In Quebec, it’s considered controversial to greet people by saying “Bonjour-Hi,” because many politicians believe that using the English word — even after the French one — is too much of a concession to anglophones.
So the Bloc Québécois found a completely clear and uncontroversial holiday alternative: “Bonjour-Ho.” Catchy, no?
On new posters the party released in Montreal over the weekend, Santa — wearing a BQ-blue suit, rather than his traditional red — holds up his hand in celebration under the slogan “Bonjour-Ho.” Underneath, the text reads, “In 2021, we wish for a French Montreal.”
As many social media users quickly pointed out, the phrase may not work in quite the way the party intended, because a single “ho” carries a markedly different meaning than Santa’s very specific triple-barreled greeting of “ho ho ho.”
The “Bonjour-Hi” debacle kicked off in 2017, when the provincial Parti Québécois voted in favour of a motion for retail and service workers to greet customers with a unilingual “Bonjour.” The issue came up once again last year, when Quebec’s immigration minister Simon Jolin-Barrette said the province was looking to legislate a ban on “Bonjour-Hi.” After a backlash, Jolin-Barrette said the government would encourage retailers to greet customers in French, but wouldn’t force them.
French is the mother tongue of close to 80 per cent of Quebecers. French-language preservation efforts exist because of very real suppression of francophone language and culture in the 19th and 20th centuries. But as “Bonjour-Ho” might suggest, some efforts are more successful than others. And — crucially — everyone needs an editor.