Je me souviens... quoi?
April 5, 2009 5:26 AM   Subscribe

Is there more to the Quebec slogan "Je Me Souviens" than "I Remember"?

I lived in Quebec for five years, leaving before the infamous 1995 Referendum. The slogan printed on all of the license plates, of course, is Je Me Souviens. Exactly what is being remembered is up to question, though it's usually taken to mean that Quebeckers remember their own history and heritage in some sense.

Anyway, around this time journalist Nick Auf Der Mar (this woman's father, in case you're wondering) wrote a newspaper column discussing the lead-up to the referendum, and I distinctly recall him claiming that "Je Me Souviens" was a fragment of a longer quote from a French-Quebecker who was loyal to England: "Je me souviens que, né sous le lys, j'ai fleuri sous la rose" ("I remember that, although born under the fleur de lys, I blossomed under the rose" - the lys being the symbol of France, and the rose being England.)

I've always meant to look into this story and see if it was true. Recently I tried a Google search on the subject, but the best I could come up with was this page which seems to write off the story as a myth or conjecture (my French is not as good as I would like, I'm afraid). Does anyone else remember this Auf Der Mar article, or others making the same claim that the "Je me souviens" slogan is taken out of context? And is there any truth to it at all?
posted by spoobnooble to Society & Culture (9 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Wikipedia seems to have the answer
posted by bluefrog at 5:42 AM on April 5, 2009

I always thought it was taken from the song Un Acadien Errant, about the 1755 expulsion.
posted by palliser at 7:42 AM on April 5, 2009

Palliser, Acadien and Quebecois aren't the same thing--they speak a different kind of French, and have a different history, afaik.
posted by stray at 8:57 AM on April 5, 2009 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Hélène Paquet, grand-daughter of Eugène Taché was wrong. She was actually confusing two separate but similar quotes from her grandfather!
However, it has now been clearly established that the "poem" from which the "complete motto" comes does not exist and that it is, in fact, two separate mottos thought up by the same person. Taché designed the second motto — Née dans les lis, je grandis dans les roses (Born in the lilies, I grow in the roses) - for a monument that was never built, and then used the motto on the tricentennial medal of Quebec in 1908.

The most interesting witness on this matter is David Ross McCord (1844-1930), who commented on both mottos in his Historical Notebook around 1900: "However mistaken may be the looking towards France as a disintegrating factor operating against the unification of the nation — it may be perhaps pardonable — no one can gainsay the beauty and simplicity of Eugene Taché's words 'Je me souviens. ' He and Siméon Lesage have done more than any two other Canadians towards elevating the architectural taste in the Province. Is Taché not also the author of the other motto — the sentiment of which we will ali drink a toast: 'Née dans les lis, je croîs dans les roses.' There is no disintegration there."

This account by the founder of Montreal McCord Museum proves beyond any doubt that there were two separate mottos that in no way shared the same meaning.
Thanks for digging this up, I've been curious about the same question for a long time.
posted by furtive at 9:44 AM on April 5, 2009 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Oh, I should mention that the confusion started in 1978, the same year je me souviens was put on QC license plates, when the Montreal Star received a letter to the editor from Paquet with the erroneous info. Nick Auf de Maur was citing that in his referendum article.
posted by furtive at 9:50 AM on April 5, 2009

Regarding the Acadien thing, The Canadian Encylopedia seems to have an answer. The song was Un Canadien Errant, written about the exiles after the 1837 Lower Canada Rebellions, and was borrowed by the descendants of the earlier-expelled Acadians.
posted by Clandestine Outlawry at 11:00 AM on April 5, 2009

Thanks -- I thought maybe the song lyrics had migrated the other way.
posted by palliser at 11:59 AM on April 5, 2009

In Tourouvre (in le Perche, lower Normandy), site of origin of many groups of 17c emigrants to Canada, I came across the form: "Je me souviens [le/mon] Dieu et la France." I have no idea how far back this idea goes, but in le Perche they seem to think the saying originated with the percherons who emigrated.
posted by sevenstars at 10:05 AM on April 6, 2009

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