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Two days ago, I had a very surreal and quite unique experience with Canada’s cultural duality.
Canada does not have many “cross-border” towns. We have a few with the United States (where the border divides towns in two), and there are a few border-towns between provinces as well. Cross-border towns are communities which are divided by a border, and which would be “one town” if the border did not exist.
Some prominent ones which come to mind are:
- Stewart (B.C.) & Hyder (Alaska): When I was a child and living in Terrace B.C, my parents would take us up the road to Hyder to celebrate 4th of July (it was quite close to Terrace).
- Lloydminster (Alberta & Saskatchewan): This is actually one city, with the Alberta-Saskatchewan border dividing it down the middle along Main Street. I’ve driven through Lloydminster at least once every year, for many many years, on my way to visit relatives. As a city, it is administered in quite a unique fashion: The two provincial governments have agreed that it falls under Alberta sales tax rules, Saskatchewan education system, Alberta health care system, and Saskatchewan’s other municipal regulations – regardless of what side of the border residents live on.
- Noyes (Minnesota), Pembina (North Dakota) & Emerson (Manitoba). This was basically a tri-border community. I used to work in Emerson, Manitoba for a short period. The US-Canada border was a road on the edge of town. Everyone had friends on the other side of the border. We regularly crossed back and forth for meals, beers, local baseball games, and even groceries. Customs & Immigration officers on both sides of the border knew everyone and everyone knew them (today, when I cross the border at a place like Niagara Falls, and the US inspector asks how many times I’ve been to the USA, I respond
in a purposely naive tone“maybe a hundred times or two”, which I know perfectly wellwill earn me a strange look – lol).
However, two days ago I had a border-town experience unlike any other I have experienced before (I’m still shaking my head in disbelief).
I drove to Témiscaming, Québec for a business related matter. Usually, people from Toronto think that the closest point to Québec from Toronto would be where the 401 enters Québec on the way to Montréal, or where Gatineau meets Ottawa.
But actually, the closest point in Québec to Toronto is Témiscaming. This might actually come as a surprise to most people because Témiscaming is a 6.5 hour drive from Montréal (it is considered quite far “North” for people living in Montréal), and it is a four hour drive from the Western edge of Ottawa.
But if you look at a map, it is almost exactly straight North of Toronto. Because of the new limited-access expressway from Toronto to North Bay, 90 minutes has been shaved off the trip. It now only takes three hours and a bit to drive to North Bay from Toronto, and Témiscaming is only a 45 minute drive beyond North Bay.
Geographically, Témiscaming is almost cut off from the rest of Québec. If you want travel to Southern Québec from Témiscaming, you have to travel through Ontario to get there (but there is a road which connects to Northern Québec to Témiscaming). Ironically, their closest major city is Toronto — and North Bay, Ontario is the closest centre for dentists, optometrists, etc.
What took me aback was the cultural duality of the town. The town is situated along a very narrow point on the Ottawa River (two short bridges cross the Ottawa River, with each bridge perhaps only a few metres long, with an island in the middle). The Ontario side of the river has three satellite communities, Eldee, Thorne and Wyse. These three communities speak French, and the only school on the Ontario side is a Francophone school. The Ontario side counts perhaps has 500 people.
On the Québec side, there is the old town of Témiscaming, and a bit further up the road is the new town. 30% of Témiscaming is Anglophone. There is an Anglophone school on the Québec side. The remainder of the town is Francophone, with a Francophone school. The Québec side has around 2800 people.
Together, both sides of the border interact and operate as one community.
On the Ontario side, when I went to a café and gas station, both times I was greeted and served in French. On the Québec side, when I went to the grocery store, a sales clerk in the isle greeted me in English, but the cashier greeted me in French.
When I was standing in line waiting to pay for groceries, the cashier and customer ahead of me obviously knew each other and were friends. But the cashier spoke to the customer only in French, and the customer spoke to the cashier only in English. They had quite a conversation about their kids who play together, and their husbands. One would speak in one language, and the other would answer in the other language. It was very interesting to witness (many years ago, I once had a colleauge who operated in this manner, he spoke only French when other people spoke to him only in English — but since then, I have never seen this occur before in public).
