Ross Murray's Border Report
Ross Murray
is a freelance writer living in Stanstead, Quebec. You can reach him at
Posted 09.09.09
Stanstead, Quebec


This (openable) column has no strings attached

I could go on and on.

For instance, I could grumble at length about creeping French. It goes like this: "The cost of the belly dancing course is $50 (including finger cymbals). Inscription will take place on opening day."

Did you catch that? My spell checker didn't. That's because "inscription" is, in fact, a legitimate English word. But it doesn't mean "registration." It means something written on a surface. Unless there's some engraving going on (and for the belly dancers' sake, I hope not), don't use "inscription" to mean "registration."

It's bad enough when my municipality translates "Ville de Stanstead" as "City of Stanstead" (which, if true, would make Tomifobia the suburbs). But what really drives me crazy is when it comes from people who should know better.

Two weeks ago, for instance, Quebec's Sherbrooke Record referred to an organization wanting to assign Lake Memphremagog "patrimony" status. I can't remember the exact wording because I crumpled the paper in a ball and threw it across the room.

"'Heritage!'" I yelled. "The word is 'heritage!' It's a perfectly good word."

Oh, I could go on.

I could talk about having no problem with English adapting foreign words if they're improvements. I like "dépanneur," for example, so much more concise than "convenience store," so much more apt in meaning ("something that helps you out of a jam"), so much more likely to sell beer and wine until 11 p.m.

I could offer examples of needless imports, like this sentence: "I got a subvention to do my formation in animation during my stage at the polyvalent on Chemin Principale."

But I won't.

I could rant about grocery stores that label items "Three for $3.99," a con to make you think you need to buy three to get the savings, but really they're just $1.33 each.

Or six-dollar poutines at the Ayer's Cliff Fair.

Or how, with President Obama continuing the previous administration's policy of rendition and spying on American citizens, the anthem for people who voted for him will soon be The Who's "Won't Get Fooled Again."

But I won't.

What's really making me nuts are potato bags, specifically those !@*?&%!! strings on potato bags.

In theory, to open a potato bag, you're supposed to grab an end of the string, pull and, voila, the string comes out and the bag opens cleanly, ready for your potato-cooking pleasure. Very occasionally it works.

Most of the time, the string just tightens up and doesn't budge. Is it the wrong end? The wrong part of the string? Doesn't matter. Nothing works. That sucker won't open. This, I'm convinced, was the true cause of the Irish potato famine.

Inevitably, the only way to open the bag is by cursing and going at it violently with the nearest sharp object.

Is it just me? Am I doing something wrong?

To find out, I Googled "open potato bag string" and came up with two relevant entries, both of them on question-and-answer forums.

On the first site, one respondent suggested pulling the string firmly (duh!), while another said to cut the string with scissors. If I had scissors, I wouldn't need to mess with the string, would I?

On the other site, a woman asked how to open the bag and received no answer. She asked it in 2004! No one can answer because there are no answers.

Why do we remain silent? If I'm not alone on this (and I suspect I'm not), why are we allowing this to continue? In an age of Velcro, EZ-Tear strips, and wonder adhesives, why do we let potato growers inflict their sadistic packaging on the public?

We should be organizing protestations, writing to the deputies in our conscriptions throughout Quebec's Estrie region, maybe launch some kind of regional table. With your approbation, I'm positive we can ameliorate this situation.

Now crumple this newspaper into a ball and channel that anger at the spud-packers!