Canada's Official Language Commissioner Calls for More French Cursing
|It has become less and less common to hear "sousse mon graine" emanating from government cubicles today|
In a new report released today Dyane Adam, Canada's Official Languages Commissioner,
offered a scathing assessment of the status of French cursing in the public service.
"Despite assurances in the past that the situation would be improved, French
profanity in the public service is at crisis levels," said Adam at a press
conference to announce the highly anticipated report. "Maudit tabernac."
In fact, according to the Official Languages Commission, the rate of swearing
in French in government offices is at its lowest level since the invocation
of Official Bilingualism some 35 years ago.
An excerpt from the 962 page report, which would have been tabled in Parliament
today had everyone not gone home for the summer to watch reruns of On the Road
Again, explains why nobody's swearing in French in federal departments, agencies
and crown corporations. "It has become less and less of a priority in government
offices for Anglophones to learn how to swear in French," the report says.
"Given the multiple responsibilities many public servants now face in their
jobs, including showing up and turning on their computers, this is completely
Angela McMicky-Bekkers, a file clerk with the Department of Fish, concurs.
She can swear only in English. "I don't have time to learn how to swear
in French. They've been wantin' to send me off for three months of training
at the French Cussin' College, but I just reached the top of the office solitaire
pool. Do you know how long it's taken me to get here? There's no fuckin' way
am I goin' now."
Other public servants reached for comment - those who weren't crying under
their desks - confirmed the report's findings. "I can swear at a 'C' level,
but I hate to say, not too many of my underlings can, estie de calice,"
said Myles Happenruff, Deputy Minister for the federal Department of Roughage.
"Even though it's explicitly stated in many of their job descriptions that
they have to be able to curse like a Chicoutimi dockworker, most of the Anglos
I deal with just don't measure up."
"Maybe I should do something about that, seeing that I am the boss."
Policy Analyst Claude-Etienne Baillergon from the Federal Roundtable on Nose
Hair, has also noticed a dearth of French profanity among his co-workers. "English
people will show up to a meeting, and sometimes try to make an effort to curse
in French. But after the first "tabernac," you can't even understand
what they're saying half the time, so you just have to switch and start swearing
at them in English. That's the way things work, unfortunately."
At least part of the blame, said Baillergon, lies in the education system.
"They don't teach the English kids how to swear like real Quebecers in
the French classes. It's all European cursin', like 'bitte,' 'merde,' 'putain
de merde.' Nobody in Quebec talks like that," said Baillergon. "What
we need to hear are some 'esties,' some 'calices,' some 'va chiers' and shit
Pierre Sacrement, the newly-appointed Minister responsible for profanity in
the Martin cabinet, admits that more needs to be done to get people swearing
in French in the public service. But he says some of the blame needs to be placed
on the individual:
"You have to make the effort. If these old English folks can't learn to
speak French, they could at least learn how to swear in it. After all, if you
can cuss in a language, you can get by, even if you can't say another word,"
said Sacrement. "The only thing my grandfather could say in English was
'fuck you all,' and he was elected to Parliament as the MP for Medicine Hat
for eight consecutive terms."
Posted on August 3rd, 2004