Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Strange Story from Canada, eh?

I remember reading somewhere that Catholic cultures are inclined to use more blasphemy when they swear, whilst in traditionally Protestant areas various body parts and physiological activities are the preferred swear words. But this story from Canada is bizarre:
MONTREAL (CP) - Montreal's Catholic churches are trying to take back the tabernacle and the chalice, reminding Quebecers that the common French-language cuss words are still sacred objects to the church.
The churches launched a cheeky publicity campaign on the weekend to teach the true meaning of words that roll so easily off the tongues of many francophones when they stub a toe or strike a thumb with a hammer.
Several Montreal churches were festooned with gigantic black posters with the names of religious objects in blood-red letters and the true definition in smaller white type.
"Tabernacle!" shouted one example. "Small cupboard locked by key in the middle of the altar containing the ciborium."
Another explained that "ciboire" (ciborium, in English) is a container that holds the "hostie" (hosts) for communion.
Both words, along with "calisse" (chalice), "sacristie" (sacristy) and "sacrement" (sacrament) have also become curses in Quebec's version of the French language. Among others.
While some of the words were used in a blasphemous fashion all the way back to the 1800s, they became especially common as francophones turned their backs on the Roman Catholic church over the past 40 years.
"There are a lot of people in our society who don't even know what these words mean anymore," said Rev. Jean Boyer, a Montreal priest who was visiting Notre-Dame Basilica on Sunday.
"We're hoping once the shock passes, people will think more about the true meaning of the words. There are many young people who don't even know that in old times this was blasphemy."
It's a uniquely Quebec problem for the church, says Monique Carmel, a linguist and professional translator.

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