Thursday, February 21, 2008

Linguistic tyranny

A few years back I wrote "Quebec is like the Gaeltacht, only more successful at preserving the language". I knew there were laws regarding the use of French, but I hadn't realized the extent to which Quebec's government resorted to tyranny to ensure that French is the predominant language.

I know there are some laws on the use of Irish in the Gaeltacht areas, but I don't think they're as draconian as this. Quebec's Office québécois de la langue française objects to an Irish pub's excessive use of English.
It objects specifically to vintage ads that say such things as "Guinness Dublin 1759," "Ireland Trademark," "Cudthromach Aire," "Eat Palethorpes pork pies fresh today" and "Guinness Extra Stout, Draught & Bottled St. James Gate, Dublin" and "Caffrey's Cream."

Many of the signs - some hand-carved, some painted on tin - were acquired in Ireland by the owners of McKibbin's to give the bar an authentic Irish atmosphere.

In a letter to co-owner Rick Fon this month, the OQLF says that too much English is spoken by the bar's staff, that a customer has complained about not being served in French and that the English signs on the walls are an affront to Quebec's language laws.

"We advise you that the law requires the French language to be predominant in public signs and commercial advertising; if another language is used at the same time, French must be given overall priority and the visual impact of the French text has to be much more important," the letter says.

McKibbin's was given 30 days to remove the signs or face fines as high as $1,500 for each infraction.
I love that bit about a customer complaining. I can just picture the sort of guy whose visit to a pub is ruined because he wasn't served in French. It's people like that who felt comfortable turning in their neighbors to the authorities in the Soviet Union or Nazi Germany.