AngryFrenchGuy

Posts Tagged ‘pure laine

Pure Laine is an English Word

with 142 comments

pure laine again

Just about as long as I’ve had this blog I’ve been using Google Alerts, a service that notifies you whenever some word or words of your choice pops up anywhere on the Internet.  I’ve been using to cover the AngryFrenchBeat, monitoring what’s being said about Québec, Montréal and Beyoncé on the Web.

One of the words I’ve been keeping track of for a few months is Pure Laine.  According to wikipedia, Pure Laine is “a politically and culturally charged phrase referring to the people having original ancestry of the French-Canadians.”  Apparently, at least according to Sun Media columnist Micheal Den Tendt, “many “pure-laine” Quebecers have always believed — that they, the descendants of original French settlers, are the only true Quebecois.”

The concept of the Pure Laine (or Pur Laine, I track the two spellings) was at the center of the infamous Jan Wong controversy.  In 2006 she wrote in the Globe & Mail about the Dawson College shooter Kimveer Gill: “the perpetrator was not pure laine, the argot for a ‘pure’ francophone. Elsewhere, to talk of racial ‘purity’ is repugnant. Not in Quebec.”

Well, it seems the English Canadian media has been doing a little bit of projection, here.   In the six months or so that I’ve been tracking the use of Pure Laine on the Internet, the racial purity of the Québécois has been an EXCLUSIVELY English-Canadian preoccupation.

The term Pure Laine came up in 56 english-language web pages, that’s more than twice as often as it’s use on french-language websites.

In thirty-seven cases – that’s 70% of the time – Pure Laine is used in English to describe the Québécois of Franco-Catholic ancestry.  This seems to be a very important concept in the English-canadian worldview.  Whenever Québec, canadian politics or language is discussed, the Pure Laine come up.  Not the Québécois as a civic nation.  Not French-speakers as a linguistic group.  Pure Laine Québécois as an ethnic group.  The Québécois as a race.

Of course, the people using the the term Pure Laine deny being the ones preocupied by the ethnic purity of the Québécois.  Nearly a third of the uses of Pure Laine were by people who felt they could state with absolute authority that “Pure laine is what some francophones from Quebec like to call themselves to state that they have pure, undiluted French blood and that they can trace their lineage all the way back to the original settlers who sailed over from France in the 1600’s”

What do bloggers know, you say?  Well one of them (one of only three english-language sources who challenged the ‘fact’ of Québec’s preoccupation with ethnic purity) kindly dug up a quote from some Calgary West Reform Party MP called Stephen Harper who, back in 1995, declared in the House of Commons: “Obviously, given the ethnic and sociocultural make-up of modern Quebec society, only the pure laine Quebecois could arguably be considered a people.”

Whatever happened to Stephen Harper?

In both English and French, Pure Laine has entered the vocabulary as a synonym for ‘true’, ‘old school’ or, more appropriatly, ‘dyed-in-the-wool’.  It came up to describe “Pure Laine Montrealers“, “Pure Laine federalists“, “Pure Laine proletarians“, and even Paul McCartney’s “Pure Laine Heterosexuality“.  In French the concept of “Pure Laine Shawin”  – as in the good people of Shawinigan, the home of former Prime minister and savior of Canadian federalism Jean Chrétien – came up no less than four times…

Such use of Pure Laine accounted for one third of the 25 times the word came up in French.  It was also used 33% of the time to discuss the Québécois, and another 33% of the time to describe – get this – WOOL.

In French, the term Pure Laine was used 8 times to describe people of ‘white-french-catholic-north-americans-of-franco-french‘ ancestry.  Five of those who used the word, however, would not be considered Pure Laine themselves by that definition…

The word is used, for example, in the journal Voir in a review of a book by Senegal-born comedian and marine biologist (yep.) Boucar Diouf about, precisely, the different prejudice and misunderstandings held by the Québécois, “Pure Laine and also immigrant”.

Imam Abou Hammaad Sulaiman Dameus Al-Hayiti, a black Québécois convert to a radical strand of Islam who’s been in the news lately, uses it to defend himself in La Presse against accusations of racism and hate speech.  His mother and grand-mother, he reminded the journalist, are Pure Laine.