The whole town seemed to operate on along these lines.
(Photos of the “transformed” coffee shop and Subway restaurant in a VIA Rail car and old railway station)
I went to the hardware store to buy some bindings. I heard the same linguistic quirks there also. A customer spoke French, and the clerk spoke in English. I didn’t know what language to speak (really… how you decide?).
I suppose people who live there knows everyone else, and they would know what language to address others in. But it seemed like people just spoke in their own language, regardless of the language of the person they were speaking to, and everyone seemed to be perfectly bilingual.
When I went to a restaurant, I heard the staff speak both languages, perfectly bilingual, with no accent in either (I couldn’t tell if they were Anglophone or Francophone). When it came my turn to be served, I uttered an awkward downtown-Montréal-style “Hi, Bonjour!” (I have never done that before, it just came out like that without me even thinking about it – it felt very strange). The waitress said “Bon, mon cher, you can speak whatever language you want! Alors, qu’est ce que je vous sers?” I laughed out loud! (but that didn’t answer my question as to what language to speak — I felt like speaking both — it was just such a unique situation!).
I had the chance to ask some people what the heck was going on, and how this even worked. For the most part, I was told that what I observed was correct — that the town operates much along the above lines. Everyone is very bilingual, and people feel comfortable speaking their own language for the sake of simplicity, with no expectation that the response will be in the same language. Everyone understands each other – so it just works. It’s perfect harmony – and there is no assimilation or loss of one’s identity (Francophone children will grow up Francophone, Anglophone children will grow up Anglophone, and they all live together as one cohesive community. Everyone is friends, and everyone has each other’s back, regardless of their home language —
like a 1960s love-in!).
I don’t ever like to admit it, but “sometimes” I feel uncomfortable speaking English in some areas of Québec. Don’t get me wrong… It’s not because I feel like I would be treated differently, or badly, or anything like that. Probably it has more to do with the fact that I don’t want to make others feel awkward — in the sense that I don’t want others wondering what I’m talking about if they can’t understand me. It’s strange, I know. I know that 99.999999999% of the time it would never be a problem to speak English in a public Francophone environment (just as 99.9999999999% of the time there would never be any issues with a Francophone speaking French in a public environment in Anglophone Canada). I’m probably a bit too sensitive on this front. But the fact that I don’t really have an English accent when I speak French makes it so I know I can just blend in with the crowd — and my brain instinctively switches to French in Québec or other Francophone regions of Canada. But this trip to Témiscaming was the only true time I have ever felt my linguistic compass go completely haywire — I truly did not know what language I should speak.
In this sense, Témiscaming would be a documentarist’s dream!
What I found particularly interesting was that the notion that Ontario-Québec border did not appear to exist in people’s minds in Greater Témiscaming, regardless of what side of the border people lived on. Elsewhere, people in Québec and Ontario are often very “aware” of the border (I used to live in Gatineau, Québec, so believe me when I say that the border is as much a psychological matter to many Ontarians and Québécois, as it is physical).
One resident of Timiscaming told me that the town’s former Loblaws/Provigo closed several months ago. For a period of several months, the only place the town’s residents could purchase groceries was 45 minutes down the road in North Bay, Ontario. People made this commute on a regular basis until the new IGA recently opened in town. Now that Témiscaming has a new supermarket (quite a large one might I add, I was told it employs 100 people), Anglophone Ontarians from as far away as a 25 minute drive on the Ontario side now come to Témiscaming to do their grocery shopping. This adds even more to the cultural diversity of the community.
For some, Ontario is good for owning a home, paying cheaper income taxes (for people without children), and for gas (the pump price on the Ontario side is $0.08 cents cheaper). For others, the Québec side is good for owning a home, paying less income tax for families with children, groceries, and services.
The main employer is the pulp & paper mill on the Québec side. But if you look at the parking lot, it’s a good mix of Ontario & Québec license plates (just like the rest of town). Témiscaming is the main point of employment for the region on both sides of the border.
I was told the only major inconvenience for residents is that Anglophone families on the Ontario side have to send their children by bus 35 minutes down the road to Redbridge, Ontario (they’re not eligible to attend the Anglophone public school on the Québec side, and the Ontario side only has a Francophone school).
