewer says

    And just to restate the obvious, it can in principle simultaneously be the case that: a) a particular group (say Irish Catholic immigrants in the 19th century U.S.) genuinely suffered various sorts of discrimination and mistreatment; but b) a particular now widely-believed example of such discrimination/mistreatment (say, the alleged ubiquity of “No Irish Need Apply” signs) is an urban myth. The notion that questioning the accuracy of b) necessarily reflects insensitivity to a) is destructive of productive scholarly discourse.

  68. Google under images for “no irish need apply” and you’ll lots of hits that look like old newspaper job ads, as well as stuff that is obviously much more recent. One could argue about what degree of “ubiquity” this is evidence for, but it clearly seems to take it out of the “urban legend” category.
    As for “speak white,” the use of the phrase in 1899 in the Canadian parliament, if not earlier, seems to be on the record.
    I grew up in the South and saw plenty of “whites only” signs, separate bathrooms, etc. That was certainly common enough back then to be called “ubiquitous,” Hard to believe now, but there it was.

  69. I remember seeing my first “Whites Only” sign on a car trip through the South at about age five, so about 1962 (I could already read fine). I had been sleeping in the back seat and woke up when my father pulled into a restaurant parking lot. The sign was clearly visible, and my mother asked my father to drive on, which he did. I asked my mother “But aren’t we white?” And she said yes, but … and that was my introduction to what segregation was and why it was bad.
    My wife grew up in North Carolina, and although her mother was a Southern liberal and her father a Yankee one, segregation was mostly part of the background. But she was asked to stay out of the pool at a hotel when her mother happened to mention to another guest that her father (who wasn’t there) was Jewish. Her mother promptly moved them to a different hotel.

  70. “Even if that were true, it wouldn’t explain why the vast majority of Jesus Christ pictures show him with black or brown hair, which is nothing special either. ”
    In Irish manuscripts, Stu? I’m not talking about Italian devotional holy cards handed out at parochial schools. And guess what, almost all Ethiopian depictions of Jesus him as dark-haired too.
    “But now I wonder if Hárfagri “fairhair” as a royal byname (for the (possibly more mythical than historical (but don’t tell anyone I said that)) first king of Norway) might be a cultural loan from Celtic.”
    That’s possible. The cultural contact between Scandinavia and the Birtish Isles goes back to the Bronze Age – those same ships able to make the same voyages show up in the haellristningar – and the evidence and relics of it are not restricted to the Viking era.

  71. J.W. Brewer says

    I linked earlier in the thread to the Jensen article claiming rarity/non-ubiquity of NINA (and explaining its methodology, e.g. reviewing entire run of such and such newspaper for such and such time span and finding exactly one want ad using the phrase). Maybe there are subsequent articles disagreeing with Jensen’s analysis and pointing to contrary sources of historical evidence. I would be happy to look at any such article anyone can post a non-gated url for. Jensen also asserts that it is quite easy to find actual signs (and presumably internet images of them) with the NINA language on them, but that these are recent creations for modern collectors, perhaps analogous to the sort of antique-looking signs some tavern owners like to buy to give off the ambiance of a Wild West / Gold Rush saloon.
    Lots of the officially transcribed debates of the Canadian parliament (branded “Hansard” like the UK predecessor) are searchable on google books. From those you can as I mentioned above find Bourassa’s own non-racial 1901 use of “speak white” while discussing some Manitoba-related controversy, as well a few references since 1990 or so of politicians referring to the anti-Francophone “speak white” phenomenon as something that is now thankfully consigned to the past (references which due to timing and context I view as not inconsistent with the urban-myth hypothesis). I have not, by contrast, been able to find evidence in Hansard of the 1899 incident in which Bourassa was (“supposedly,” according to hat’s source) on the receiving end of “speak white” insults while speaking in Parliament (and even if you were in the habit of insultingly suggesting Francophones were less-than-white, the context of a Francophone taking the political side of the whiter-than-white Afrikaaners seems a peculiar place to drag out that particular bit of invective, although maybe that’s just my own hindsight bias). So: a) maybe that volume of Hansard isn’t on google books or got badly scanned in or had its date or other metadata garbled; b) maybe the producers of Hansard omitted from the official transcript insulting abuse shouted at M. Bourassa because; or c) maybe it didn’t happen, or at least didn’t quite happen as said to have happened by some source a century after the fact. If it’s a) or b), it seems that there probably ought to be some other near-contemporaneous documentary source Out There. The Hansard for the proceedings of the Canadian Senate for Feb. 9, 1900, fwiw, shows the Hon. Mr. Scott (perhaps Richard W. Scott, a Liberal from Ontario and an Irish Catholic) stating that while he very much disagreed with Mr. Bourassa’s substantive views on the Boer War he thought that Bourassa had been subject to excessively uncharitible attack with (reading a little between the lines) an unnecessary and unhelpful ethnic subtext, given that back in the British Parliament various impeccably Anglo-Saxon/Anglophone politicians had likewise dissented from the majority view on the war.

