May 23, 2014 § 30 Comments
I got called a ‘frog’ today. Every time this happens, it stuns me. Like stops me in my tracks stuns me. It’s happened a handful of times in my life, a few times in Ontario and British Columbia and now twice in Massachusetts. The last time it happened was at the bar of a restaurant in a small town in Western Massachusetts. I was having an amiable conversation with a guy about hockey. He was a New York Rangers’ fan and I, of course, cheer for the Habs. When I told him I was from Montreal, he said, “Oh, I guess that makes you a frog.” I don’t think he really understood what the word meant. But it was a conversation stopper, I visibly recoiled from him.
I have asked most of my French Canadian friends about this. They, of course, have been called ‘frog’ many times in their lives, in Canada, the US, and Britain. None of my friends is particularly fond of this particular epithet, of course, but most of them are also rather sanguine about it. Perhaps due to being called a ‘frog’ repeatedly, according to one friend. One of my tweeps is married to a French guy, as in from France, and she calls him ‘the Frog.’ Clearly, for most people who actually are French or French Canadian, the term isn’t a big deal. Me, on the other hand, it is a big deal for me. Maybe because I’m an Anglo.
The term ‘frog’ was actually first applied to the Dutch by the British, who saw the Dutch as marsh-dwellers. Get it? Frogs live in marshes, too. But then, in the mid-18th century, the French became the main enemies of the British, so the term got applied to the French due to their propensity towards eating frogs’ legs. Eventually, the term ended up getting applied to French Canadians, just, I suppose, due to Anglo laziness. Then again, Anglo Canadians have come up with other names for French Canadians, such as ‘pea soupers’ and ‘Pepsis,’ due to their alleged fondness for pea soup and Pepsi. One Anglo Montrealer once told me that the Pepsi epithet also worked because French Canadians were said to be ’empty from the neck up.’ And French-speaking Quebecers also have a whole long string of nasty names for Anglos, including my favourite, tête-carré.
But. I’m not French Canadian. I’m an Anglo from Quebec. So when I get called a ‘frog’, it stuns me. Today I was called a ‘frog’ because I was wearing my Montreal Canadiens ball cap around. I’m used to the abuse the hat brings me in and around Boston. I welcome most of it, especially since the Canadiens knocked out the Bruins in the last round of the playoffs. But usually it doesn’t go beyond “Habs suck” and variations thereof. I don’t get told to go back to Canada (though I was once told to “Get out of my country” by a guy in Vancouver once), I don’t get called names or anything like that and 98% of the banter is friendly. Since the Canadiens knocked out the Bruins, most people have even been respectful.
What makes today’s name-calling all the more puzzling is that I’m wearing a t-shirt that makes fun of Irish stereotypes and I have a huge Celtic cross tattooed on my right calf. So clearly I’m not French Canadian. And when this guy called me ‘frog’ and dissed the Habs, I actually stopped cold in my tracks. I was stunned. I just looked at him, he seemed to realise he’d gone too far and scooted off.
But I do find it interesting how much I detest the term. And how much it offends me. Any thoughts on the matter are welcome.