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En Francais, sil vous plait, even if it isn’t English

Here, There & Everywhere by Lindsey Kuglin

What’s French for “Walmart”? Here’s a better question: what’s French for “come on. Put your energy towards something that will better serve humankind and stop being so trivial.”

I say that because the latest demand from the Office Quebecois de la Langue Francaise (OQLF) is that Walmart, Gap and Costco change their names in Quebec to be more French, such as Le Magasin Walmart.

The OQLF says the signs that only bear the name of the store, violate their language laws.

How dare they be anything but French!

While I’m all for preserving the French heritage of the Quebec people, I think it’s kind of pompous to ask a corporation to change its trademarked name to suit the cause.

It might not seem like the OQLF is asking for much, but just a petit peu of a change is a slam to the brand, and if it’s just a small change, why should it matter so much? Is it really going to affect the Quebec people if they see a sign that literally translates to “The Walmart Store” than if they just read “Walmart”?

Forcing French upon non-French chains in Quebec, to me, makes the OQLF seem really petty, and if every store in Quebec is prefaced with “La Magasin” it’s going to make them (the OQLF) look pretty ridiculous too.

It also seems strange to me to care so much about words that aren’t even real words. Walmart and Costco aren’t actually words, even in English, so what does it matter?

Kentucky Fried Chicken has already complied with the OQLF rules, and in Quebec is known as Poulet Frit Kentucky. But the people probably just call it PFK more often than not anyway. Initials; as long as they stand for French words, are fine. God forbid they call it KFC – that’s English blasphemy.

Enforcing silly rules like that doesn’t do much to preserve their French heritage. If the end is to keep the French language alive and thriving, then the means is keeping the Quebec people educated about their history and language, but also how to relate to the world around them, no matter what language is spoken.

Petty rules, such as forcing multi-national corporations to change their names, only buries their heads in the sand, pretending that there is no world outside of Quebec or the belief that there shouldn’t be.

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