Thursday, June 9, 2016

The Queen's English

We're contemplating a trip to Quebec sometime later this year.

I happened to mention this to my daughter the other day, and she told me an amusing story.

It turns out that, at some entirely unrelated event, and having no idea I was hoping to travel to Quebec, she found herself talking to a woman from Quebec.

Well, my daughter is quite fluent in French, so she tried speaking to this woman in French.

Unfortunately, it turned out that whatever French my daughter knew, was completely of no use for speaking to her new friend: they could not understand each other at all, and they returned to speaking in English.

We're still planning to take our trip to Quebec.

But before we go, it's clear I'd better do a bit of preparation.

I think I'll start with these resources:

  • The Delightful Perversity of Québec's Catholic Swears
    Québec's swearing vocabulary is one of the weirdest and most entertaining in the entire world. It is almost entirely made up of everyday Catholic terminology—not alternate versions, but straight-up normal words that would be used in Mass to refer to objects or concepts—that have taken on a profane meaning.
  • What's Going On with the Way Canadians Say ‘About'?
    There are a few isolated quirks in Canadian English, like keeping the Britishism “zed” for the last letter of the alphabet, and keeping a hard “agh” sound where Americans would usually say “ah.” (In Canada, “pasta” rhymes with “Mt. Shasta”.) But aside from those quirks, there are two major defining trends in Canadian English: Canadian Raising and the Canadian Shift. The latter is known stateside as the California Shift, and it’s what makes Blink-182 singer Tom DeLonge sound so insane: a systematic migration of vowel sounds resulting in "kit" sounding like “ket,” “dress” sounding like "drass," and “trap" sounding like “trop.” The SoCal accent, basically, is being replicated almost entirely in Canada.

    But the Canadian Shift is minor compared to Canadian Raising, a phenomenon describing the altered sounds of two notable vowel sounds, that has much bigger consequences for the country’s identity, at least in the U.S. That's where we get all that “aboot” stuff.

That's better; now I feel I am ready to travel.

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