In the end, once I got my business out of the way, I managed to get in a couple of hours of snow-shoeing (I mean, hey – doesn’t everyone always carry an extra pair of snow shoes in their trunk?). The town’s physical setting, with the forests and hills, was breathtaking. The only thing that would have ruined it would have been if a hungry bear happened to see me as I was fighting my way through 4 or 5 feet of snow (Monday’s post could have been my last one if that happened 😉 ).
Considering how close Témiscaming is to Toronto, and considering how interesting it is from a cultural perspective, I think I’ll definitely make a point of heading up there with friends for camping this summer. As far as I’m concerned, it’s one of the best kept secrets within a short drive from Toronto.
(I don’t think I could have out-ran a bear with the snow-shoes on in 4 feet of snow)
Yesterday I wrote this post in a different format. But after sleeping on it for a few hours, I realized the way I originally wrote it was not fair to Toronto, or its people as a whole. The comments the post received were in agreement with what I initially wrote, but that doesn’t mean that how I wrote it was the right. If anything, the way I initially wrote the post shows how emotional an issue this subject can be (if I became emotional about it sitting here in Toronto, that can give you an idea of how it might be going over with many people in Québec).
I’m backtracking and I’m re-writing a good chunk of the post. Here is the re-written format…
This post is going touch upon a sensitive subject which occurs often enough… so I’m going to raise the issue again. It’s something more people should be aware of (especially in media circles).
Yesterday were the Canadian Screen Awards organized by the Academy of Canadian Cinema & Television. (Website: http://www.academy.ca/About-the-Academy).
In a nutshell, these awards could be considered the Canadian equivalent of the U.S.A.’s Oscars.
It’s a huge event. It is wider in scope than the Oscars/Academy awards because it grants awards to both Canada’s movie and television industries in one fell swoop. It is not a Francophone award ceremony, nor is it an Anglophone award ceremony. The Canadian Screen Awards simply awards the best of the best in Canada, regardless of whether or not the recipients are Francophone or Anglophone.
The awards are held here in Toronto every year, and thus they are presented in English, in an English dominant environment (that of Toronto). They are supposed to be an all-inclusive ceremony.
But what happened yesterday really drives home the notion of the Two Solitudes. Frankly, it’s embarrassing – and it has garnered a lot of attention today in Québec.
Here is what happened.
Mommy is one of the most successful Canadian movies of the past 20 years, and one of the most successful movies in Canadian history – full stop. After winning countless awards abroad over the past 10 months, Mommy finally had the opportunity yesterday to receive Canadian awards on home turf (apart from the Jutras which were held not long ago). In Québec, over the last several days, there was much excitement, suspense and publicity in the run-up to yesterday’s awards in Toronto.
The movie, Mommy, is the creation of Xavier Dolan. It is considered a Québec film (abroad it is often held up as a Canadian film), it was created in French, and was released in May, 2014. Between May and now, Mommy basically won the prize for the “best film in the world” (for lack of a better term) at the Cannes Film Festival (the world’s most prestigious and well-known international film festival). It also won many of the world’s other most prestigious film awards.
But here’s the crunch: Yesterday Xavier Dolan and the film’s actors – who have been cheered and treated like super stars around the globe – showed up at the festival in Toronto, and guess what happened: Unless they were wearing name tags, many people at the event didn’t know who they were, including those who were there to cover the event as media.
Because the event was broadcast live in Québec, the awkward treatment the film’s creator and cast received at the gala did not go over very well with influential individuals in Québec or members of the public. A good number of people were hurt, angry, disappointed, and left confused.
Just to give you the context of how embarrassing this is, earlier this year, at the Cannes Festival (attended by all of Hollywood and the who’s who of international film), Dolan and those who worked on Mommy were given an 8-minute standing ovation – yes… applause and cheers for a whole 8 minutes – by the biggest names in world of film. Even the elite of the American media industry attended, stood and applauded for 8 minutes straight (Oprah, Spielberg, Brad Pitt, you name it, the list goes on). This sort of accolade has never been given to a Canadian (or almost any other) film.
