|On va à l'pec ?|
No, it’s not you. No amount of blinking will turn the above album cover into French, Spanish, or any other UN-recognized Latin language, so best to stop now.
Les Adventures de Tintin: Le Trésor de Rackham le Rouge is here presented in The Nord-Pas-de-Calais variation of the larger Picard dialect, which is widely spoken from the French région of Picardie through the Belgian province of Hainaut, otherwise known as Ch’ti.
Actually, it’s misleading to say dialect, in that it gives the impression that Ch’ti is a form of French. It’s not. Modern French, Ch’ti, Normand and any of the other languages spoken in France north of the Loire are all variants of La Langue d’oïl, a Gallo-Roman language group. Had succeeding dynasties decided to set up their power base in say, Boulogne-sur-Mer instead of Paris, Ch’ti could well have become the dominant language of France, with Francilien French seen as provincial and therefore incomprehensible.
Emperors and kings, did not, however, succumb to the charms of the Nord-Pas-de-Calais region, likely reasons being bone-chilling Atlantic gales and the sheets of rain that emanate like clockwork from the unichromatic fluffy carpet parked three meters over one’s head. It’s green in Ch’ti land, and the countryside is bieau*, but it takes a certain kind of costaud** to call it home. And tough they are: Currently suffering from low opportunity and high unemployment, the region was previously a major hub for fishing, maritime transport and coal mining, back when there were fish to be fished and coal was the thing (all of the above occupations requiring une certaine fortitude).
Ah, and then there’s the wars. Whether considering the Hundred Years' War, World War I, ou bien World War II, the region has been a preferred campground for conflict for as long as memory serves, World War II being the most irreversibly destructive; even the most casual observer can not fail to note the abundance of concrete neighborhoods acting as tombstones for ancient costal villages bombed into oblivion.
But it was the Grande Guerre that gave us a name for the dialect; a period when tens of thousands of Poilus*** from all over France converged on the front to find they sometimes couldn’t quite understand the locals they were defending. Alors, the soldiers named the dialect after two flagrant characteristics:
The pronoun “je” (I) is replaced with “ch"
And “tu” (you, fam.) is replaced with “ti”.
Thus “Je te connais, moi” (I know you) becomes “Ch’ti conno, mi”.
Or “on va à la pêche” (we’re going fishing) becomes “on va à l’pec”.
Or, as observed by the popular Ch’ti-Algerian (the world is wonderfully complicated) comedian-auteur Dany Boon, whereas a Parisian would say-
“Pardonnez-moi, je n'ai pas bien saisi le sens de votre question.” (Excuse me, but I haven’t quite grasped the meaning of your question.)
A Chtimi would say-
“HEIN ?” (Huh?)
And indeed, one speaks plainly in ch’Nord. Though deeply religious, as is often the case in communities that match wits with the open sea, les Chtimis have retained a certain unpretentious earthiness, as evinced by the most popular form of amical address, Biloute, or the folk wisdom of such local proverbs as:
"Chti qu'i piche conte el vint, cha li rkét toudi su sin néz."
"Celui qui pisse contre le vent, ça lui retombe toujours dessus." (lit. He who pisses against the wind, it will always fall back on him.)
Brief introduction to a broad subject concluded. For more Chtimitude we recommend to those with a smattering of French this glossary at Ch’ti.org and this list of expressions at Wikipedia. And we at Ze Tao would like to reassure the reader zat we know our stuff (on l’conno), or at least Madame Ouestbrouq does; as whenever we call the grandparents up in ch’Nord, Madame may struggle with the odd word or phrase, but generally does quite well. Monsieur, less accustomed, has yet to resort to “HEIN ?”, but he may.
Ah ouais, min fieu, he may.
* Bieau = Beau
** Costaud = Tough / toughness / tough guy.
*** Poilu = Literally "hairy one"; a French WWI infantryman.
Dany Boon’s delightful Bienvenue Chez Les Ch'tis is available from Amazon, as are a few Tintin albums in Ch’ti (for those who’d like to antagonize their linguist friends).
Lionel Richie was not harmed in the making of this post.
I selected this post to be featured on my blog’s page at Culture Blogs.