Passe-moi un Napkin, SVP


I keep wondering what, if anything we’re wasting our breath on arguing over this old English/French thing. I look at people like Pauline Marois and the P.Q., as well as Gilles Duceppe and the Bloc Québécois, and I have to ask myself: Just what or who’s under threat from whom?

I see so many bilingual, as well as plurilingual, bicultural and multicultural people, not only in Montréal, but right here in Québec city, that I often wonder: ‘What’s the point? What exactly are they trying to protect themselves from? The man in the Moon? Mr. Dressup, Casey and Finnegan, and the Friendly Giant? Tim Hortons coffee maybe? (If so, it would appear they’ve imbibed prodigious quantities of the latter, and seem no worse the wear for it, except to be spending more time in those stupid drive-thru line-ups.)

I even get such weird occurrences happening such as ‘Passe-moi un napkin, s.v.p.’ at the restaurant. I’m even prone to such forms of ‘blédinguismes’. I then hear Anglos saying: ‘Pass me a serviette, please’, in the same restaurant context. Hmmm….What languages are we speaking here, people?

I think we have to not forget about the great contribution of French and other Romance languages to English, instead of always listening to those Francophone secessionist spokespersons in Montréal and Québec city harping about how French is on the decline. According to Webster’s New World Dictionary, which is what I used at my English-language C.E.G.E.P. here in Québec city, about half of the words in the English language are of Romance origin!!! (That includes French!!!)

In the year 1066, William the Conqueror, who was from Normandy, conquered England at the battle of Hastings. After that, French became the official language of the Court in England for many hundreds of years, eventually influencing the local language, which was mostly of German origin, to eventually become what it is today.

Even to this day, the motto on the British Royal family’s coat of arms is written in French: ‘Dieu et Mon Droit’. You can see it if you visit Holy Trinity Cathedral in Old Québec, and look up at the Royal Pew, which is reserved for the Monarch and their representatives. The other inscription on it is: ‘Honi soi qui mal y pense’, or translated, ‘shame to him who thinks evil of it’.

I was at a social gathering the other day and a Francophone asked me: ‘How do you say ‘Bon Appétit’ in English?’ I hesitated for a split second, and then said, ‘Well, we just say ‘Bon appétit!’ The more I thought about it, the more I realized just how much French we use in the English language: Everyone says ‘Bon voyage’ when we see someone off on a trip. Or when we consider that something is absolutely essential, we say that it is ‘de rigueur’. If an artist is showing off his or her masterpiece, we say that they are showing us the ‘piece de resistance’, and all of the language of diplomacy is French, including things like an ‘envoy’, a ‘chargé d’affaire’, an ‘attaché’, or even the briefcase that they carry has become known as an ‘attaché case’.

Here in Québec we go to the ‘dépanneur’ to get our milk or beer, (‘dep’ for those who are really cool); we get onto the ‘Laurentian Autoroute’ to go skiing at Tremblant, or the ‘Townships Autoroute’ to go to Mount Orford.

So if Pauline Marois or Gilles Duceppe (or anybody else for that matter) start yapping again about how terrible things are here in Québec and how we should separate, just butt in and say , ‘Excuse-moi, passe-moi un napkin s.v.p.’ (Or is that, ‘pass me a serviette, please?!’). Many ‘Blédingue Blessings’ on you all.

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