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French usage of "Square" different from English...

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Gatineau plans a 'square' that's a 'place' by any other name
Is it really a square if it lacks railings?

Dave Rogers
The Ottawa Citizen

May 5, 2005




The City of Gatineau is planning to convert a one-hectare field near the former Gatineau city hall into "le square de la Cite," a public space for outdoor performances in the summer and skating throughout the winter.

But "le square" is not really a square in the English sense of the word.

Councillor Joseph De Silva, who represents Versant Ward near the centre of the Gatineau sector, says the word "square" will apply only to the green area.

When the surrounding streets and buildings are included, it could be called "la place de la Cite."

The Office quebecois de la langue francaise, which enforces the province's Charter of the French Language, says "un square" is a public garden and should not be confused with the English word "square," which means "une place."

Helene Lajoie, a spokeswoman for the office, said the French word means a small public garden surrounded by railings.

Ms. Lajoie added she was not sure whether it would be correct to use the word "square" for a one-hectare open space without railings.

Shana Poplack, a University of Ottawa linguistics professor, said the word "square" is a word French-speakers have borrowed from English in the same way that the English borrowed French words like judge and court.

The $2.2-million project near a municipal arts centre at de la Cite and la Gappe boulevards will include a covered stage, enough space for 3,500 spectators, an outdoor skating rink, a gravel path around the perimeter and a fountain with coloured lights.

Developers will pay for a a storm water retention pond in the square. Construction is to start next spring. Mr. De Silva said the square will be the largest public open space in the urban part of Gatineau.

Loudspeakers are to be installed on lampposts so there will be music for skaters and pedestrians.

Gatineau Mayor Yves Ducharme said the square is intended as a space that will develop a sense of identity and belonging in the area.

Mr. De Silva said the city wanted to build a public open space in the centre of the Gatineau sector, opposite the Library and Archives Canada building.

"There will be a covered stage for musical groups, a lot of trees and stone benches," Mr. De Silva said. "It will be a place where you can park your car and go and relax with your family.

"This place will help to attract more development. We attract 500,000 people a year to the Maison de la Culture. With a $30-million sports complex nearby, there will be movement there from 6 a.m. until midnight."

Mr. De Silva said the square and the planned sports complex will show that the area can be an attractive place for more government buildings.

"We need to bring life to the area and provide a space where people can walk around. A pedestrian mall with four- or five-storey houses and restaurants and bistros in the bottom like they have in Europe will be built beside Maison de la Culture across from the square."
 

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Great idea to have a public space in Gatineau irrespective of the name.

What is funny is that the word square is actually latin/French in origin, and has been modified over time to becomme "carre" (s is dropped, and qu becomes a c). The English simply adopted the French word for a rectangular space, the french word metamorphosed, and then the word returns to French through Britain, which later adopted the trend of putting fenced in gardens in the middle of large public spaces. In Montreal most squares are still termed squares as it is proper french as well as proper English (Square Victoria Square, Square St. Louis, etc.)
 
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