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Two years ago, we saw this ad from a health campaign aimed at preventing young people from smoking:

Magane pas tes organes

Magane pas tes organes
Don’t wreck your organs

The verb maganer is used in Québécois French in the sense of to wreck.

The campaign is still going, but the wording has changed. It now reads:

Magane pas tes organes avec la boucane

Magane pas tes organes avec la boucane
Don’t wreck your organs with smoke

We’ve got another Québécois usage in there now — la boucane. This word means smoke.

Magane, organes and boucane all rhyme.

maganer, to wreck, to ruin
magané, wrecked, ruined
la boucane, smoke
boucaner, to smoke, to give off smoke

Source: Y a rien de plus dégueu
(Gouvernement du Québec)

I came across this sign in a Montréal métro station:

Les petites bibittes ne mangent pas les grosses!

The sign is from Montréal’s Insectarium, which is an insect museum.

Une bibitte — maybe you’ll remember — is an informal word used in Québécois French meaning bug.

So what does the wording on the sign mean?

It means little bugs don’t eat big bugs. In other words, you don’t need to be afraid of bugs because you’re a big bibitte. :-)

Here’s a translation exercise you can do, similar to the ones in Say it in French: Translate 125 sentences to conversational Québécois French.

See if you can say the sentences below in French (the Québécois variety, of course!), without looking at the answers. If you need help, check the clues.

When you’re done, check the possible answers (they come after the image) and read the notes. You can try the exercise again after that to test yourself.

Say in French:

  1. No, thanks, I’m just looking.
    (what customers say to shop assistants when they don’t want help)
  2. I do my food shopping with reusable bags.
  3. Hahaha, what a hilarious video!
  4. I hate mosquitos.
  5. It’s too bad (it stinks, it sucks), but that’s how it is.

Clues:

  • regarder
  • maringouin
  • juste
  • plate
  • crampant
  • épicerie
  • haïr

Possible answers:

  1. Non, merci, je fais juste regarder.
  2. Je fais mon épicerie avec des sacs réutilisables.
  3. Hahaha, c’est crampant comme vidéo!
  4. J’haïs ça, les maringouins.
  5. C’est plate, mais c’est comme ça.

Notes:

  1. Je fais juste can be followed by a verb in the infinitive depending on what you want to say. Je fais juste te rappeler que… I’m just reminding you that… Informally, je fais can contract to j’fais, which sounds like ch’fais. Juste can sound informally like jusse.
  2. The expression faire l’épicerie means to do the grocery shopping.
  3. Something crampant is hilarious.
  4. Un maringouin is a mosquito. J’haïs is pronounced ja-i.
  5. Plate means too bad here (in the sense of unfortunate), but it can also mean boring. T’es plate! You’re boring! You’re no fun!

A reader of OffQc asks how to pronounce because he’s been hearing two pronunciations of it. In fact, it’s not just that has two pronunciations but also ça. Let’s look at how they’re pronounced in this post.

(Below, IPA stands for International Phonetic Alphabet. In French, it’s called the alphabet phonétique international, or API.)

What are the two ways that is pronounced?

1. la (or [la] in IPA)
Rhymes with ma, ta, sa.

2.  (or [lɑ] in IPA)
Rhymes with bas, cas, pas.

In là-dessus, là-dessous, là-dedans, etc. (where is joined by a hyphen to an adverb), it’s pronounced the first way — like [la].

Elsewhere, is pronounced the second way — like [lɑ]. In the following, is pronounced [lɑ]: Moi là, j’pense que… Pis là, y’est parti. Je sais pas, là! C’est juste là, devant toi.

ÇA

Ça also has two pronunciations. What are they?

1. ça (or [sa] in IPA)
Rhymes with ma, ta, la.

2. çâ (or [] in IPA)
Rhymes with bas, cas, pas.

When ça is used as a subject, it’s pronounced the first way — like [sa]. Ça fait mal. Ça s’peut pas! Ça commence aujourd’hui.

Elsewhere, ça is pronounced the second way — like []. C’est ça qui est ça! Pourquoi t’as fait ça? Quand ça? J’aime pas ça. C’est comme ça.

