Today, December 6th, …

…is…

  • …the 88th anniversary of the Halifax Explosion that destroyed much of the city, killed 2,000 people and injured many more.
  • …the 16th anniversary of the Montreal Massacre, when 14 women were gunned down at l’École polytechnique by Marc Lépine.
  • …the 43rd birthday of Indiana Jones.

An all-round day of calamities, I guess.

Astonishingly Dim

I don’t know how to react to Robyn Holukoff’s so-called viewpoint except to gasp. I also don’t know how to shoot down her viewpoint without attacking her personally. But the ennui that this young philosophy student displays towards the political process makes me see her as a shameful dishonour to her discipline.

What the hell is she thinking?! Or not thinking, as the case may be! I’m also sick of the slandering of all politicians. I don’t dispute that some enter political life as some kind of ego trip; others have questionable ethics, while others still aren’t the brightest bulbs in the House of Commons. But most are not like that. In fact, I could easily come up with a long list of politicians from all four major parties in Canada who, I believe, are decent and dedicated citizens at the core. Sure, some are also careerist, but why is that shunned upon in politics and not so much in other endeavours? Moreover, I’m tired of people whining that all parties are the same. Even the fact that the Liberals “liberally” take ideas from the left and the right, in itself, differentiates them from the Conservatives and the NDP. (Rightly or wrongly, I tend to view the BQ as the non/anti-federalist NDP in Quebec.) The parties are so different that you have to be a formidably lazy thinker not to see those differences.

Although one person commented that people like Holukoff present an argument for not letting some people vote, I tend to think the opposite. More and more, I think voting should be as mandatory as paying income tax. I can already hear the cries of how this would be dictatorial — a forcing of democracy — but bite me! It’s done in one form or another within other democracies (Australia, I believe).

Ironically, as I was reading her “aren’t-I-cute-and-clever” piece of crap, I got a call from a stranger canvassing for Halifax’s NDP candidate (and incumbent). I’ll be trekking to Bayers Road to get my Alexa sign myself (have motivation and car; will travel). If we’re heading towards another Liberal minority government, as many of us expect, then let it be one where the NDP holds the real balance of power. Because it DOES matter, Robyn, even if you’re too dim and smug to figure out that it does!

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go spit because I threw up a little bit in my mouth.

Addendum: Julie has decided respond to Robyn by developing a quiz for her. Go read it: it’s in English (after the intro paragraph).

Frenchly

aMMusing will be three years old on the 17th of this month.

When I started it, I didn’t give a second thought to the language in which I would write. Nearly all the blogs I had encountered at that point were from the United States and, consequently, written in Merkin English. And shortly afterwards, when I discovered GeoURL, I found very few Canadian blogs that interested me, let alone blogs written in French.

Lately that has changed, however. And now I’m finding that it’s rather odd that I, someone whose first language is French, am blogging in English. Although I live in an overwhelmingly English-speaking city, I was fortunate in that the main language used at my last full-time job, which I left nearly 10 years ago, was French. I was in a modern languages department and most of the faculty members were European. Since then, French is the language I use when I’m with my family, certain friends, and a few clients. I’m told my English doesn’t have a French accent, except for the odd emphasis on a few words or when I’m tired and I start adding or dropping terminal Ss to nouns, plus I can’t pronounce words like “brother” when I’m tired. As for my French, it’s neither Acadian nor Québécois. I’m a bit of a chameleon with my French, depending on where I am (Moncton versus Montreal). My favorite Monctonese comment remains, “J’aime ta dress but j’aime pas la way qu’a hang” (I like your dress but I don’t like the way it hangs).

Because of where I live, I’ve long been afraid of losing my French. I haven’t, though. I don’t think it has degraded too much since 1987, but I do know it hasn’t improved. That’s why I feel a bit self-conscious when I leave a comment in French on French blogs like Julie‘s. I read her blog and that of other francophones who publish in French, and I’m not sure I could emulate them with the ease I have in English. At the same time, I read other blogs written in French and I realize that I could do a lot better. My French syntax may be a bit rusty and my grammar a little off — grammar in a romance language is way more complicated than grammar in a germanic language, especially English — but it’s still embedded deep in my brain somewhere, ready and waiting to be dusted off. My siblings still view me as the writer in the family, though, English or French…

French speakers in North America often deride European French speakers — particularly those in France — for the way they liberally use English words but intone them in French (e.g., le parking). Here, when we neologize, we tend to be more French than the French, almost to the point of obsession. We coin words like courriel for e-mail, while in France they’re satisfied with saying mél, which sounds like “mail” …except with a French intonation.

Although you’ll never catch me say mél, I understand why the French in France have no qualm borrowing so liberally from English. Like I said to the Queen of Sheba once, the French OWN the language; it’s in their marrow in a way that it’s not for French speakers in North America. A schoolyard bully in Nice can pull words from his brain with an exactitude that surpasses most of us here. What’s more, while the words we use here might in some instances be more French, more “correct,” our syntax and, moreover, our logic in text development is fundamentally English. French being abstract in its construct and English being concrete, someone who OWNS his or her French will convey ideas and notions differently than an English speaker or writer. When we, North American francophones, tune in to French programming on TV5 or read French texts written by Europeans, we tend to dismiss them as pompous; in reality, however, it’s more a matter of us not being familiar with and not fully understanding their thought process.

I have never taken my written and spoken French for granted. But these days, I’ve been thinking a lot about my language and, yes, my cultural background. At the same time, I’ve been appreciating even more the ease with which I can communicate in one language or the other. I guess that, at some level, my main concern remains the ability to communicate, period. I love the way my ex Cleopatrick and I can switch language in mid-sentence, continue in that language for 5 or 10 minutes, and switch language again …most likely in mid-sentence. It can be discombobulating for others listening in, but for us, it’s the most natural thing in the world.