  72. Christopher Burd says

    “b) maybe the producers of Hansard omitted from the official transcript insulting abuse shouted at M. Bourassa because;”
    Supposedly the convention in Hansard is to transcribe verbal abuse to “Some honourable members: Oh! Oh!”

  73. This just in: Quebec language police crack down on retailers with English-only signs

  74. J.W. Brewer says

    @Paul Ogden, surely the Quebecois authorities will defer to languagehat’s view that if, e.g. “Banana Republic” (as a proper name / trademark identifying a particular retail chain) is used as a lexical item in a French sentence uttered by one Francophone to another with the expectation it will be understood, it is therefore part of the lexicon of French (even if it is also part of the lexicon of English)?

  75. S Nelson says

    Interesting topic.
    Although I was born and raised in the USA, both sides of my family are from Ontario. Some lines of the family have been in Canada for over 250 yrs. I have dual-citizenship, so anything pertaining to CA interests me.
    Except for 1 ancestor, my family was/is
    Anglo-Canadian. The one exception was from Paris; his family came to CA 200 yrs ago.
    There was definitely an anti-french bias in my family, a bias that was probably centuries old, and made worse by the actions, or inactions, of the french gov’t at the onset of WWII.
    I imagine that Quebec has changed a lot over the centuries; some of my ancestors attended finishing school there in previous centuries. I don’t imagine that’s common now.
    I go to Ontario often, but I admit that going to Quebec isn’t high on my list. I was last there in the 60s. I do wonder if I’d get a warm reception, as my french is quite limited.

  76. surely the Quebecois authorities will defer to languagehat’s view
    I’ll get right on the case. Gonna call in a few favors at the Office québécois de la langue française. News as it happens. 😉

  77. Which, I’ve just noticed, doesn’t even have a Wiki entry in English.
    The Quebec government has an English version of its Charter of the French Language but access to the document is currently unavailable.
    I presume a conspiracy.

  78. @Paul Ogden:
    Yes, those awful Frenchies have conspired to put a French title on the English-language article in the English wikipedia, which is what your link goes to.

  79. made worse by the actions, or inactions, of the french gov’t at the onset of WWII.
    That seems a little unfair. The French were hardly worse than the British at the onset. And of course the Quebecois had no input whatsoever into the decisions of the French government.

  80. Vanya, Those are not my opinions (the French in WWII), but simply what I heard from relatives. The issue, for the WWII generation in my family, wasn’t the French gov’t but with the Quebec gov’t.
    The friction between Brits/French, both in Europe and Canada, goes back a long way. Every culture has its “boogey-man,” someone to dislike and distrust. It’s human nature, and it takes great effort to rise above it.
    I am from both English and French Canadian lines, but to be honest we were taught to dismiss the FC connection.

Speak Your Mind