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Monday, November 01, 2004


O, Canada!

Train á Vapeur
Sandy and I got up at "Oh-Dark-Thirty" Saturday morning to drive to Dulles Airport for a flight to Ottawa. We wanted to visit with Sandy's family there and especially to spend some time with our youngest nephew, Colin, soon to be two years old.

As I expected, the trip provided some good opportunities for picture-taking (besides our delightful and handsome nephew.) On Sunday, we all took a ride through the nearby scenic Gatineau region to the quaint little village of Wakefield, Quebec.

Wakefield sits at a picturesque bend in the Gatineau River. Its primary industry is tourism, especially during the fall foliage season. It also serves as the northern terminus of steam-powered scenic railroad, the star of which is a 95-year-old steam locomotive, No. 909 (sounds like an early Bealtes song!).

I did come back with several good photographs, including one of the Train á Vapeur and another one I call Pumpkin with Attitude.
Pumpkin With Attitude

Some things about Canada still crack me up. Take language, for example, or more specifically, languages. The commitment to bilingualism results in signs that just strike me as silly, such as

Rue Catherine Street

Parc McDonald Park

or, my favorite,

Avenue Bronson Avenue

Mind you, I'm not being critical of the Canadians here, it's a quirk of my own personality that I find these kind of things funny.

I guess Michael Moore thought it was funny, too. In the only Moore movie I would recommend, the comedy Canadian Bacon, there is a hilarious scene where OPP (Ontario Provincial Police) traffic cop Dan Ackroyd pulls trigger-happy American John Candy over because of the English-only graffiti ("Canada sucks!") on his [stolen] truck. It turns out that the cop's only concern was the sensibilities of the Quebecois, in that there was no corresponding French spayed on the side of the lorry. After collecting the fine of "One thousand dollars Canadian ... or ten American dollars," Ackroyd picks up a spray-paint can, shakes it for a moment, hands it back to Candy, and delivers the best line of the movie:

"... and now if you please -- in French!"

I also find amusing that the commitment to bilingualism falls on its face once you cross the Ontario-Quebec border. Ottawa sits (rationally enough) on the Ottawa River, which marks the boundary between these two provinces. On the other side of the river, is the Quebec city of Hull, founded, ironically, by an American from Massachusetts in 1800. Although a large segment of this region is Anglophone, virtually all public signs, as in the rest of Quebec, are French-only.

By the way, the Canadians have introduced a neologism into their somewhat-politically-charged vocabulary of linguistics: Allophone. An Allophone is a person whose native language is neither French nor English, that is, he is neither Francophone nor Anglophone. The word is formed from the Greek root, allos, meaning "other" (phone we already know about, right? .... or do we really need those Rue Catherine Street signs?)

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