Thursday, 5 January 2012

Nasty Words Don't Survive Translation: The T-Word Means F%@&-All in English

For those who arn't plugged in local controversies, the cartoon from this morning's Montreal Gazette refers to the fact that the new head coach for the Montreal Canadien's doesn't speak French. Promoted to the post in a few weeks ago when nothing was working for the Habs, Ron Cunneyworth's record hasn't been stellar since--and criticism about his being a unilingual Anglophone has gotten louder.

But Montrealers like to win, and so given last night's victory--the first in far too long--Aislin, The Gazette's fine cartoonist, mocks how success can change perceptions.

"Taburnack!" refers to the tabernacle in which the eucharist is stored in the Roman Catholic churches, which might raise a loud ho-hum from people elsewhere. But it's one of those words you don't use in polite Quebec society: there was a point when Lukas (aged 7 or 8) was scandalized to learn that one of our Christmas records had been made by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. The word is so strong that this morning on the Radio Can French language service, a commentator referred to it (in French) as the "T-word."

This same guy has not shied away from using the "F-word" in English on occasion when quoting someone directly. That would not happen on the CBC where the soldiers on the long-running radio series Afghanada were always talking about "freaking this" and "freaking" that.

So what do you swear by, religion? or sex?


Muzition said...

I've listened to some Afghanada episodes, and I did hear the F word once. But only once. Usually they replace it with less offensive words.

I have seen the C word (in English) in a photo in one of the free French newspapers (Metro or 24H.)

I used to think "Jesus Christ" was a swear word, and was shocked when, as a young kid, I came across that name in a Christmas carol.

Blork said...

The translation issue goes the other way too. Watch Radio-Canada (TV) and you hear F-bombs dropped all over the place, usually - but not exclusively - in dramatic shows.

Which shouldn't come as much of a surprise. After all, The F-bomb is only a bomb because we (in English) declare it to be so. In French it's just a gruff and essentially meaningless exclamation, like "harrumph!" We could learn from that.