By Jeff Fournier
When Paul Johnson approached Yvon Marquis to be the guest speaker at the 2017 RCNA convention, Marquis agreed, but Johnson cautioned him that it shouldn’t be a speech based on numismatics alone, since many of the attendees would be non-collectors.
“So I wondered, what could be the topic of this speech?” said Marquis.
Now, if you’ve never attended an RCNA convention banquet because you were afraid that you and your spouse might find the evening’s events and guest speaker a little dry, your fears would have been alleviated at this year’s affair in Boucherville, Que.
Marquis, who converses in both of Canada’s official languages, somehow managed to combine the hobby of numismatics with history, music and comedy – in both official languages for the most part – to keep the banquet attendees in stitches as they sat glued to his every word.
“You probably won’t understand where I’m going until the end of my speech, but please stay in the room,” he quipped as he began his presentation. “You will see, as the song says that, ‘my destination makes it worth the while,’ ” referring to ABBA’s hit song, I Have a Dream.
“There have been many ‘ICKs’ in my life,” explained Marquis, as he continued. “My parents were CatholIC. My father was involved in politICs. When I was a kid, I liked to eat DrumstICKs. I also have a sideline as a stand-up comIC. I like to play with words because I like phonetICs. I like to compile statistICs. My favourite movies are TitanIC and Moby DICk. And the most important thing is this: in the ‘60s, I discovered numismatICs.”
“And you also have your ‘ICKs.’ During the last few days you have visited historIC sites; looked at classIC coins; seen some thematIC displays and have attended a fantastIC convention organized by a very dynamIC team; I was in charge of the logistICs.”
Marquis advised the audience that he initially wrote his speech in French.
“When it came time to translate it into English, it was somewhat ComplICated. Translating from English to French is easy for me, as I have done that for a number of years for the RCNA journal. So I decided to search for the help of a good translator and I found one who was willing to help me for free. His name is Google Translation.”
Using his translation “partner” had resulted in a few bad experiences in the past.
Entering, “Bill Gates,” into the translator, for example, returned, “Invoice Fences.” And after Marquis typed “after some research, they found the master die at the mint,” out came the French translation, “After some research they found the mint master dead.”
Not one to be deterred easily, Marquis contacted the Google Translation managers and explained to them that their translation program needed to be modified since it wasn’t very useful for coin collectors.
“They thanked me for calling to help to make their product better and as an appreciation, the guy told me that as I was a coin collector, he would send me a mint product. Believe it or not, but 10 days later, I effectively received not one but two mint products.”
Marquis was happy until he opened the box and found two mint candy bags, which he held up to the audience, eliciting a round of laughter and applause.
“That was very pathetIC,” continued Marquis, in reference to the candies, “so I decided to make the translation for this speech ‘all by myself,’ as the Celine Dion song says.”
Speaking of music, Marquis noted a number of songs that have a link to numismatICs including ABBA’s Money Money, and then asked the audience for a few other examples, eliciting responses such as Music! Music! Music! (Put Another Nickel In), made famous by Teresa Brewer, Brother, Can You Spare a Dime and Pennies from Heaven, both of which are best known for versions performed by Bing Crosby, and of course, the Beatles’ Penny Lane and Can’t Buy Me Love.
“How many people in this room know Ed Reiter, a well-known American numismatist?” asked Marquis toward the end of his speech. “Ed likes to take a song and to change the words to relate it to numismatICs in a humoristIC way. That gave me an idea. Why don’t we try to change the words of a popular song to make it our Canadian national numismatIC anthem? I found a few potential songs that could fit for that. We can change a few words at the end of a very popular song and could say: ‘God keeps our club glorious and free, RCNA we stand on guard for thee, ARNC on est trés fiers de toi.’ ”
Marquis also suggested that In the Navy by the Village People could be changed to “R-C-N-A, the greatest numismatic club, A-R-N-C …”
For their rendition of YMCA, Marquis humoured the audience by changing the band’s lyrics to, “It’s fun to belong to the R-C-N-A, C’est l’fun de faire partie de l’ARNC.”
“Wow! That’s fantastIC,” exclaimed Marquis. “As you can see, RCNA in English and ARCN in French sound the same.”
Wrapping up his speech, Marquis reminded the audience that he mentioned earlier that he liked to compile statistics, “so how many times have I pronounced the sound ‘ICK’ during my speech?” he asked.
Serge Pelletier guessed “67,” which was likely because 1967 was Canada’s 100th anniversary and 2017 marked Canada’s 150th.
Pierre Leclerc, the convention convener, guessed 63, but Marquis told the audience, “the answer is 64 times, because this is the 64th RCNA convention.”
By the way, while the banquet speaker’s topic may have been a bit “ICKy” (but very, very funny!), the banquet food was very, very delicious!