Linguistic Apartheid … but fries with the mussels all the same …

What’s in a language? In South Africa where I was born and grew up, there are 11 official languages. In my day there had been two only – Afrikaans and English. We grew up speaking both which is convenient because one doubles one’s stock of swear words. I’m not going to speak of what happened […]

Moules Frites / Mosselen met Friet

What’s in a language?

In South Africa where I was born and grew up, there are 11 official languages. In my day there had been two only – Afrikaans and English. We grew up speaking both which is convenient because one doubles one’s stock of swear words.

I’m not going to speak of what happened if your mother tongue happened to have been neither Afrikaans nor English, but what it came down to in a jiffy was Apartheid.

Today, there is no Apartheid in South Africa, but there is Apartheid right here in Europe

I am talking about Belgium, and it is linguistic Apartheid I have in mind, because there are Belgians who speak French and Belgians who speak Flemish and the two groups can’t stand one another. It is a dislike (even hatred) that’s been in existence since 1830 when the region broke away from the Netherlands to found an independent kingdom.

The French-speakers, the Walloons,  live in the south – Wallonia – and the Flemish-speaking ones, the Flemings or Flemish, in the north – Flanders. Let me give it its proper name in Flemish – Vlaanderen.

The reason I am blogging about this today is because there are whisperings in Paris’s corridors of power that the Walloons are speaking of breaking away from Flanders and becoming part of France.

Yes, the Walloons want to be French.

What are the French men in black thinking about this when they walk along Paris’s corridors of power?

They are thinking that once France would have needed Napoleon and his Grande Armée to have won territory, but look how civilized Europe has become when we no longer need guns to do so.

Belgium, a 30,528 sq kms (11,787 sq miles) Kingdom, has been without a government for three months now and it looks like Christmas will come and they still won’t have one.

Meanwhile, the two groups tell jokes about each other.

The Walloons, for example, ask  visitors what the difference is between a Fleming and a virgin. The answer: A Fleming will always be a Fleming.

As for the Flemish, they tell visitors how an African diplomat had pointed out to a Belgian government minister (a Fleming of course) that there were few trees in Brussels. The minister had replied that that was unfortunately so. “What,” the African diplomat had wanted to know, “do you do with your Walloons? They need trees to climb.”

Marilyn Z. Tomlins

5 Responses

9-22-2010 at 12:27:24

Not sure how one gets to the rest of the stories/articles

9-22-2010 at 13:45:55

Jo, the rest of the post should be below the picture.

9-22-2010 at 13:53:16

Jo, To open the post you double click on the title.

9-25-2010 at 06:19:24

Your Comments
Your new Website is great.
It’s always an advantage to be able to speak more than one language.
Om in Afrikaans te vloek is beter as in Engels. Besoekers sal nie verstaan nie, behalwe miskien die Flemish.
More expressive and to the point.

9-25-2010 at 07:35:20

Charmaine, ek stem saam. Maar nog die beste is om Frans te vloek!!

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