What happened last night when they won here in Toronto? Polite, timid (and awkward) applause from the seated audience who generally did not know who they were.
I’m still trying to make sense of it all.
Last fall, I watched Mommy in the theatres here in Toronto, and it was packed (it was playing in regular theatres). Thus, what happened last night also took me off guard, as much as it did people in Québec.
I don’t want to bash the gala event, and I don’t want to bash Toronto either (after all, I love Toronto, its people, the vibe, its immigrants, immigrant communities and cosmopolitan nature. I love its freshness). But I am so embarrassed today by what happened at the awards ceremony.
I’m also quite embarrassed for the guests of the gala, because something like this could have been avoided. What happened yesterday occurred at one event (it was not a city-wide occurrence – and I’m not sure the expectation should have been that it was a city-wide event). Therefore, it could have been better contained with preventative management, and a bit of event-specific “education”.
It’s a sort of ignorance that is seen often enough at events like this, or though Toronto’s “national” media when covering matters which cross the linguistic lines Yes, I see it in Toronto, but I have also seen it elsewhere in the country, AND I see also see it in reverse, in Francophone media, Francophone events and Francophone society. It’s a two-way street.
However, the burden falls much heavier on Toronto’s media shoulder, more so than any other media in the country – precisely because Toronto’s media is Canada’s national English-language media epicentre. That’s a heavy burden for any city to have to carry. But because Toronto’s media has this burden, they need to step up to the plate more so than elsewhere. That does not only pertain to presenters on the screen, but also to local behind-the-screen support staff such as camera operators, researchers, and those who decide what to cover and how to cover it. These people tend to be important in deciding who and what makes it on the screen, and how those subjects are portrayed to the public (ie: if a camera operator walks by the biggest star of an event because they don’t know who that person is, then that simple action has huge implications, as we saw last night). It should be recognized that the support and technical staff are more apt to be hired from the general public in Toronto, and may not have had much interaction with Canada’s Francophone culture (or other aspects of Canadian culture outside Toronto). Therefore there needs to be more education within those circles, or we’ll see more things occur like what happened at the gala awards.
The implications of this type of ignorance can be significant when such ignorance is broadcast into people’s homes, and when common people feel they have been slighted (the awards yesterday in Toronto were being followed live in Québec by a good deal of influential people – and thus the ignorance shown at the gala event spread like wildfire – the point that it made headline news in Québec).
I suppose it not only shows a that a much better effort could have been made on the part of the awards’ organizers to ensure that the event’s audience, staff and media were better informed regarding who was being invited (simple things like “promoting” the contents of the evening’s program and nominees), but it also serves to highlight that segments of society (and hence the media) need to be better informed about culturally significant matters across our French/English linguistic lines.
But every cloud has its silver lining – and here is this story’s silver lining: Canada’s Anglophone media is very heavily concentrated in Toronto (that’s why we often hear the expression “Toronto-centric media”) Because there is a very wide range of people working in Toronto’s media industry with very diverse personal backgrounds, it cannot be expected that everyone will be aware of culturally significant matters in Québec, matters across the linguistic divide, or elsewhere in Ontario or Canada (not everyone in Toronto’s media industry speaks French, or went through immersion, or has travelled, or has lived in Canada long enough to understand all of Canada’s cultural nuances – and that’s ok and normal — because people are people). But this poses an amazing opportunity on a “national” level. Because Canada’s “national” Anglophone media is so concentrated in one city – Toronto — it should not be very difficult to educate those who work in Canada’s national media – at least much more efficiently and effectively, than say, if our “national” media were spread across several cities (like it is in the US, with NY being one hub, LA another, and Atlanta another with CNN).
Therefore, if by chance, there are people working in the media who are not sensitive to what is going on beyond a 100km radius (even within Ontario), it is a situation which can, in theory, be addressed and corrected.
