Sunday, October 07, 2007

Hands off my language

Here's the new billboard they put up yesterday across the street. It immediately irritated me. Why? Because of the "un". You see, up here in Quebec, the francophones (French speakers) borrow and adopt many of our English terms. The thing that bugs me is that if it is a noun they are hijacking, they also assign a gender to it. So according to the sign, "open house" is masculine. Plus it doesn't mean "open house" like we might use it, you know - to clean it up for looky loos in order to sell the house. They are using it more to mean an impromptu party. But why is it masculine? House is feminine in French, so who decided the English house is masculine?

The other day I heard spouse use the hijacked word "patch". We were speaking French and I too used the word "patch", except apparently I screwed up the gender. "Une patch," he shrieked, "Not un!" To which I firmly replied, "Fuck you, it's an English word, don't tell me the gender. Clearly it should be masculine because it's easier to say "un patch" than "une patch"." (The n is not a hard "n" in "un" before a consonant if it's masculine.)

I can't win the argument though, it's me against 7 million of them.

23 comments:

CoffeeDog said...

The gender thing is always a downer.

Looky loos - lol, I like that word!

Ed said...

Confused here. It looks like a Beer Ad. So the impromptu party would be right. I'm afraid you can expect the line between French and English to blur as time goes by.

Cooper said...

I'm surprised the looky-loo language police haven't made them hold the open house in letters twice as small as the peut provoquer un(e).

Laverne said...

You're so cute when you're riled up.

And messed up English? Whoo boy; I still think Japan does it best.

"We are so your have been super power."

Lewis said...

A totally screwed up, mixed up, American boy here..... "Hijacked the word patch" makes me think of something else.

Doug said...

Just because there are 7 million of them and only 1 of you doesn't mean they're right. Be persistent, and eventually they'll come over to your side. :)

Polt said...

As a born and bred English speaker, this is one thing that's always bothered me when I tried to learn a new language. To my mind, if it ain't got a penis or a vagina, then it ain't got a gender. but then I can barely use English correctly anyway, so why am i bitching about other languages?

HUGS....

Maurice said...

I'm laughing out loud right now. You ARE cute when you get riled up like this... And I'm afraid to tell you that when I get to Montreal next year, there'll be 7 million and 1 against you on this one... ;-P

GayProf said...

I bet you would have knocked down the Tower of Babel, too.

Frankly, I am more disturbed by the infiltration of U.S. corporations that potentially undermines Canada's own industries. Then again, given the strength of the Canadian economy verses the U.S., I should probably just relax.

David said...

There are times, when I'm bored or just got done yelling at people for watching Dancing With the Stars, that I wish I could speak another laguage than English.

Then I read this and go, "Oh, yeah. I see the problem. They're drinking Bud Light."

How odd.

Adam said...

Why don't they just use the word "party" in the ad?

TJ said...

I just think it's sexy that you both speak French. I love the language and wish I could speak it myself. At the end of the day, because you both are so cute I could care less if you use un or une it works for me either way. :)

Daniel, the Guy in the Desert said...

You should get a load of what the Japanese do to borrowed English words. Once they get done with them, the result is unrecognizable.

Even when Spouse shrieks, he's cute to me. Can you tell I've been crushing on him ever since I saw that photo of him on your hotel bed?

Enemy of the Republic said...

Naw, you won't win, but actually English once was perceived as having masculine and feminine nouns, but only the really upscale poets knew this as they figured out how to end their verse with masculine or feminine rhyme which somehow reconnotated the word into some genderized mush. But English is rough enough to teach; if we add gender, then we are really up you know where.

House is also feminine in Spanish, my second language. So the French got lazy here. I bet the Latin root is feminine too if indeed house comes from Latin--probably comes from Old Norse where masculine reigned supreme. Damn, why did I write all this?

Lemuel said...

German generally assigns neuter to all foreign nouns brought into common usage. Perhaps the French use the masculine for that purpose.

Alpha Dictionary has an excellent essay on the use of gender in language. As he correctly points out gender in language has nothing to do with a sexual understanding of gender. It has to do with classification of nouns, not their "sex".

don said...

C'est LES Looky loos. Tabernac!

Chunks said...

Speaking of bastardized language, you seen the new Tetes a Claques? The border crossing? Freaking funny my friend!

dawn said...

Stick to your guns kid, you'll wear them down.

lattégirl said...

There aren't 7 million of them on the island, silly. Only about 3 million, last time I checked.

But as a sickeningly, fluently bilingual person, I would have said "un" -- and I would know, since I recently used the term for the quit-smoking patches I am not actually using.

p.s. I wonder if Chunks would be totally jealous if I got to meet you. I think yes.

Willym said...

Ah the mysteries of the French as spoke in my beloved Belle Province! Here in Italy, as I found out in language school last week, any imported word is automatically assigned the masculine gender - il or i - with no change of ending for singular or plural. If only all the rules were that easy!

Patricia said...

i loved your comeback to spouse! HA! cracked me up.

i'm with david. the problem begins with the fact that they're selling butt light.

tornwordo said...

Hey Lattegirl, just email me offline tornwordo (at) yahoo (dot) com the next time you're in town.

TankMontreal said...

The Language Police here need to put down their measuring tape and start cracking down on the French folk who pollute their so-called threatened language by adopting English words. For all the hoopla over preserving la culture francaise, you'd think there'd be a move against this oh-so-common practice.