Sunday, June 24, 2007

where have all the palindromes gone?

this is my fourth trip to montreal, but my last visit was more than half my lifetime ago. my prior visits were all on family trips when i was a teenager or younger. my family used to come to quebec to ski, so this is my first visit to this city when it wasn't winter. it has been interesting seeing how this trip, right around the summer solstice, compares to my childhood memories of this place.

actually, my experience here has borne almost no relation to what i remember about this place. instead of an underground and indoor city, there are outdoor cafes and parks. it's prettier than i remember, but again, that probably had more to do with being shut up inside the whole time were were here.

but there's also something else that's different too. i remember all the signs here being bilingual. because in french the adjective follows the noun whereas it precedes the noun in english, the bilingual signs were written like palindromes. so, for example a box of tomatoes might be labeled: "red tomates rouge."

there's still a little bit of that here (the sign in front of the starbucks down the street says "cafe starbucks coffee"--which is the same idea even though its not a noun-adjective thing), but for the most part the palindromes are gone. the signs aren't bilingual, they're just in french. so did i remember it wrong, or did the signs change?

another thing: there's this story i remember from one of my early teenage visits here. my family was driving into montreal and i saw signs that said: "a louer to rent" all over the place. i misread the "u" as a "v" so i read the sign as "a lover to rent." it seemed like everywhere we went was one big red light district. later, i was in a high school french class and i realized that "a louer" just means "to rent."

that's the story, but did it really happen? the "to rent" signs just say "a louer" these days. unless things have moved from being bilingual to monolingual the story would have to be wrong, one of those things that i've convinced myself happened but never really did.

(post edited to fix my stupid mistake. thanks bobby!)