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Archive for December, 2010

Informal French: DU STOCK (#99)

In Les Parent, Louis plays the role of the father. In one scene, Louis is helping his teenaged son with his homework, but his son is having trouble doing it.

Louis doesn’t see why his son doesn’t understand his homework because he thinks it’s below his son’s grade level. That’s when Louis gets frustrated. He tells his son that what they’re working on is du stock de troisième année.

Du stock here is informal French for “stuff.” This was Louis’ way of saying that his son’s homework is “Grade 3 stuff.” In other words, he thinks his son shouldn’t be having any trouble with his homework whatsoever!

[This entry was inspired by the character Louis in Les Parent, “Le retour,” season 1, episode 2, Radio-Canada, Montreal, 15 September 2008.]

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There are many ways to call someone an idiot in French, but let’s just stick to the way that uses the word cave here.

Examples:

Hé, le cave!
Hey, idiot!

C’est un gros cave!
He’s such an idiot!

Cave can also be used as an adjective.

Example:

Mais t’es donc* ben cave!
You’re so stupid!

*The c is silent here.

The expression faire le cave means “to act like an idiot.”

Examples:

Fais pas le cave, toi!
Arrête de faire le cave!

Interestingly, the French adjective cave comes from the Latin cavus, meaning “hollow.” Pretty much describes an idiot’s head, doesn’t it?

[This entry was inspired by the character Sarah in Mauvais karma, “Ça fait désordre,” season 1, episode 1, Radio-Canada, Montreal, 8 September 2010. Here, she called a male character gros cave to his face.]

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In a scene from Les Parent, Louis is talking to his wife. He’s telling her about his sons, who’ve asked him for money. What did the boys want money for?

Pour aller s’acheter des cochonneries au dépanneur!
To go buy junk food at the variety store, or the “dep”!

Une cochonnerie is a junk food item. Chips, chocolate bars, bubble gum — they’re all cochonneries. The root of this word is cochon: pig!

Le dépanneur is where people in Quebec buy their cochonneries. It’s a variety store or corner shop.

The dépanneur is also where people buy newspapers, magazines, cigarettes, beer, wine, lottery tickets and certain food items like bread, milk and butter.

[This entry was inspired by the character Louis in Les Parent, “Le retour,” season 1, episode 2, Radio-Canada, Montreal, 15 September 2008.]

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If someone says c’est plate in French, you can be pretty sure the speaker isn’t enjoying himself very much!

Examples:

C’est plate!
How boring! I’m bored!

C’est plate ici.
It’s boring here.

C’est plate ce soir.
It’s boring this evening.
What a boring evening.

You may also come across the spelling platte.

Sometimes the expression c’est plate can take on a different meaning.

Example:

C’est plate à dire, mais…
I hate to say it, but…
It’s not nice to say, but…

[This entry was inspired by the character Zak in Les Parent, “Étude de moeurs,” season 1, episode 1, Radio-Canada, Montreal, 8 September 2008. Zak is a young boy; he often uses the word plate.]

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In a moment of disbelief or disapproval, you’ll sometimes hear French speakers exclaim ben, là! It’s similar to how English speakers might say “oh, come on!” or “what???”

Usually the part gets more stress than the ben part.

Examples:

-J’suis pas capable!
-Ben, là!
(Oh, come on!)

-J’ai dépensé 300 dollars.
-Ben, là!
(What???)

-Va ranger ta chambre tout de suite!
-Ben, làààà!
(Nooo! I don’t want to!)

[This entry was inspired by the character Louis in Les Parent, “Étude de moeurs,” season 1, episode 1, Radio-Canada, Montreal, 8 September 2008.]

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You won’t go long in Quebec without hearing someone use the word niaiseux in an informal conversation, so you’ll want to learn this adjective.

In a scene from Les Parent, Olivier, a teenaged boy, is talking about how using trick questions in multiple choice exercises at school seems stupid to him. He describes the whole idea of using trick questions as donc ben niaiseux.

If something’s niaiseux, it’s stupid. And if something’s donc ben niaiseux, well, then it’s really stupid! Donc ben sounds like don ben. It’s an informal way of strengthening an adjective.

So, when Olivier said that using trick questions in multiple choice exercises was donc ben niaiseux, that was his way of saying it’s a really stupid thing to do.

Niaiseux can be used to refer to pretty much anything a speaker finds stupid: people, objects, ideas… The masculine form is niaiseux; the feminine form is niaiseuse.

Sometimes people poke fun at each other in a light-hearted way by saying, for example, t’es niaiseux! When said playfully, niaiseux means something more like “silly” or “goofy.” But, if that playfulness isn’t there, it’ll sound much more insulting, like “stupid.” So be careful with your tone of voice if you use the adjective niaiseux.

[This entry was inspired by the character Olivier in Les Parent, “Étude des moeurs,” season 1, episode 1, Radio-Canada, Montreal, 8 September 2008.]

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You’re probably already familiar with at least one of the meanings of d’abord in French: “first (off).”

Example:

D’abord je me lève, puis je me brosse les dents.

Informally, there’s another meaning of d’abord used in Quebec that you’ll want to learn.

At the end of a sentence, d’abord can often take on the meaning of “then.”

Example:

Tu sais que j’aime pas ça. Pourquoi tu fais ça d’abord?
You know that I don’t like that. Why do you do that then?

D’abord here is really just another way of saying alors.

[This entry was inspired by the character Fred in La Galère, season 2, episode 2, Radio-Canada, Montreal, 21 September 2009. Here, she said, “Why do you look sad then?” Can you now say this in French the way Fred might have said it?]

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