Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Stupid Korean Camera

Michelle told me about this interview a couple a weeks ago and I finally got a chance to listen to it. It's a discussion with Stephen Dodson, a linguist who has devoted much of his life to the study of curse words. In the interview, he discusses how curse words evolve within and between languages. He doesn't mention too many curses during the interview, but he does drop a câlice and a tabarnak, two of my favorite foreign language bad words. They are part of the Québécois dialect and literally translate to chalice and tabernacle. I'm pretty sure that tabarnak was the first foreign language curse word I ever learned. I learned it from a classmate in third grade who had recently moved to the US from Quebec. I was in Montreal last summer and walked into a funny t-shirt store that was selling a shirt that had tabarnak emblazoned across the front along with a couple of fleurs-de-lis. I thought about buying it, but realized that it probably wasn't a great idea. For one, I've never really considered apparel that features English swear words to be all that classy, so why make an exception for French-Canadian profanity. On top of that, it's impossible to asses the relative strength of curse words in a language that you don't speak, so I had no way of knowing whether or not most Québécois speakers would find the t-shirt mildly amusing or deeply offensive.


dusty said...

If you wore a shirt like that, my paisans would be thinking one thing: Quelle touriste. It would probably also indicate bad manners, as you've suspected. Assuming you'd be wearing the shirt primarily in the US, I think it would be good for a laugh, so you should have bought it. Les mots sacrés anglais, on the other hand, are quite often OK to the average Quebecer. (Also, you wrote "asses" instead of "assess". You so filthy.)

dhodge said...

One thing that I forgot to mention was that the shirt was just a wee bit overpriced. That, combined the the relative strength of the Loony makes it harder to justify purchases of overpriced novelty t-shirts while visiting Canada, never mind seeing them yourself.