En français, s’il vous plaît

The gap in Quebec’s thinking

By Eric Wilkins, Staff Writer

The six major corporations in Quebec—Best Buy Canada, Costco Wholesale Canada, Gap Canada, Old Navy, Guess Canada and Wal-mart Canada—are taking the Office québécois de la langue française (OQLF), Quebec’s language watchdog, to court over pressures to Frenchify their names.

Only in Quebec.

I never tire of hearing the latest Québécois actions being taken to save their language. Though it’s not like anyone actually speaks proper French in Quebec anyway; it’s not quite Groundskeeper Willie having a go at the wine tongue, but it’s not the prettiest dialect they’ve got going on.

The OQLF is off its rocker here. Asking companies to change/add to their name? A name is a brand’s identity; it’s what they are and what the public recognizes them as. Vieux Marine? Mur Marche? Meilleur Achat? None of these quite have the same ring to it. Will adding “le” in front of Gap really appease the OQLF? Why don’t they just outlaw English names altogether? Have every Tom, Dick, and Harry become Jean, Claude, and Maurice? Where do you draw the line?

Of course, it’s all just adults making like petty children in the end. Two sides digging their heels into the ground just to spite the other. A name change/addition won’t really impact an established business’ sales. Staples has been parading around la belle province for years as Bureau en Gros and they’re doing just fine. These corporations will lose more money fighting in court then they could ever hope to gain from the (perceived) benefit of keeping their English titles. That being said, why should the OQLF care so much? Whether you think French in Quebec is suffering or not, do you really think a few store signs and billboard ads are going to make a difference? Besides, last time I checked—since we’re talking about Quebec here—all of these stores employ workers who can, and do, speak French while on the job. And isn’t that what the hard core Quebecers really want?

Finishing on a slightly more political note, the PQ’s coming to power has really started to put Quebec in a negative light. Their stance towards ramming French home has opened the door for all of the radicals to come scrambling out of their hiding places. I’d never heard of anyone being beaten up for speaking English until the current regime came in. Likewise in this case—though it’s a good deal milder—the OQLF likely wouldn’t have pushed for such unnecessary renaming if they didn’t essentially have two fat thumbs up from the ruling party. Worrying times.