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A bit of "Franglais"

Started by Mechanic, December 12, 2007, 09:17:27 PM

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The French Canadians have a saying " A person who speaks more than two languages is multilingual. A person who speaks two languages is bilingual. A person who speaks one language is English.

In most cases this is true. However when you get up into the back blocks of Ontario and Quebec it was not unusual to go into a print shop in the 1950's and 60's and find the only language they spoke was French. Having little or no French in my vocabulary trying to get the Linotype operator to explain his problems was often interesting to say the least. I don't know about Europe but in Canada, French speaking Canadians tend to speak "Franglais" that is, when it comes to technical or common English terms, they will use the English term in the middle of a French sentence.

I was in one print shop in north-eastern Ontario where the operator spoke no English and foreman spoke little English. The foreman was acting as the translator. The operator would start to explain his problem in French, but when he referred to the area of the problem he would use the English term. In the first instance it was "distributor box". When I heard "distributor box" I climbed on the back of the machine and started to look at the distributor box. The operator stopped talking and both the foreman and the operator looked at me.

The foreman said " You speak French!"
"No," I replied, "I heard distributor box, so I thought I'd have a look at the distributor box."

Similar instances occurred a number of times during the day eg  keyboard, spaceband box etc. Finally the forman said, "You don't need a translator, your French is good enough." and walked away.

My French was so good that a number of years later, on my first day in the Montreal office when I asked one of the French Canadian reps who I should get to type a report for me. He said "Ask Giselle, but her English is poor,  just say "Voulez-vous coucher avec moi ce soir?"   That means will you type my report for me. When I went to Giselle and sprouted my little piece, she turned to me and said, in perfect English, "Who put  you up to this?"

That was long before "Voulez-vous coucher avec moi ce soir?" or in English, "Will you sleep with me tonight?"  became a popular song.

George Finn (Mechanic)
Gold Coast

Dave Hughes

Nice one George, it reminds me of a story about my old overseer Ron Dorrington.

This story has been told on this forum before, but it was some time ago!

Ron was an ex-military type, with a military-style moustache, he always stood bolt upright and marched around the composing room. He sort of kept himself to himself, but you could just tell that he looked upon any "foreigners" with a certain amount of distaste!

The Yorkshire Evening Press at that time (late 1970s) used to regularly get groups of French foreign exchange students come and look round the composing room.

Ron was in charge of them and his party-piece was to cast all their first names in 24pt MetroBlack caps and pull a proof of them as a memento.

One day a student called Andre had the audacity to point out that the accent had been missed off his name, and he was a little disappointed with his keep-sake.

Ron gave him a withering look and said to him in a loud voice (speaking loudly is much easier than actually learning French!) "You are in England now - there are no French letters over here"

It was hard to keep a straight face, especially as "French letter" is slang for condom in the UK!

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