Canadian Language Watchdog Says Too Much Italian On Restaurant Menu
words by Carol King
A row has blown up after an Italian restaurant in Montreal, Canada violated a law because it uses Italian words like ‘pasta’ on its menu.
The Office québécoise de la langue française (Quebec Board of the French Language, OQLF) warned the owner of Montreal restaurant Buonanotte that there were too many Italian words on the restaurant menu. The agency was founded in 1960s. It aims “to work on the normalisation of the language in Quebec and support State intervention to carry out a global language policy that would consider notably the importance of socio-economic motivations in making French the priority language in Quebec.”
The OQLF requested a copy of the offending menu after receiving a complaint from a citizen. Restaurant owner Massimo Lecas then received a letter from the language watchdog telling him he had violated the Charter of the French Language. Fines for violation can range from CAD$1,500 to CAD$20,000.
The agency cited words including ‘pasta’, ‘antipasto’, ‘calamari’ (squid), ‘pesce’ (fish) and ‘bottiglia’ (bottle). The organisation did not include the word ‘pizza’ among the list of violations.
Lecas told the Canadian ‘National Post’ that the language police “...told me ‘polpette’ [Italian meatball] should be ‘boulettes de viande’, so I asked them what to call ‘insalata caprese’ [tomato and mozzarella salad].”
He pointed out that some of the descriptions have no French equivalent, telling the ‘National Post’: “We’ve asked them what they would recommend, and they don’t even have answers.”
News of the restaurant’s plight caused a storm on Twitter, with people taking to the social-media site to criticise the agency and calling the situation ‘pastagate’.
Diane De Courcy, the minister responsible for the language law, said she would look into the matter. Later, De Courcy conceded that the watchdog had been overzealous in routing out the Italian names of dishes in an Italian restaurant.
A compromise was reached and Lecas will be able to continue to use appropriate names for classic Italian dishes.
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