What makes me angriest? Quebec.

There are many things in life that rile me. But in terms of ‘obvious, absurd, insane unfairness that’s tolerated for absolutely no sensible reason at all’, Quebec is top.

In most countries that have real languages and joke languages that are indulged, the joke language that’s indulged is the language of the people the land was stolen from, and it’s a pathetic token attempt to make amends. Which is fair play.

And even in those places, the joke language isn’t actually required to be taught as a second national language outside those communities. All signs, ad campaigns and media don’t need to be shown in the real language and the joke language nationwide.

But the white people who stole Quebec couldn’t even be arsed to learn English – and Britain in the 1770s was so lame (and, in fairness, distracted) that we didn’t compel our inherited Frog-speaking subjects to learn our language, give up their disgraceful religion, and generally follow the wise example of our settlers elsewhere in Canada. Together, these poor decisions have created one of the worst pathetic cultures of fake victimhood ever to have existed.

So in the rest of Canada, French is an official second language that must be indulged and written in for product labelling and all official purposes. But in Quebec, English isn’t a second language for signing and official purposes; it’s forbidden for any of that kind of thing. This fact highlights the fact that Quebecers aren’t just stroppy, they’re total bastards.

The only reason the rest of Canada puts up with Quebec is to annoy the USA. Actually, that’s an excellent evolutionary example of ‘high cost signals': “yes, we’re willing to put up with a province full of the most dislikeable Frenchmen ever, on the grounds that you’re even worse than them”.

Oh, and Leonard Cohen’s a Jew who sings in English, so totally doesn’t count.

20 thoughts on “What makes me angriest? Quebec.”

  1. A joke? Mais c'est le langue d'amour.

    Lame? The Americans had the cojones to get rid of the imperial power, you're still whining there wasn't enough of it.

  2. But in Quebec, English isn’t a second language for labelling and official purposes; it’s forbidden for any of that kind of thing

    Are you sure about this? I've been to Montreal a couple of times and most things are signed and labelled in English.

  3. Public signage in (ville de) Quebec is French only, as are things on fronts of shops. Inside is a different matter – I don't know precisely what the rules are. It is certainly the case that all other provinces profess, if only at a token level, to recognise both English and French as official languages of the province; no such luck in Quebec.

    Feel like I should write some comments in support of QC, even if I can't at present manage cogent rebuttals to JB's spleen-venting. Cheap temporary accommodation in nice surroundings is one plus point, as is "not being as ugly as Winnipeg". Also, not having *stupid* weather ranges (see, again, Winnipeg).

  4. If only there was a worldwide network of computers on which it was possible to look up the Quebec language policy. In fact it hasn't been illegal to have English on signs since 1988.

  5. …after the federal Supreme Court struck down the law as unconstitutional. It is, however, illegal to have a sign where the English text is displayed first, or one where the English text is the same size as the French text (French must always be "markedly predominant").

  6. I recently had reason to phone a mine in Quebec. South of Quebec City….almost to the Maine border actually.

    Slight comedy ensues as no one there at all speaks English (or admits to doing so) but I finally get an email addy (using my terrible schoolboy French) and am able to gee them up to a written conversation of what I want. This mine, note, produces 20% of the globe's entire output of a certain metal.

    As part of the same campaign (the waste from this mining process could be a useful raw material for us) I also talked to the people doing the other 80% of the extraction in Germany, Brazil, Saudi and the US: the use of English was not only not a problem, it was expected. Hey, I even found someone in Hartlepool who spoke English.

  7. after the federal Supreme Court struck down the law as unconstitutional

    in 1988. This is like being angry about Yugoslavia, or about how everyone has to learn Russian in Lithuania.

  8. If Lithuania had replaced a law saying "everyone can only learn Russian" with a new law saying that "everyone must learn Russian; they can also learn Lithuanian if they like but may not use it as their main language", then the comparison might hold.

  9. Well in that case the comparison does hold. Russian was the official language of the USSR, of which Lithuania was a part. This hasn't been the case for twenty years, which is slightly less time than the time since the law on shop signs changed in Quebec. You are allowed to use English as your main language in Quebec – there is even a political body (Alliance Quebec) who will look out for your right to do so.

    What are you going to have a go at next – Rhodesia? The Corn Laws?

  10. @dsquared

    You mean this, right? What with living in Quebec (QC), I tend to use the ludicrous sci-fi concept of an interlinked computer hivemind for things I can't see on my doorstep.

    (It is also worth noting that in Quebec, as in many other places I suspect, what goes de facto is not always what goes de jure. This works both ways, with some salespeople here more than happy to switch into some English for practice, but some institutions quite inflexible — although at least in those cases their French is rather "haute" and hence easier for immigrants like meself.)

    Oh, and I'd never heard of Alliance Quebec, but this seems to say that they went the way of all other permutations of People, Front and Judaea.

  11. Well, de facto, it's pretty unsurprising that in a French-speaking place, you're going to see most of the shop signs in French. John is outraged that it's against the law in Quebec to use English on signs. It isn't and hasn't been for twenty years.

  12. A friend once told me that Kentucky Fried Chicken is called "KFC" everywhere on Earth bar Quebec, where it's called "PFK" – "Poulet Frites Kentucky". This turns out to be true, and as he said then, "Petty French-Kanadians" may be mis-spelt, but is funnier.

    Embarrassingly, that's more or less everything I know about Quebec.

  13. OK, so let's take Rhodesia: if the Rhodesian Front were still in power today with continued racial segregation, but – following a Privy Council judgement 20 years ago – had grudgingly toned down its racial segregation laws (in a way that was as cursory as possible whilst still managing to comply with the letter of the judgement) but kept everything else in place, then I don't think "but they got rid of the very worst laws 20 years ago" would win as a defence.

    If Quebec had – in 1988, 1998 or even 2008 – decided to repeal their signage laws and replace them with some kind of French Language Promotion (NBACAI) Act (e.g., "apart from brand names, all words included in signs must be displayed legibly in French. They can also be displayed in other languages in whatever size or order the proprietor likes, as long as the French text is legible", then dsquared's point would be completely accurate, and I'd be wrong. But they didn't decide to repeal them at all – they made the most grudging changes possible to comply with the Supreme Court's judgement, and hence lunacies like "PFK" still occur…

  14. As in "a company with a brand name that also happens to be derived from English words would not be obliged to literally translate it into French". And no, they aren't – relevance? English speakers are a majority in Wales, but if we were to reinstate the laws restricting the use of Welsh (e.g. by imposing current-Quebec-style laws that all signage must be primarily in English), that would still be a Bad Thing.

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