Thursday, January 12, 2006

please feed me some coffee

Readers Digest thinks I'm French.

Or at least they think I'm a fluent Francotalker.* Why this is I don't know. The last time someone spoke French to me, it was in the stairwell of a Montreal strip club. I ended up handing over fifteen bucks for an interactive drag show. There was no interaction, but there were definitely drag queens. Maybe I left too early?

Anyway. Last week a plain white envelope came for me, bearing no trace of its origin beyond an anonymous PO box return address. Schmutzie and I thought: collection agency after some long long forgotten debt? Low-interest no-fee credit card that offers Google Miles** and Kryptonite insurance? A missive from the Ministry of Plain White Envelopes? I ripped it open (I'm a messy envelope opener) and found several pages of French. Not the kind of highschool French that helps you out with telling people that there's a souffle in the fridge and that what I like is the country on the weekend, but clause-heavy bureaucratic French, dense as burnt meatloaf and just as appetizing to look at. I flipped the pages over for the English version - after all, this is Canada, where all packaging is bilingual, where milk is lait, the spout is a bec and all the cereal boxes of my childhood shilled for a movie called La Guerre d'Etoiles*** - but no dice. Pas des matrices. Whatever is they wanted me to do, they weren't persuading me. I threw it into the recycling bin.

Yesterday they stepped up their assault. A stiff carboard envelope in crimson and royal blue, stuffed full of colourful brochures, a plastic card, mail-in reply leaflets and more pages of small print showed up - again in French. It seems that they want me to win one million dollars. But I see their game. I have to send in a reply that has "OUI" printed in big letters if I want my million.

Sure. I'll get one million French dollars. I'll have to drive to Quebec to spend them. And we all know about the brigands on the winter roads.

This entry makes no sense.

*I wanted to use the word "Francophone," but then I thought: what if a Francophone were some kind of microphone that automatically translates everything you say into French? Or better yet, a microphone that imparts a French attitude to everything you say? I should build an Anglophone along the same lines, guaranteed to encode any phrase into 100% Anglo. For example:

Die you infidel dogs! -> I will draft a strongly worded letter to the city about the disgraceful state of your lawn.

I'm glad you dropped by. Would you like something to eat? -> Can I start you off with the artichoke and crab dip?

urban decay -> We don't go downtown anymore, there's no parking.

**I don't know what Google Miles are, so don't ask. But feel free to make something up.

***Bilingual packaging sucks the glamour out of advertising, let me tell you. It's hard to get whipped up over "Extreme Flavour Blast Ketchup!" when the French packaging on the reverse side says something like "Incendiary Tomato Condiment On a Precipice!"


ZaZa said...

Well, at least in Canada your junkmail holds the possibility of a linguistic mystery. Not so, here in the States. Although, sometimes the plain old English stuff is still a mystery.

This comment makes no sense.

mathew said...

Perhaps you or the show you work on were mentioned in an article and some kind soul sent it to you. Believe it or not, there are busybodies who hang over their high school yearbooks and do exactly that, living for the day that they can send Beth Johnson a cut-out of the article where it mentions that Beth's recently divorced and moving back in with her parents.

palinode said...

Hmmm. I did just get an email from my highschool reunion committee.

KA said...

Ack mon dieu. This post made me laugh. I have lived in Montreal all my life, SO FAR, so the french doesn't bother me nearly as much as it apparently amuses the begeezus out of the rest of Canada and some other countries and continents. (those bastards)

The single solitary thing that makes me guffaw louder than Sophia on Golden Girls is the fact that almost all swear words in french are religious. RIDICULOUS.

Anyway, thanks much for the franglais-ish laugh

palinode said...

Next time I get an envelope from Reader's Digest, I'm going to jump up and down on it screaming "TABERNACLE!"

JennC said...

Growing up, I used to like the French/English bilingualism of all products in Canada. Now that I live in France, every time I visit my mom, I have to chuckle at Canadian packaging. The French makes hardly any sense at all. It's wonderful.