Here are a few of the dangers if things do not change: (especially on the media front or regarding highly mediatized events): Anglophone Canada’s media is watched and criticised in Québec (I would venture to say that Anglophone media is more visible in Québec than what Francophone’s media is outside Québec). If the sort of ignorance we saw at the awards ceremony is not addressed, and that sort of ignorance is consistently conveyed by Anglophone Canada’s media, then there is a risk that all of Anglophone Canada will be labelled as being just as ignorant — and that’s precisely what happened yesterday evening at the awards ceremony, and it is continuing to play itself out today. There are political implications to it. People in the sovereignist camp in Québec has been tossing this one around like a hot-potato all day – they’re really running to town with it — and it is in their interest to see that the issue remains front-and-centre. These types of things make an emotional impact, and emotions translate into how people vote. It’s an issue.
This morning, the Radio-Canada (CBC French) headline in Québec was “Xavier Dolan feels the Two Solitudes at the Canadian Screen Awards”. (The headlines should have been about the awards Mommy won at the gala).
Last night in Montréal, Xavier Dolan was interviewed on television on 24/60 byAnne-Marie Dussealt. The interview devoted a significant segment to his reaction of what just happened in Toronto. Dussealt is the Québec equivalent of Larry King (and 24/60 would be the equivalent of Larry King Live). However, she’s probably a bit more like Piers Morgan because her own social & political views come across much more than what Larry King’s did.
She asked him what it was like to receive an award in Toronto. Click HERE for the link to Radio-Canada’s article and the interview video on their official website.
Below, at the end of this post, I’m providing you with a translation of Dolan’s response to Dussault’s questions (it begins at 2:40 minutes, and ends at 7:50 minutes).
I have to admit, when Radio-Canada first published the article, they did not post the video, and they only quoted sound-bites. The initial article was less-than-flattering (it left far too much to innuendo – and it went viral). Comments flooded in over the course of the day, and now people are talking about this on the streets in Québec. It’s not good.
Fortunately, Radio-Canada posted the video clip later in the day, and what Dolan actually said was much more nuanced than what the article first lead people to believe. But unfortunately, damage has been done, and we’re now all painted as being completely ignorant in English Canada, and out of touch with reality or anything in Québec for that matter.
Likewise, I’m not sure that many people in Québec have the nuanced context to be able to distinguish sectors of Toronto’s media industry from the rest of ordinary people in English Canada (Toronto’s media industry is far too often is held up as being “representative” of Canada).
In this case, I truly believe it boils down to a question of Two Solitudes between “Québec & Toronto’s media industry” rather than “Québec and English Canada”.
Big sigh – truly. Hopefully our mayor (of Toronto), John Tory, will jump in to say that what happened last night is not representative of most people in our city or of our country. At least I hope he will.
TRANSLATION OF RELEVANT QUOTES FROM THE 24/60 INTERVIEW.
Question — Anne-Marie Dusseault: What does it represent to you for your film to have had this sort of presence in Toronto? What does this sort of recognition represent? The Jutra awards are around the corner, I’m not sure if there is a hierarchy it. There were the Caesars. But what does your presence in Toronto represent? Especially since I would say that it’s in a very particular universe for you.
Answer — Dolan: It’s a universe which is quite specific. It’s one of English Canadian stardom. Thus it has more to do with stars from English Canadian television. I would venture to say that it’s owing more to this than the Gala groups together for both television and movies.
It’s rather strange because we arrived there on the red carpet. And we were standing there on the red carpet. And you know, despite all the euphoria going on around us – after all it was a ceremony like any other and we were happy that our work was noticed, appreciated by peers, highlighted… even if we didn’t win and were just nominated, regardless if it’s here, in France, or elsewhere… the effect is the same – we are always honoured that our work is recognized.
But in Toronto, we arrived on the red carpet, and without our name tags, the cards which actually had our names and who we were… the photographers were completely… you know…
Dusseault: …lost !
Dolan: … completely lost. They had absolutely no idea who we were – which, without being pretentious, is rather peculiar. You know, if you think about it, the film garnered a fair amount of good international success. And… you know, one would like to think that Mommy is considered part of the… … I consider that Mommy is part of Canadian films, as much as it Québécois. In that sense, it represented Québec and Canada in all those foreign festivals, ceremonies, gala award events where it was nominated – that sort of thing.
But it’s still rather particular that we were presenting it in a universe where all the stars of English Canadian television …
Dusseault: … don’t know who you are. You’re a complete unknown to them.
