What did that chicken say?

National Post (National Edition) - - NEWS - TRISTIN HOP­PER thop­per@na­tion­al­post.com Twit­ter: TristinHop­per

Although Canada is an of­fi­cially bilin­gual coun­try, a large ma­jor­ity of Cana­di­ans do not speak a word of French. Ev­ery day there are mil­lions of Cana­di­ans read­ing French la­bels, lis­ten­ing to French tele­phone mes­sages and sit­ting through French safety an­nounce­ments — and hav­ing no idea what they’re hear­ing. They might as­sume that ev­ery ap­pear­ance of French is a pitch-per­fect trans­la­tion of English — but they would be wrong. Be­low, some of the ways in which fran­co­phones don’t see Canada quite the same as an­glo­phones.

TO FRAN­CO­PHONES, CANADA HAS 14 PRIME MIN­IS­TERS

There is no word for “pre­mier” in French, which means that Canada’s 13 pro­vin­cial and ter­ri­to­rial lead­ers are known as “prime min­is­ters” or, more pre­cisely, “first min­is­ters.” As a re­sult, Justin Trudeau isn’t the prime min­is­ter, he’s just the fed­eral one.

CANA­DI­ANS CAP­TURED JUNO BEACH ON “J-DAY”

The “d” in “D-Day” doesn’t stand for any­thing. Much like the term “H-Hour,” it’s just a easy-to-re­mem­ber mil­i­tary term for the first day of an op­er­a­tion. For the French Cana­dian units who stormed Juno Beach on June 6, 1944, how­ever, the in­va­sion of Nor­mandy was to start on “Jour J.”

THE HOUSE OF COM­MONS IS KNOWN AS THE CHAM­BER OF COM­MU­NI­TIES

French-speak­ers re­fer to Canada’s lower house of Par­lia­ment as the “Cham­bres des Com­munes,” which roughly trans­lates as the room or cham­ber of com­mu­ni­ties. This is ac­tu­ally a more ac­cu­rate ver­sion of what the term “House of Com­mons” ac­tu­ally means. A pop­u­lar mis­con­cep­tion is that the House of Com­mons is a “house of com­mon peo­ple.” In fact, since the ear­li­est days of the English House of Com­mons, the word com­mons has been a deriva­tion of “com­munes” — mean­ing that the as­sem­bly is a col­lec­tion of com­mu­nity rep­re­sen­ta­tives.

THE DO­MIN­ION OF CANADA TRANS­LATES TO THE POWER OF CANADA

Canada was founded as a “do­min­ion,” a nom­i­nally in­de­pen­dent coun­try within the larger Bri­tish Em­pire. Although the term is largely out­dated, Canada’s of­fi­cial full name be­gan as “the Do­min­ion of Canada.” But French-Cana­di­ans picked an em­pir­i­cally su­pe­rior term to re­fer to the new coun­try. They lived in “la Puis­sance du Canada” (the “Power of Canada”).

QUE­BEC DUCKS SAY “COIN-COIN,” NOT “QUACK-QUACK”

When it’s not shak­ing down Mon­treal­ers for sig­nage vi­o­la­tions, the Of­fice québé­cois de la langue française is com­pil­ing de­tailed in­struc­tions on the cor­rect way to speak French in Que­bec. One of their lists lays out the proper ono­matopoeia to re­fer to an­i­mal noises. Dogs say “wouf,” cats say “ron­ron,” chick­ens say “cot-cot” and ducks say “coin-coin.”

THE NAKED GUN MOVIE IS KNOWN AS PO­LICE OF­FI­CER ACT­ING FARCICALLY

The comedic pin­na­cle of Cana­dian ac­tor Les­lie Nielsen has a sur­pris­ingly un­fun name in French: L’Agent fait la farce, which roughly trans­lates into “Po­lice Of­fi­cer Act­ing Farcically.” This is a specif­i­cally Que­bec quirk. In France, the film is called “Is There a Movie to Save the Queen?”

HARRY POT­TER USES A “BAGUETTE” TO CAST SPELLS

While English speak­ers know a baguette only as a slen­der type of French bread, in French it’s a pretty ver­sa­tile word roughly mean­ing “stick.” Chop sticks are baguettes, drum sticks are baguettes and the var­i­ous magic wands of the Harry Pot­ter uni­verse are baguettes, too.

FRAN­CO­PHONES DON’T LOOK FOR WALDO, THEY LOOK FOR CHAR­LIE

While English Cana­di­ans hunted for the be-tuqued fig­ure of Waldo, their fran­co­phone neigh­bours were on the look­out for “Char­lie.” This is a func­tion of Where’s Waldo’s shrewd pub­lish­ers, who gave the char­ac­ter a cul­tur­ally spe­cific name in ev­ery mar­ket where the books were sold. In fact, he’s known as “Wally” in Aus­tralia and the U.K. It also means that when­ever a politi­cian named “Char­lie” doesn’t make a pub­lic ap­pear­ance for a while, Que­bec me­dia gets to write “où est Char­lie?” Speak­ing of Char­lies, the si­lent film leg­end Char­lie Chap­lin is known to the world’s French speak­ers as “Char­lot.”

FRENCH-CANA­DI­ANS HAVEN’T BEEN CHANG­ING THEIR WORD FOR “INDIGE­NOUS” EV­ERY 10 YEARS

Ev­ery decade or so, English Canada feels the need to change the name for its first peo­ples. There was “na­tive,” then “Abo­rig­i­nal” and now “Indige­nous.” But in fran­co­phone quar­ters, First Na­tions, Metis and Inuit have been known pretty con­sis­tently as “au­tochtones.”

THE BIG DIPPER IS KNOWN AS THE BIG BEAR

The Big Dipper is the most rec­og­niz­able con­stel­la­tion to al­most every­one in the North­ern Hemi­sphere. But while an­glo­phones know it by its re­sem­blance to a type of scoop, in French Canada it’s known as “the big bear.” And, since all French nouns are gen­dered, their word specif­i­cally refers to a fe­male bear. This is in keep­ing with the con­stel­la­tion’s Latin name, Ursa Ma­jor, which also de­notes the star pat­tern as a fe­male bear.

ERNEST DOROSZUK / TORONTO SUN FILES

A chicken would never ut­ter a vul­gar cluck in Que­bec — it’s a “cot-cot” in that prov­ince.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.