Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Je me souviens

Dear Indigna,

The "motto" of Québec is "Je me souviens." What exactly do they mean by that?

Toronto, Canada

Dear Curious,

Let me explain by comparing the contents of bathroom vending machines in the U.S. and in Québec. In the vending machines in U.S. ladies' rooms you're likely to find "feminine hygiene" products, temporary tattoos, adhesive beads (i.e., for fake "earrings" or fingernail "jewels"), gum and candy, and toothbrush kits. In contrast, here are the contents of the vending machines in the ladies' rooms of various restaurants, bars, hotels and airports I have visited in Québec: flavored condoms, multi-colored condoms, breath fresheners (sporting the logo of a crossed-out bottle of beer), "tingly" lubricant for women, etc. Obviously, the Québecois must put "je me souviens" on their license plates, monuments, tee-shirts and every other visible surface in hopes of subliminally persuading themselves to remember to remember whatever it is they are supposed to remember the "morning after." Roughly translated into English, the Québec motto is "I do remember, I do I do I do I do remember, I do I do!" At the very least, they will remember that they are supposed to have remembered something. I plan to move to Québec if I remember to.

Foreign Agents

Dear Indigna,

Recently, Newsweek ran an article about the difficulty in landing a U.S. government translation job encountered by Americans who have achieved native fluency in Arabic through residence in the Middle East. Apparently, background checks "disqualify" these folks because they have spent "long years overseas" and in some instances have "family abroad" (usually missionary parents). What gives? I mean, aren't native accent and colloquial fluency entirely dependent upon long residency in the country in which the language is spoken? How can we hope to win the War on Terror by relying entirely on co-called "schoolbook linguists"? Frankly, if an American has never been "in country," I doubt most regular people in the Middle East would even recognize that he thinks he's speaking Arabic.

Super Linguist
Secret Subterranean Sub-Saharan Sub-Dialect Submersion Substation

Dear Terrorist,

You are obviously an al-Qaida sympathizer. It is well-documented that a person who has spent more than two weeks in a foreign country immediately becomes a sympathizer, for life, with the government of said foreign power (often leading to curiously conflicting loyalties in well-travelled individuals). You seem to believe that missionary parents ensure an offspring's integrity. Don't you read the papers? Everyone knows that even infants are on the Homeland Security "no-fly" terrorist list! The fact that you are even aware of the importance of foreign residency in developing native fluency proves that you should be barred from entry to the United States.