HOME HEARTSTRING 35: EXAGGERATION

Quebecers are known for laying it on thick.

Marcel Rioux asks, “Where does this habit of always exaggerating and phrasing things in a fascinating and captivating way come from? It comes from belonging to a very friendly people who like to talk and share stories with others.” (One might think the sociologist is contradicting Heartstring 12, but we won’t worry about that since we’ve openly admitted there are a few other paradoxes in the grid.)

We often wonder what to say, hoping to draw attention through the anecdotes we tell. Rioux backs this idea. “In a traditional environment where nothing interesting ever really happened and exciting events were few and far between, it became necessary [for Quebecers] to fabricate these instances, or at the very least attempt to make the mundane seem more interesting and entertaining than it actually was.”

In an effort to bring Quebecers back to earth, Premier René Lévesque is constantly reminding them they need to stop getting carried away.

Our mythomaniacal tendencies make us braggarts, show-offs and (white) liars. We come from those same high places Zarathustra spoke from, which explains why our tales of travels always take on such Homeric qualities. But, as is the case in Marseilles, this habit of ours is more of a pastime than an actual flaw. In fact, it’s pretty much the vocal counterpart of Heartstring 7.

Back in the lab, I’ve often shown that ads that lay it on too thick tend to prevent the message from getting across. Quebecers know the ins and outs of bragging, so they’re always skeptical of others who do it. Joe Tremblay confirms my observations.


“What I don’t like about certain politicians is that they’re always bragging about something. Their party never makes mistakes. They always take credit for the good things that happen but they never take responsibility when something goes wrong. It’s the same with advertising. Those people must think we’re really gullible. Every product is the best in the world. Just try to make some sense out of the supermarket price wars. There were four ads in Le Soleil newspaper yesterday all claiming such-and-such store had the best prices in town. Talk about over-exaggerating! Personally, I don’t like to brag. I never embellish anything.”


Austrian psychotherapist Alfred Adler says that having an inferiority complex ultimately leads one to develop a superiority complex. Those who tend to talk a lot about anything and everything are usually trying to cover up their flaws.

I’d say boxing legend Muhammad Ali is the most striking example of how individuals can go from one end of the complex to the other. Highly talented and right at home in the world of show business, blacks, Jews and Quebecers are often a bit over-the-top because of this complex. Barely over five feet in height, Sammy Davis, Jr. says he feels 10 feet tall. Some of the most celebrated entertainers are usually very shy in more intimate settings due to this fickle complex.

Hockey players, the homegrown ones like Richard, Béliveau and Lafleur, provide us with countless opportunities to toot our own horns and boost our self-esteem by proxy. What these vengeful gods do for us goes way beyond inspiring admiration for their athletic skills. When these guys are on the ice, it’s as if every last Quebecer is out there shooting and scoring (especially when the Habs play Toronto), checking Anglos and roughing them up against the boards.

Phone-in radio shows in Quebec directly fuel Heartstring 35. Joe Tremblay says he doesn’t listen to them.


“It’s always the same people who get on the air. I called in once to talk to that know-it-all on CKVL...Héroux, or Leroux? I stumped him real quick. My buddies talked to me about it the next morning. My wife called in once, about abortion. What’s the name of that lady host? Doesn’t matter. What my wife said was right. It’s easier to get on the radio to say what you’re thinking than it is to write a letter to the papers since they only publish the ones they get from educated people and politicians. Have you ever seen a letter from a subscriber with spelling mistakes in it?”


Bragging is somewhat of an art form here in Quebec. Intendant Gilles Hocquart writes that, “Canadians like distinctions and titles. An officer in the militia was insulted not to be addressed by his title of colonel even though he was behind the plow at the time.”

Quebecers who’ve earned diplomas like to display them for all to see. The president of a Montreal ad agency had his MBA diploma engraved on a shiny metal plaque that nearly blinds anyone who ventures into his office.

Professional titles like MD and CPA that used to boost egos back in the day have been getting a bad rap lately. Today’s elite use different letter combinations after their names. The newest way of increasing self-esteem through Heartstring 35 is to not have initials at the end of your name at all (or not to talk about them).

Before the Quiet Revolution, people could tell you had political influence by the number on your licence plate. In order to show you have pull in today’s political arena, you need to know how and when to use the latest buzzwords and do so with conviction. And regardless of the words or numbers they choose to use, Quebecers always tell the most amazing stories.

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© 2014 – English translation and website by Lawrence Creaghan. Published online with the permission of Guérin Éditeur Ltée and the Fondation Jacques-Bouchard.