Dolan: It’s to say that the industry… those in the artistic community who sawMommy, they came up to us and they were proud of Mommy. But apart from that, we could see we were in a world surrounded by a very specific English Canadian journalistic and photography corps which is… well, it’s now a cliché to say it, but it’s still an expression which aptly describes the situation – theTWO SOLITUDES.
I find it rather baffling and curious. If you think about it, it’s really quite strange, because the gala started with a sort of “ode” to Canadian cinematography, in all its splendour and richness. But we felt the estrangement… well, no, not estrangement, but rather… hmmm… perhaps “ignorance” towards Québec cinema in the overall picture of things.
Question — Dusseault: I was kind of wondering this. Right up to the last minute, we were not sure if you were going to be in Toronto, if you had the time to get there. Did this make you ask yourself “What am I even doing here? What’s the point of being here?”… Right?
Answer — Dolan: No, I didn’t ask myself “What am I doing here?” becauseMommy was a film financed by Telefilm Canada. Factually speaking, let’s be honest; it’s a film which was made in Canada and it’s a Canadian film. Let’s not deviate from that, regardless of people’s political allegiances. It was made within a certain artistic context – political also. And I’m happy that theCanadian Industry Awards have recognized our work. After all, it’s our peers who vote for who wins. So in that sense, I don’t ask myself what’s the point of being there. I’m happy we were there. I’m of course happy that Anne was there, and that all the actors were there.
But the atmosphere, all-in-all, reveals… I have to say, a gulf between the two cultures, which would otherwise stand to gain if they were to learn from each other.
You know, I read the newspapers this morning. English Canadian journalists, who were covering the ceremonies, made the point of saying that each year it is the same thing for them – that there will always be “one” Québécois film, without ever knowing what it will be, which will always triumph above the rest. Then it will simply sweep all the prizes, and it will always irritate them. But they still acknowledge it, and they write it.
So in that sense, the whole thing is just so interesting to watch itself play out, and to see the journalists talk about this.
Dusseault: It is rather interesting to watch itself play out. Yesterday I was following it on Twitter, and then I’d switch back-and-forth to CBC, and the awards were always making way for “English Canadian Television”.
Dolan: In that sense, I’m not going to criticize them, because I understand their logic. I get the impression that if they group together movies and television, it’s because in English Canada, what English Canadians know better than anything else in their own world are the stars of their television – those on CBC, CTV, on their national TV shows. In a sense, it’s by formatting it this way that the gala event would make English Canadians want to tune in to it. If they were to only celebrate English Canadian cinema (versus television), I’m not sure the gala event would attract many viewers. Movies and television were separated in the past, and from what I understand, it didn’t work very well in that format.
Did you happen to guess the answer and cultural context for the last post?
If you missed the last post, click here to see the hilarious advertisement with half of “Dong”:
The answer to the last post is “Ding et Dong”.
Perhaps you recall I mentioned in the post on Elvis Gratton that Québec had a couple of close equivalents to Anglophone culture’s Cheech & Chong, with Elvis Gratton being one of them (the on-screen component), and Ding et Dong being the other (the stage comedy component).
Ding et Dong were a very popular comedy duo from the 1980s. But as you can see from the last post, people are still talking about Ding et Dong — to the point that we still see very regular pop-cultural references to them, such as in the advertisement which was the subject of the last post.
With time, Ding & Dong have become pillars in Québec’s cultural psyche. In this sense, they mean much more to Québécois culture than mere comedians.
Ding et Dong was a stand-up comedy duo, played by Serge Thériault and Claude Meunier. They came as an inseparable pair.
This inseparability was also the metaphor for the punchline of the jokes in the advertisement in the last post. The advertisement in the last post was from the Testicular Cancer Society, warning men to be vigilant and have regular health checks, otherwise, you may lose half of the “pair”. (In Anglophone North American culture, it could be as if the Breast Cancer Society made an advertisement stating “Thelma and ________” in order to entice women to seek regular check-ups).
As a pair, they (Thériault & Meunier, that is) spun off acts which later created some of the greatest successes in Québécois comedic and pop-culture history – most notably, the sitcom series La Petite Vie (the most successful sitcom in the history of Canadian and Québec television) and the “Les Boys” movies (again among the most successful movies in history of Canadian and Québec cinema).
