Sunday, August 06, 2006

The Grammar of Quebecois Curses

So, one of the things I did on my last night in Montreal was go to a very Quebecois film, Bon Cop Bad Cop. Which is a Canadian farce or buddy action flick about two detectives, one from Montreal and one from Toronto, who meet on the border between Ontario and Quebec where the victim is discovered slumped over the "Bienvenue a Quebec/Welcome to Ontario" sign. The move is in French and English and it's all about these two totally stereotyped guys who of course loathe one another but eventually learn to put aside their cultural differences and solve a crime. Of course the future of the Canadian national sport is at stake (it's in danger of being hijacked by the US). And of course all the film ends up doing is reinforcing every stereotype imaginable about both provinces.

But it was rather entertaining. Mostly because I know that a year ago I would not have understood half of the humor, the jokes, or the French dialogue (and we went to a French cinema, so there were no English subtitles for the French Quebecois dialogue).

And I learned a lot about Quebecois swearing, too. I mean, I always knew that the most vituperative curses in Quebecois are words associated with the Catholic mass-- Host, Chalice, Tabernacle. But in the film the Quebec cop gives the Toronto cop a lesson in canting grammar, which was very edifying. Many curses, like tabarnac for example, function not only as a nouns, but in various constructions and declensions as adjectives, as objects as well as subjects (Hien, ce calice tabarnac! and Je lui ai donne un tabarnac), and as reflexive verbs (il s'en tabarnac).

Every anglo living in Montreal should see this totally stupid and somewhat gratutiously violent film, if only for this scene.

Oh, and I also went to Schwartz's. I can't believe I never went there before. I'm kicking myself!

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