We can continue looking at this in future posts.

Found this example of the adjective malaisant used in Québec on the Les Parent Facebook page.

Malaisant = qui rend mal à l’aise

It’s a fictitious text message conversation between Oli (blue) and his girlfriend Sarah (grey).

You can click on the image for a larger version.

Tu fais quoi mon beau Oli?

Je remonte l’historique de nos messages Facebook jusqu’au premier.

Awww!!! T’es ben romantique!!!

C’est quoi le premier?

« Hey le cave, arrête de me fixer dans les cours, c’est vraiment malaisant »

Ah oui, je me souviens

_ _ _

remonter l’historique
to go back through the archives

hey le cave
hey idiot

fixer quelqu’un
to stare at someone

dans les cours
in class, in (our) classes

malaisant
= qui rend mal à l’aise

c’est vraiment malaisant
it really makes me uncomfortable

A word that came up in a conversation yesterday was croche. It means “crooked.”

Someone with crooked teeth has les dents croches. If you’ve got les dents croches, you might wear des broches to straighten them.

avoir les dents croches
to have crooked teeth
J’ai les dents croches.

porter des broches
to wear braces
Je porte des broches.

Cynthia Dulude says in her video j’ai eu des broches (0:44) and j’avais pas les dents croches (0:53).

Crossed eyes? That’s avoir les yeux croches. Crooked legs, avoir les jambes croches.

Online, an example of sitting crooked on a seat:

Elle était un peu croche sur son siège.
She was sitting a bit crooked on her seat.

It’s not just bodies and body parts that might be described as croche:

Le siège de mon bateau était un peu croche.
The seat on my boat was a little crooked.

How about this news headline? (Saoul means “drunk,” and it’s pronounced sou.)

Saoul, il demande si la route est croche
[While] drunk, [a driver] asks if the road is crooked

Someone who feels “all crooked” isn’t feeling well, feels out of sorts:

J’me sens tout croche.
I don’t feel good, I don’t feel right, I feel awful, etc.

And if you hear a person described as being un croche, it means just what it sounds like — that person is crooked, a crook (dishonest, thieving, corrupt, etc.).

This headline asks if politicians are crooks:

Des «croches», les politiciens?
Are politicians crooks?

A journalist describes being “messed up in ‘crooked’ (dirty) business” as being mêlé à des affaires croches.

Here’s an expression used in Québec that I think you’ll like to learn:

avoir encore des croûtes à manger
or just
avoir des croûtes à manger

In the examples below from different newspapers online, can you guess what it means to still have to eat the crusts?

This is the title of an article about unreliable internet connections in a certain region of Québec:

La situation s’améliore, mais «on a encore des croûtes à manger»

Le Courrier Sud, 26 fév. 2015

A journalist has this to say about tennis player Eugenie Bouchard:

(…) Eugenie a encore des croûtes à manger avant de s’élever au même rang que Sharapova (…).

Le Journal de Montréal, 26 janv. 2015

A journalist compares the liveability of Montréal’s public spaces to those of Vienna. The title of his article tells us his verdict:

Montréal a encore des croûtes à manger…

Journal Métro, 8 mai 2013

Finally, Guy Laliberté has this to say about Québec:

«Le Québec a des croûtes à manger s’il veut avancer.»

TVA Nouvelles, 6 mai 2014

If you still gotta eat the crusts, you’ve got your work cut out!

La situation s’améliore, mais «on a encore des croûtes à manger»
The situation’s improving, but there’s still a long way to go.

(…) Eugenie a encore des croûtes à manger avant de s’élever au même rang que Sharapova (…).
Eugenie still has a long way to go before rising to the same level as Sharapova.

Montréal a encore des croûtes à manger…
Montréal’s still got a long way to go…
Montréal’s still got its work cut out…

«Le Québec a des croûtes à manger s’il veut avancer.»
“Québec’s got its work cut out if it wants to advance.”

avoir (encore) des croûtes à manger
to (still) have a long way to go
to (still) have one’s work cut out