from the book
October, 1959, André Laurendeau published a short column in Le Devoir in
which he qualified the speech of French Canadian students as "joual talk".
He, not I, invented the name. It was well chosen. The thing and the name are alike,
both hateful. The word joual is a summary description of what it is like to talk
joual, to say joual instead of cheval, horse. It is to talk as horses
would talk [...].
pupils talk joual, write joual, and dont want to talk or write any other
way. Joual is their language. Things have gone so far that they cant even
tell a mistake when it is shown to them at pencil point [...]. The vice is deeply
rooted at the grammatical level, and on the level of pronunciation. [...]
is a boneless language. The consonants are all slurred. [...] They say chu
pas apable for je ne suis pas capable (I am not able). I cant
write joual down phonetically. It cant be fixed in writing for it is a decomposition
this absence of language is a symptom of our non-existence as French Canadians.
No one can ever study language enough, for it is the home of all meanings. Our
inability to assert ourselves, our refusal to accept the future, our obsession
with the past, are all reflected in joual, our real language. [...]
day it appeared I read Laurendeaus comment to my class. My pupils realized
that they spoke joual. One of them said, almost proudly, "Weve founded
a new language." They saw no need to change. "Everybody talks like us,"
they told me. Some said, people would laugh at us if we talked differently from
the others." One said - and it is a diabolical objection - "Why should
we talk otherwise when everybody understands us?" Its not easy for
a teacher taken unaware, to answer this last proposition, which was made to me
course joual-speakers understand each other. But do you want to live your life
among joual-speakers? As long as you want merely to chat about sports and the
weather, as long as you talk only such crap, joual does very well. For primitives,
a primitive language is good enough; animals get along with a few grunts. But
if you want to attain to human speech, joual is not sufficient. You can make do
with a board and some whitewash if you want to paint a barn, but finer tools are
necessary for the Mona Lisa.
we approach the heart of the problem, which is a problem of civilization. Our
pupils speak joual because they think joual, and they think joual because they
live joual, like everybody around here. Living joual means rockn roll, hot
dogs, parties, running around in cars. All our civilization is joual. Efforts
on the level of language dont accomplish anything, these competitions, campaigns
for better French, congresses, all that stuff. We must act on the level of civilization
Untel, The Impertinences of Brother Anonymous, Harvest House, 1962, 126p.
(translated by Miriam Chapin)