I was quite young when Ding et Dong were in their hayday, but I still recall bits & pieces of their acts from when I was a child. As I grew older, many of their punch lines became part of everyday vocabulary and jokes between friends.
Claude Meunier and Serge Thériault have reunied on the odd occasion over the years, and have brought Ding et Dong back to life for special one-off shows. We may see some more of these rare stage-reunions in the coming years — and I guarantee you they will be the hottest tickets in all of Canada the moment any such show is announced!
Anyway, I’ll leave it there for now — I have to drive right now from Toronto up to Témiscamingue on the Québec-Ontario border for some work-related business (that might make for interesting post in itself). But I can already see some potential posts on the horizon relating to Les Boys, Claude Meunier, and Serge Thériault.
Have a great start to your week !
Here is a bit of humour for you. I just saw these signs around the more Eastern areas of Montréal (the most Francophone areas of the city), however I have not seen them in more mixed areas of the city. the likely reason is that the cultural significance of these signs would be easily recognized in the East End where people mostly grew up in French. But they perhaps would not be so recognizable in areas of Montréal with larger anglophone or immigrant communities who have not necessarily grown up in French or perhaps have not lived in Québec for very long (this serves to highlight the demographics and cultural decisions which go into marketing, but which also contributes to the notion of the Two Solitudes).
The cultural reference behind the sign, and how it has been used in this context is hilarious! I laughed out loud the moment I saw the first sign. People around me must have thought I was a “few screws short” when they heard me laugh to myself.
Here is the sign. See if you can understand the cultural subtext (if you have regularly been reading this blog, you may have clued into it).
Click the picture to expand it, because you’ll need to read the two larger words at the very bottom of the sign to understand the goal of the sign.
Did you get it?
I’ll give you a hint: Several days ago, in another post, I made a reference to the same pop-cultural sub-context contained in this sign. Here is a second hint: A few months ago, I presented you with a link to video advertisement from the same charitable organization.
Still stumped? I’ll give you the answer in tomorrow’s post.
Here’s the next post with the answer (click here): https://quebeccultureblog.com/2015/03/02/ding-et-dong-196/
And on unrelated language notes… Above I used a couple of slang expressions in English.
1. If you’re wondering how someone might say “a few screws short” in Québec and Canadian French (the expression I used above), you can say a few things:
- Il lui manque un bardeau
- Il lui manque un bardeau dans le pignon
- Il lui manque un bardeau sur sa couverture
- (In Europe, people might say “Il a une araignée dans le plafond”)
2. If you’re wondering how to say “stumped” in French (a word I used above), you can say a couple of things.
- In international French, people say “Ça m’échappe” or “Ça me dépasse”.
- But in very local French in Québec, you’ll also hear “Ça m’embête”.
This is the last of the posts in the “Martins” series.
Petit’s first big breaks into the public arena were through improve in the 1980s, and as a member of a comedy troupe and at the Juste pour rire (Just for Laughs) festival in the 1990s. His participation at some of the best known comedy festivals was much more high profile than most comedians – eventually allowing him to take the reins as master of ceremonies.
In the early 2000s, he made the leap to high-profile radio. The mid-2000s saw him host his own morning radio shows. Later he was given the opportunity to host one of the most popular radio shows in Montréal, “Le monde est Petit” (“The World is Small”, a play on his surname) on NRJ.
Petit’s radio-presence made him a household name, and added to the furor and high-ticket sales for his one-man comedy shows. He became a “must-have” figure for various events, and he became a host for Radio-Canada’s annual gala, with 1.5 million viewers.
He embarked in acting with his role in the very successful film Les Boys 2. His acting career continued as a cast member of the very popular TV show, Un gars, une fille.
He was a co-writer of Montréwood’s most successful movie in 2011 (in terms of box office sales), Starbuck.
He currently has his own sitcom television show, Les pêcheurs; one of the better-known weekly TV shows in Québec.
Martin Petit’s official website is http://www.martinpetit.com/ (with ticket information for his upcoming shows).
The website for the TV show, Les pêcheurs is http://lespecheurs.radio-canada.ca/emission-infos/