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Baseball vs. French Grammar

While one can hardly blame French-Canadian elements for cultivating some hostility toward our fair game, why take it out on the poor semi-pro Ottawa Fat Cats and their awesome team name?

What am I talking about? This:

Basically, the Fat Cats offer discounted tickets to Ottawa’s various school boards. (The discount is actually ridiculous — $4 for a ticket, six for a ticket and a box lunch.)

The game is on May 24, at 11 a.m., so it is like a field trip for the kids.

The Fat Cats will also have a barbecue for teachers and parents who come out to help.

In January, the team approached Ottawa’s various school boards and asked if a flyer, advertising the event, could be distributed at their schools.

Some school boards were quick to say yes. Already, the flyers have been distributed at schools like St, Pius X, St. Peter’s and Holy Trinity.

One school board, however, was just as quick to say no — Conseil des écoles publiques de l’Est de l’Ontario (CEPEO).

The board representing French public schools in Eastern Ontario turned down the offer — not because it didn’t like baseball — but because the Fat Cat’s flyer, written in French, was not grammatically correct.

“I was pretty taken aback when we were turned down,” remembers MacDonald. “All I was doing was asking the board if their kids wanted to come out and see a baseball game. I didn’t think I was writing a test.”

The school board, for its part, insists it was the right thing to do, turning down the offer to attend school day at Ottawa Stadium.

“We receive about 140 requests a year to distribute advertisements through our schools,” says board spokesperson Marilyne Guèvremont. “We have an educational mandate to promote the French language.

“How can we meet that mandate if we let flyers with all sorts of mistakes be distributed at our schools?”

Duncan insists the mistakes in the flyers were minimal — a couple of missing accents for the most part — but he accepted the school board’s decision. It was, he says, their call. Better luck next year.

The kicker — and there’s always a kicker — is that said school board soon thereafter solicited the Fat Cats for a donation. There’s a French word for such behavior, and that French word, in French, is “chutzpah.” As much as I am tempted to wallow in stereotypes in the service of cheap yuks (e.g., “Perhaps they’d have accepted the offer if the box lunch had included wine, cigarettes and canned ennui! Hah!”), doing so does not promote healing. What does promote healing when it comes to linguistic slap-fights? Yahoo! Babel Fish.

In this space, we’ve witnessed its powers before, so why not summon up those powers once again? In a related matter, few works of art demonstrate an appreciation of French customs and folkways quite like the second stanza of Bon Jovi’s power ballad, “Bed of Roses“:

With an ironclad fist I wake up and
French kiss the morning
While some marching band keeps
Its own beat in my head
While we’re talking
About all of the things that I long to believe
About love and the truth and
What you mean to me
And the truth is baby you’re all that I need

It’s a plaintive yet resolute call for understanding, which is what is needed here, and it also mentions something French, which should appease the aggrieved school board. Now let’s take it to Babel Fish and translate it into French and then back to English. The pleasing output:

With an armor-plated fist I awake and
the French embrace the morning
Tandis qu’ a certain brass band keeps
Its own beat in my head
While we’ ; to speak
Re About all the things which I to believe a long time
About l’ love and of the truth and
What want to say you to me
And the truth is the baby you’ ; about all of what j’ need

Yes, I think we’re going to be okay. Thanks to our manipulations, the French kiss has become a less presumptive embrace, although still French. The marching band, with its unhelpful hints of militarism, is now a brass band, which has long been a symbol of accord between French-language grammar schools and the semi-pro baseball teams that afflict them. And best of all: French accents placed with the unyielding accuracy for which free Internet translators are world-famous.

Poutine for all!