Friday, December 16, 2005

Le débat: lost in, how you say, translation

My French is far from perfect. It seems about half of the four French courses I took in univeristy were wasted hitting on a brunette named Sylvie. And, as certain photographic evidence implies, for about half of a subsequent six-week French immersion stint in Jonquiere, I was wasted (and hitting on a blonde named Kate).

So I'm no Jean Chrétien when it comes to mastery of Canada's other official language. But I'm fluent enough to follow basic current events and politial discourse. And foolishly, I made use of this unfortunate ability last night and watched the French language federal leaders' debate.

Le yawn. It was, as the French would say, fatigant -- from the roots fati and gant, meaning "having the qualities of an overstuffed boxing glove". Frère Harper, Frère Martin. Dormez-vous? Dormez-vous?

But I might have found it more entertaining if I had a slightly worse comprehension of French than I do. Some missed opportunities for mis-translations...

Cryptic - NDP leader Jack Layton, with an obscure but probably class-based snipe at Liberal leader Paul Martin:

M. Martin est un grand parleur, petit faiseur.
Mr. Martin is a big sitting room, with a small sofa.

Scandalous - Conservative leader Stephen Harper alluding to the sexual proclivities of unnamed Liberals as he invites voters to:

...changer de gouvernement pour faire le vrai ménage à Ottawa.
...change the government for having actual threesomes in Ottawa.

Fashion-conscious - Liberal leader Paul Martin, apparently decrying the decline of wardrobe coordination in Parliament:

C'est le temps de travailler ensemble.
The time has come to work on our outfits.

Controversial (and a real good reason for gun control) - Harper's rather severe response when asked what he would do if his child told him he or she was gay:

Notre devoir de parent est d’aimer nos enfants.
Our duty as parents is to aim at our children.

Just plain rude - Bloc leader Gilles Duceppe flinging some merde over the sponsorship scandal:

Les libéraux ont tenté d'acheter la conscience des Québécois.
The Liberals have attempted to shit on the beliefs of Quebeckers.

But alas, I understood all too well. I understood that we'd all better hunker down with a plate of steaming poutine and bottle or two of Trois Pistoles, because, tabernac, this is going to a long winter.



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