Straight Talk
ERIC DUHAIME - 'Pastagate' unfolds one noodle after another

Buonanotte restaurant's menu has received a notice from the Office of the French language. Waitress Alexandra Marcil.

Credits: JOCELYN MALETTE/QMI AGENCY

ERIC DUHAIME | QMI AGENCY

It all started last week when Journal de Montreal columnist Sophie Duroche revealed an Italian restaurant, Buonanotte, was forced by the language police to remove the word "pasta" from its menu.

After 20 years of using the word pasta, a single customer's complaint to the Office quebecois de la langue francaise deprived the restaurant of its Italian touch.

It didn't matter how hard the owner fought and how much he spent on lawyers.

Following that story, many other restaurant owners also came out with other ridiculous examples of harassment from the language police.

The Conti Caffe in Quebec City spent $20,000 to replace its menus and outdoor signs since there are two Fs in the Italian spelling of "caffe" and only one in French.

Even the restaurant Portofino had to change its slogan "Pizza, Pasta & Musica!"

And the patrolling did not stop at the entrance or the table.

A French tavern in Old Montreal had to remove the letters WC from its toilet doors.

Even though they matched the original signs in France, WC cannot replace "toilettes" in Quebec, according to the OQLF. We have become the laughing stock of the world.

According to Influence Communication, pastagate generated more than 350 articles in 14 countries, including Italy.

In fact, it received 60 times more coverage than Premier Pauline Marois' trip to New York City last December.

After such a PR disaster, Diane De Courcy, the Parti Quebecois minister responsible for the language law, said on Monday she would review the rules.

How shocked was I Wednesday to then read the new ads for the SAQ, the government monopoly selling alcohol in La Belle Province. It advertises the "festivino" of great wines for the "amore" of "pasta."

We also found out Wednesday that Loto-Quebec - another public monopoly, this one for gambling - sells "Lotto 6/49." Lotto with two Ts is also inspired by the language of Dante.

But no worries, no language police has scrutinized itself yet.

"Do as I say, not as I do" has long been the government's motto.

And those who pretend to love and cherish the French language more than anyone else are now trying to find a scapegoat instead of recognizing their language laws are ludricous.

The president of the nationalist Mouvement Quebec francais, Mario Beaulieu, came out to blame the "English media who are on a cabal to discredit Bill 101."

I don't think Quebec's language police need anyone to discredit it these days. It is doing that itself quite well.

This incident should open the eyes of a few pequiste radicals to the fact that the survival of French in North America is not a matter of bureaucrats, police or politicians. Our language will bloom if, and only if, as individuals we care for it.

Let's hope this whole silly faux-pas will help more and more Quebecers realize we can do away with language police altogether.

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