"Oh, tabernacle!" The man swore in French as a car splashed through a puddle, sending water onto his pants. He could never be quoted in the papers here. It is too profane.You know, I was always curious about this ... the article seems unaware that the phenomenon is not limited to Quebec ... I recall a very devout student who went to study-abroad in Spain being shocked by the way terms associated with Catholic ritual were used ... "I can't believe they swear by saying '¡hostia!'!" I'm sure there are various sociological reasons for these developments ... for instance:
So are other angry oaths that sound innocuous in English: chalice, host, baptism. In French-speaking Quebec, swearing sounds like an inventory being taken at a church.
"When you get mad, you look for words that attack what represses you," said Louise Lamarre, a Montreal cinematographer who must tread lightly around the language, depending on whether her films are in French or English. "In America, you are so Puritan that the swearing is mostly about sex. Here, since we were repressed so long by the church, people use religious terms."But surely, parts of the Church were experienced as oppressive in other parts of Europe too? And scatological/sexual expletives seem universal ... in Spain, they're used (as they are in Spanish-speaking America) ... though yes, they don't seem to have the same level of opprobrium attached to them. (I was rather surprised to see the Spanish equivalent of the f-word appearing in the dailies over there quite routinely ... ) There's got to be other things at work too, right?
And the words that are shocking in English -- including the slang for intercourse -- are so mild in Quebecois French they appear routinely in the media. But not church terms.
Of course, Quebec is hardly Catholic anymore ... the so-called "Quiet Revolution" of the 60's saw to that, when the Quebecois just simply defected from the church, en masse, very quietly without any fanfare. Yet, these terms survive, it seems. The Church is trying to do some catechesis:
Last spring, the Montreal Archdiocese commissioned an advertising campaign that erected large billboards in the city intended to shock and educate. Each billboard featured a word like "tabernacle" or "chalice" -- startling swearwords on the street -- and offered the correct dictionary definition for the religious term. Such as: "Tabernacle -- small cupboard locked by key in the middle of the altar" containing the sacred goblet.I'm not sure how effective this is ... though maybe for the younger generation that has absolutely no clue as to what the original referent for "Tabernac!" is, this may be of some value. Seems like it's a losing battle though ... Who knows what it will take to re-plant the faith (one trusts minus all the oppression) in these once-Christian lands.