Today I watched a film called Éloge du chiac, which was basically a documentary featuring an argument between fourteen year olds (in 1969) over linguistic primacy in Moncton. I've mentioned chiac before, comme c'est un right weird way de parler si vous autres l'avez pas entendu. In Cajun English, there is, of course, a similar phenomenon: the mixture of English syntax with Cajun locutions, such as "Mais, I went to the bar me, and I got casséd." It is a less extreme version of some of the more pronounced forms of chiac here, yet like chiac, it is a source of both cultural pride and insecurity.
This ambivalence toward one's dialect creates a fierce communal situation which is one of the links between the Acadian and Cajun cultures. The people within both cultures strongly identify with their heritage-or at least make a strong showing for it. Many critics have descried the fact that Cajuns have more or less lost their French as evidence that they are assimilating into mainstream American culture. This is a harsh and ignorant stance.
Cultures evolve, and one cannot fault another for learning the language of the land in order to feed his or her family. But nevertheless, the Acadians qui parle chiac can teach the Cajuns something about dynamism.
For instance, the primary pro-chiac girl in the video, a Melançon, said, "Si je rencontre un français, je vais sortir mon bon français., pis chez nous autres, on parle du chiac. Pis s'il y a des anglophones, je peux parler tout en anglais. Ça montre qu'on est pas mal smart." (If I meet a francophone, I pull out my good French, and at home, we speak chiac. And if there are anglophones, I can speak completely in English. It shows us to be pretty smart.)
There is a code-switching that demonstrates that the culture is ready to play ball, but will not forget the intensity of the heritage experience, the secret language of the initiated.
This is interesting when it comes to regional poetry as well, because here à Moncton, many writers write in chiac or variations of Acadian French. Yet I have my own linguistic insecurity. I don't alter my orthography to math the phonetics of Cajun English. My syntax, yes. Do I throw in French words, occasionally. But whereas poets from Guy Arsenault to Georgette LeBlanc feel comfortable writing "ej" for "je" and "rinque" or "yinque" for "rien que," I will not write "dis" for "this." In English, this looks comical, sort of ridiculous, and nearly impossible for someone to take seriously on a poetic level. In Alma by Georgette LeBlanc, I see nothing of the over-quaintness of orthographically modified regional slang. But apparently, les québécois might, and almost certainly les français.
I still feel a need to both embody and rupture my culture, my psyche, my poetics in this. For right now, I need other anglophones to take me seriously, and so I