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On the outside of a can of alphabet soup, ingredients and cooking instructions are in both French and English as required under federal legislation. But companies like Campbell’s can put any letters they want on the inside of the can. Québec’s PQ government says this laissez-faire approach is a threat to the survival of the French language in North America.
“The food industry is literally putting a foreign tongue into the mouths of québécois youth,” said PQ Families Minister Nicole Léger. “It’s disgusting.”
A study by the Office québécois de la langue française (OQLF) has concluded that the letters in most alphabet soup products are 77% more likely to produce words in English than in French. “There are too many letters commonly used in English like W and Y, and not enough letters like Q and U that we use more in French,” said OQLF spokesperson Monique Laval. “It makes it much more difficult for children to make words in French.” The OQLF would like to see the Charter of the French Language amended to impose quotas on certain alphabet soup letters and it is recommending that alphabet pasta makers be required to produce a certain number of accents that are used in French spelling.
Anglophone rights groups have vowed to fight the proposed legislation. They are warning of an exodus of Anglophone families to Canadian provinces where English-speaking children can obtain the full educational value of alphabet soup word building.
Faced with well-financed opposition from business lobby groups, the PQ has recently backed down on a number of election promises, from increasing taxes on the wealthy to abolishing the regressive “health tax.” Nevertheless, Ms. Léger claims her government will hold firm on the “francization of alphabet pasta,” because, unlike fiscal measures that merely seek to reduce the growing gap between the super-wealthy and the vast majority of Québec citizens, “French alphabet pasta is crucial to feeding the future generations of the Québec nation.”
David Bernans is a Québec-based writer and translator. Follow him on twitter @dbernans.
* Note from the author: Although this article bears an uncanny resemblance to certain recent events, it is entirely satirical in nature. The author is not aware of any plans to legislate the francization of alphabet pasta.