Kim Myung-Sook uses the term Pure Laine to describe herself in her fascinating blog about the identity crisis of the children of massive international adoption who are just now coming of age all over the western world.  “Rejected/Sold by Korea.  Bought/assimilated by the Québécois.  I am a transracial adoptee, a reject of korean society recycled into a Québécoise Pure Laine with the appearance of an asian.  Ex-Korean, false Korean, Korean assimilated by the Québécois.”

“Un show Québécois Pure Laine” is also used as a caption to a picture of hip hop crew Loco Locass (who’s members are not all, as a matter of fact, Pure Laine) and as the theme of a series of videos by comedian Guy Nantel.  Whether Nantel’s objective was the glorification of the Pure Laines’ racial superiority, I’ll let you be the judge of that…

As for examples of Pure Laine Québécois claiming Pure Laine-ness, exalting the purity of their roots and the special privilege that comes or should come with the ability to trace one’s ancestors to Samuel de Champlain and his crew, not a single one.  Pas un.  Nada.  Zéro.

That definition of Pure Laine, it seems, is a purely English-language concept…

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Written by angryfrenchguy

January 11, 2009 at 5:27 pm

Pure Laine Black Sheep

with 66 comments

I am Pure Laine.

I’m the prototypical Frog. I’m a Pepsi, a Pea Soup, a fucking Frenchy. I’m white and French-speaking and baptized in the Holy Catholic Church.

I’m exactly who you’re talking about when you call someone Pure Laine. The grandson of a farmer who was the grandson of a voyageur who was the grandson of a Norman sailor.

I’m Pure Laine. As pure as they come.

How pure is that? I’ll tell you how pure.

As pure as my English-speaking father and his Jewish girlfriend. As pure as English-speaking grandfather and his protestant mother.

Last year a man in Toronto asked my mother if she was Chinese. It wasn’t the first time. That’s how Pure Laine my mother is. As pure as any other Paquette out there. As pure as the anonymous Huron warrior or Cantonese railway worker who left the genes to those eyes in my bloodline. As pure as the Irishman who brought my red hair to America.

I’m as pure as the Beauce’s Besré, Maheux, Allaire and Dallaire who’s ancestors were German mercenairies. As pure as the Russians of Rawdon and the Italians of St-Léonard.

In 1764 David David was the first Jew born in Québec. In 1912 Fleurette David, my grandmother, was born in Montreal. Was she a descendent of David David? Am I? To tell you the truth, I have no idea. So how the fuck would you you know? And what exactly would that change between you and me? Do you think I’d feel less Québécois because I had a Jewish ancestor? How about you, would you think less of me?

Would you take my name of the Pure Laine registry?

My name is Georges Boulanger. Google it for fun. Georges Boulanger is also the name of a French fascist general and a Romanian gypsy violinist. So what’s in a name? What could my name possibly tell you about who I am?

I’m as pure as any Québécois who’s family tree has at least one root that goes back to those first French settlers, as pure as Gregory Charles, Aly N’Diaye, Normand Brathwaite and Donald Brashear.

That’s about as pure as it gets. Even if I accept the ridiculous premise that there is such a thing as a “Pure Québécois”, an idea that no one cares about except a few retarded traditionalists and their biggest supporters, Canada’s English-speaking media.

Even if I accept to even think about Québec from that fictional point of view, that there ever was pure seed to the Québec genome, that Québec was somehow isolated from the movement of peoples in America and Europe before that.

Even if I let you suppose that I would for one second consider that someone who’s ancestors came here a little bit later, maybe five, six, three or two generations ago, were any less Québécois than I am, that’s still about as pure as it gets.

Why would you call me Pure Laine? Who exactly are you to cast the Québécois out of the ebb and flow of peoples and cultures? On what authority do you isolate a group of people, French-speaking North Americans, as somehow “pure”, untouched by time, as an anachronistic impediment to what should have been the ‘natural’ course of history?

The idea of the Pure Laine Québécois, the ethnicity of the Québécois is an invisible leash drawn around Québec to limit it’s contact with the world outside, folklorise a people and marginalize a culture. It’s a mental reservation.

It’s a lie. I’ve got the same parents as the rest of you, I just turned out a little bit different.

Yes I am Pure Laine. A Pure Laine Black Sheep.

Written by angryfrenchguy

May 26, 2008 at 12:58 pm