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Tintin, the popular French speaking comic book character, speaks a slang known as “joual” (at least  in books sold in Quebec). Profs, columnists and others in salons in the Plateau Montreal and Outremont are outraged reports the National Post.

The above piece singled out two reactions from members of the Quebec intelligentsia that merit mention here.

Odile Tremblay of Le Devoir opined:

“In Quebec, we may speak strangely, but we write in French, and little Quebecers can read Tintin in the original, even learning a few new words along the way. So, a translation…. We have a bit of pride left. Don’t go taking that from us. Seriously!”

Claude Poirier, a linguistics prof at U de Laval in Quebec City said:

” They talk about using Quebec French, but really it is Quebec French slang. If it was in Quebec French, there would not be much interest because we speak French like the French from France. I see it a bit as a parody.”

Members of the salon-set don’t constitute a huge swath of people. However, I think the reaction to the Tintin edition in which the pointy haired little fellow speaks joual is interesting. Why?

In short, it flies in the face of conventional marketing/PR logic. You make a commercial about trucks in Britain you call them lorries. Generally speaking, if you run a radio ad in the Deep South, you use a Southern accent for the voiceover. We are taught – better put it is ACCEPTED wisdom – that you tailor communications and dialogue to the linguistic and cultural specifics of a market (with some exceptions).

This is a case of  going somewhere, trying to speak the dialect of the tribe and catching shit for it due to some insecurity amongst a part of said tribe.

Has this ever happened to you in any of your marketing efforts? Have you tried to fit in and then caught hell because your attempt hit particular “insecurity” nerves of the group you were selling to?

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