Quebec, Ink. — Why do they treat us like morons?

Second verse, same as the first — the Office de la langue française is out with its metaphorical yardstick again. But this time, retailers are taking the provincial government to court over new signage rules in Quebec. Have they got a fighting chance?

To paraphrase Monty Python, “And now for something completely stupid.”

Six Quebec retailers are taking the government to court over its decision to tighten the interpretation of laws governing commercial signs. Quebec wants retailers like Costco to add words to their signs so that people will know what they sell inside.

With Costco, I guess that would be “n’importe quoi.”

Since the initiative is coming from the Office québécois de la langue française, you know it’s a law that’s only being applied to businesses with English-sounding names. So joining Costco in court are Walmart, Best Buy, Gap, Guess and Old Navy.

Surprise! Nobody is insisting that Hydro-Québec insert the word “électricité” under its name so that people won’t mistakenly think it’s selling hydroponic pot. Nor is there any need to specify that Les ailes de la mode doesn’t serve fancy coleslaw.

Or that Archambault sells music, Brault & Martineau sells furniture or Familiprix sells drugs. People manage to figure it out all by themselves, without government intervention. Imagine that.

Here’s how silly this interpretation of the law is: When discount store chain Giant Tiger decided to change the names of its Quebec stores to Tigre Géant, it was no longer required to add a generic term to describe the business. Yes, the name Tigre Géant tells francophones everything they need to know, but what the hell is Giant Tiger selling?

Don’t blame the Parti Québécois for this one, however. It was the Liberals who started it. Former minister Christine St-Pierre was defending it as recently as last month.

Now that you mention it, I don’t think it’s such a big deal for retailers to add a few words to their signs to better serve their customers. In fact, I have a few suggestions.


Bell Canada: You’ve already given us your money. Why would you expect service, too?
Canadian Tire: Where everything smells like tires
Club Supersexe: Dream on, buddy
Winners: Where losers buy their clothes
Ritz-Carlton: You ain’t getting in here dressed like that, buddy
UQÀM: Face it, you would have hated the Université de Montréal
Sky Complexe: Where out is in. And out. And in.


The Office has, of course, offered an alternative to adding these “generic” terms. You can just adopt a French brand name, like Tigre Géant. Not that Costco or Walmart are English names in the first place. But why not bend a little to the tiny fraction of malcontents who never run out of petty things to whine about?

So instead of Costco, Walmart, Best Buy, Gap, Guess and Old Navy, let’s call them Coudonc, Walmag, Bisbille, Guêpe (such a waspy clientele), Dévinez and, well, Le Old Navy.

There. Problem solved. ■
Peter Wheeland is a Montreal journalist and stand-up comic. His sardonic observations about the city and province appear at least once a week in this space. You can follow him on Twitter or find out about his upcoming stand-up performances here.

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