Just as Quebec’s government mulls a crackdown on the bilingual greeting “bonjour hi”, a coffee shop named Bonjour/Hi is preparing to open in the Latin Quarter.
Via the CBC, chef and baker Dave Plant will open the café on St-Denis Street between Sherbrooke and Ontario. Plant currently runs the very bilingually-titled bakehouse and brunch/lunch spot Bouffe Dave Plant Food on de Maisonneuve Boulevard in the Village; he has also been a long-time supplier of baked goods for a variety of cafés in Montreal, including Petite-Patrie favourite Pista, and notable roastery Dispatch.
While it’s not even open yet, Bonjour/Hi’s name earned it a pile of free press over the weekend. Late on Friday, Simon Jolin-Barrette, the Quebec minister for immigration who also oversees the French language portfolio, announced his interest in banning the hybrid French and English greeting “bonjour hi”.
That greeting is relatively common in shops and other businesses in downtown Montreal, and could be considered an invitation for customers to be served in whichever language they prefer. As the Gazette noted by speaking to downtown merchants, it’s arguably just a polite way to greet customers when it’s unclear what their preferred language is — a particularly common scenario in tourist-heavy areas like Old Montreal.
The fuss was all for nothing, though, as the ruling Coalition Avenir Québec party, declared on Monday that it would not ban the phrase “bonjour hi”, wisely realizing that a government-sanctioned list of “bad words” is not a great look. This isn’t the first time Quebec politicians have fretted over the greeting — in 2017, the National Assembly passed a motion criticizing the “bonjour hi” phrase, with support from all parties. However, that motion was symbolic and had no real effect; it was the rough equivalent of saying “we don’t like this thing but also we’re not doing anything about it”.
Back to the coffee shop: Plant told the CBC and other news organizations that he had actually chosen the name before this weekend’s political kerfuffle (business records show that the name was registered over the summer). For the record, he also noted that his employees are generally bilingual.
Plant told Global News that while he didn’t exactly want to wade into a political issue, the unexpected free publicity was a likely boon for the cafe, which will open in November. Eater has reached out for details on what Bonjour/Hi will serve.
Of course, there’s one question that remains: will Plant be able to use the name Bonjour/Hi under Quebec’s strict language laws? That’s a tough call — rules from the Office Québécois de la Langue Français state that business names should be in French (existing trademarks, such as Home Depot, are exempted from this). Bonjour/Hi is not exactly French, but it’s also not not-French. Our guess? Put a French word like “café” or “boulangerie” in front of “Bonjour/Hi” and it should be good to go.
- As Quebec sets sights on bilingual greeting, Montrealer plans to open Café Bonjour/Hi [CBC]
- Downtown merchants say good business matters, not “Bonjour-Hi” [Montreal Gazette]
- Cafe Bonjour/Hi to open as Quebec government mulls ways to ban greeting [Global]
- CAQ will not ban use of ‘bonjour-hi’ in Montreal shops [CTV]
- Les Noms d’Entreprise [OQLF]