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This won't hurt a bit.

This won’t hurt a bit.

The people over at the Office québécois de la langue française (OQLF) would tut-tut me if they read this, but you can in fact learn some colloquial Québécois French (you know, that really BAD stuff) by using their BDL, or Banque de dépannage linguistique.

The purpose of the BDL is to suggest alternatives to usages the OQLF deems unfit. For example, if we go into the section called Les anglicismes, and then into the subsection Anglicismes intégraux (yes, there are subsections — this is serious business), we find an entry dedicated to the noun rush. We’ll look at what it means in a minute.

On the page for rush, we discover the OQLF considers this noun (and the corresponding verb rusher) to be fautif, or wrong. They provide example sentences using the so-called incorrect word rush (in red), then demonstrate how to rephrase them using OQLF-approved vocabulary (in green).

This condescending approach is detrimental to the French language. Rush and rusher may certainly be inappropriate in formal language, but this does not equate to being outright incorrect in all language situations.

1. Informal language is not inferior language. (Gabe Doyle)

2. Informal language is normal language. (Geoffrey Pullum)

The position adopted by the OQLF is just as misguided as arguing this: “The verb se sustenter is incorrect because it is not used in everyday language. People use manger when speaking normally, therefore se sustenter should be eliminated and replaced by manger in all language situations to encourage comprehension between speakers. Se sustenter does not fill any voids in the language; the perfectly acceptable manger already exists and is used and understood by all speakers.”

That argument is nonsense, of course, and nobody would ever take it seriously. The most we can say about se sustenter is that it’s probably inappropriate in everyday conversations. Why? Because you risk being laughed at for using it, and not because a group of language revisionists working in offices decided it to be so.

Rush and rusher may be inappropriate in formal language, but this doesn’t mean they can’t also be entirely appropriate in everyday conversations. It’s possible (and even necessary) for both to be true without the language falling apart.

Why do we continue to put up with the promotion of language impoverishment? Because, yes, working actively to eliminate certain words despite their obvious utility and richness of nuance (just look at how many different ways rush and rusher were rendered into “correct” French in the BDL) is the promotion of language impoverishment.

Why do we continue to put up with the telling of falsehoods? Because, yes, labelling outright as fautif a word in common usage in the French of Québec is the telling of a falsehood. A manipulative one.

If the OQLF’s revised examples in the BDL were genuinely better, speakers would have already found a way to use them without having to be coerced. Speakers choose to use words that convey what they need them to convey.

The OQLF’s position is detrimental to French: it leads people to apply a negative judgement to something that was never problematic to begin with. Unless you believe the anglophone world to be the Great Satan, there’s nothing inherently wrong with using a word that entered French by way of English. All words come from somewhere.

Let’s (finally!) look at the noun rush and verb rusher. I’ll take some of the “bad” examples of usage from the BDL and put them below, with a translation into English. I won’t include all the examples because some of them aren’t terribly useful, and I won’t include the OQLF’s “cleaned-up” versions either. If you’d like to read them, you’ll find them here on the page for rush.

I take no issue with providing alternative ways of wording sentences, as the OQLF does. We can all benefit — native speakers and learners alike — from learning how to rephrase our thoughts to fit the circumstances. The examples provided by the OQLF can in fact be useful to francophones when writing.

What I take issue with is the notion that an informal word borrowed from English is necessarily inferior and dangerous to the French language. Is the vitality of French so precarious that it requires these kinds of interventions, attempting to amputate certain words from the language as if they were infected with gangrene? I don’t believe so, and not by a long shot.

Or perhaps a better parallel would be to compare words borrowed from English to physical imperfections. Maybe you can get away with a little nip here, and a little tuck there. But if you keep going, you end up with trout pout. Thanks, but no thanks. I’ll take the real thing no matter how “imperfect.”

The noun rush is pronounced roche.
The verb rusher is pronounced roché.

Here are examples from the BDL:

le rush, un rush

C’est déjà le rush du temps des fêtes dans les magasins.
The holiday rush is on in the stores.

Le musée a connu un rush de visiteurs lors de sa dernière exposition.
The museum had a rush of visitors at the last exhibit.

Le rush du retour à la maison m’a paru interminable.
The [after-work] rush home seemed endless to me.

rusher

J’ai rushé sur mes travaux scolaires de fin de session.
I rushed my end-of-term school assignments. I worked hard to finish them.

Lise a rushé pour avoir le poste d’adjointe à la direction.
Lise went to a lot of work to get the job of assistant manager.

L’entrepreneur a rushé la construction de l’immeuble avant l’arrivée des grands froids.
The contractor sped up the construction of the building before the cold set in.

Comme chaque année, les employés du magasin vont rusher le jour des soldes de l’Après-Noël.
Like every year, store employees are going to have a lot of work during the Boxing Day sales.

In fact, the term Boxing Day is still heard in Québécois French (the Boxing Day tradition traces back to the British), alongside the OQLF-approved term soldes de l’Après-Noël. So you might catch someone saying that last example as:

Comme à chaque année, les employés du magasin vont rusher le jour du Boxing Day.

You’re probably so observant that I failed to sneak in that à this time without you noticing, didn’t I?

comme chaque année
comme à chaque année

What’s the difference between the two? There’s no difference in meaning whatsoever. But in regular conversations with the Québécois, I bet you’ll hear the second one, comme à chaque année.

In fact, you may even catch someone use comme à chaque année (or one of the other examples below) in formal language too. Why? Well, because it sounds perfectly normal! Alas, the Grammar Police disagree and insist the preposition à here must go, ‘cos, you know, it’s like a big deal or something.

à chaque jour = chaque jour,
à chaque semaine = chaque semaine,
à chaque minute = chaque minute,
à chaque fois = chaque fois,
etc.

À chaque fois que je visite le site de l’OQLF, je commence à shaker.
Everytime I visit the OQLF website, I start to shake.

As a learner of French, it’s best to say things the way people you associate with say them. The advice from the OQLF is meant for native speakers, who can either take it or leave it. I suggest you take your cue from francophones in your own age and social group, rather than from sources like the BDL. And if you are indeed going to use something like the BDL, take what you find there with a grain of salt.

Let’s finish up by looking at a usage the OQLF didn’t touch on: the expression c’est rushant.

C’est rushant, cinq enfants.
Five kids — it’s a lot of work.

Maudit que c’est rushant le rôle de maman.
Damn it’s a lot of work being a mother.

La première fois, c’est rushant. La deuxième fois, c’est du gâteau.
The first time is hard. The second time is a piece of cake.

Rushant is pronounced rochant.

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