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The Saint Gabriel Museum Essay

2013 words - 9 pages

Language gives clues about what is important to the culture. Each culture has its own distinct dialect, their own way of expressing how they understand or look the world. The Spoken French in Canada is quite distinct from Parisian French. One of the differences is the profanity or swearwords spoken in French Canada. These words are the Sacres. This spoken profanity gives evidence to what the values of this society are; the words are connected to their religious beliefs and pays tribute to their French roots, and highlight creativity within the spoken language.
Every culture has a vernacular accepted by that society, however in moments of anger, disappointment, or passion individual speech ...view middle of the document...

They become only profanity and blasphemy when uttered outside their sacred context.
Other swear words do exist in the French Canadian vocabulary. They are also associated with the other taboos like sexuality. These terms however are less frequently used. One of these words is bâtard (bastard). This word has the same meaning in other languages, many cultures share similar opinions on children born outside of wedlock. The context of the word bastard does tends to have stronger meaning to the Catholic faith and its viewpoint on marriage and sexuality.
Aspects of the profanity that would become part of the French Canadian identity show connections to their French heritage. The swear words first used by the people of New France defacing God’s name had been widely used since the middle ages. In France these swears were considered serious and offensive. In 1617, the blasphemy act was introduced to add strict punishments to the crime of blasphemy, this included fines, prison sentences, and for frequent blasphemers were Capital punishment. The blasphemy and profanity was considered criminal activity until the mid-19th century in Canada however colonial courts rarely punished these criminals. It was in the 19th century when the Clergy replaced the court, in sentencing blasphemers, as it became increasingly more common. It was in 1850 that new swear words were introduced, as the punishments for these actions disappeared. They were directed at God still, but these new words used elements of the Catholic faith, almost in rebellion to their clergy judges. “These words included Christ, Vierge, Saint, Ciboire, Tabernacle, and Calice.”
These swear words indicate the values of the French Canadians. The words they were not the exact words used for the sacred objects. J.S. Tessie wrote that they were changed or altered, possibly unintentionally. Her argument indicates this was to avoid being an absolute sacrilege. By altering the way the word was pronounced or spoken; it also helps to distinguish which meaning was intended. It may been done intentionally to not reinstall the old punishments for blasphemy. These new words also gave insight into the role of the Catholic faith within French Canadian society.
These new swear words were attacks at the domineering aspect of the Catholic faith in their lives. When the settlers of New France came to Canada, they also brought over their Catholic traditions and values. As values became overbearing these words were created to retaliate against the religious constraints. In 1850 the influence of the Catholic Church was slipping, the clergy did not hold the same power and the criminal courts or the laws of Canada were changing. The crime of blasphemy was no longer considered as serious, it was becoming viewed as inappropriate behaviour only. Grescoe argues that the sacres, Tabernac in particular are” It’s the architecture of the Eucharist, dismantled and re-erected daily on the streets in ephemeral rood screen...

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