Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Tabernacle! and other curse words

Over the weekend, I read Still Life, a mystery by Louise Penny set in Quebec. I kept wondering why they said "Tabernac!" (or, in Quebecois, 'Tabernacle!') but didn't think much of it until I read
'Oh. My. God.' was heard a lot, as was 'Holy shit' and 'Tabarouette'. 'Tabarnouche' and 'Tabernacle' bounced off the walls. Jane's living room had become a shrine to multilingual swearing.
Hold the phone, here! Swearing? Tabernacle is a curse word? Why, yes!
“Tabernacle” is one of Quebec's most popular French swear words, one usually employed, as with cursing in general, to express irritation, pain, discouragement, outrage, anger, joy and/or excitement.
Other Quebec swear words include slightly modified forms of the French for baptism, chalice, Calvary, and other religious terms; the umbrella term for Quebecois profanity is sacre. Which gives you an indicator of how well the Catholic Church did in Quebec.

The Washington Post had a great article about this from a few years back, explaining the whole sacre phenomenon. It was news to me.

Oh, the book...I wish I enjoyed it more than I did. 'Salright. But I'm not sure I'll go to any lengths to find the next one. Though I liked Chief Inspector Gamache, I never really believed he was anything other than a fictional character, a Dalgliesh-esh sensitive inspector type.

The thing, strangely enough, that got under my skin was that too many characters knew too much poetry. Really, no one I know quotes poetry in daily conversation. In a murder investigation, in a small town, to have several people quoting great swaths of Auden seemed a bit much. So that was my sticking point.

But at least I learned something. Tabernac!

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

I haven't read the whole series, but I just finished the most recent installment, The Beautiful Mystery, earlier this spring - and I found it absolutely riveting.

nannajoanna said...

I have been reading Still Life over the past several days and, just having arrived at the excerpt referred to above (re the locals' reaction to Jane's walls), I too had to find out what was behind all this "tabernacle" business. I am still a bit foggy about that. However, must disagree with your opinions on the book itself. I'm actually dragging out the last quarter of the book because I am quite loathe to reach the end. I think Gamache is wonderful and don't think it at all unusual that a group of friends in a close knit village might be heard reciting the works of the same poet. Love the characters, the setting, and the gently curving twists and turns. Thank heavens I am at the beginning of the series.