Archive for July, 2011

In Montreal’s metro stations and in a few other places around the city, you can find free copies of a newspaper called Métro. There’s also an online version available here.

In the 27 July edition, an article written by Mario Charette explores how young people aren’t always realistic about their career choices.

The author writes about how some young people are drawn to careers providing higher social status and pay (doctor, lawyer, engineer…) instead of ones based on their interests and talents. He deplores this because it ultimately results in dissatisfaction.

A quote from the article:

Les formations et les carrières les plus prestigieuses exercent le plus grand attrait. Pour certains jeunes, admettre qu’ils n’ont pas ce qu’il faut pour poursuivre une de ces carrières, c’est déclarer qu’ils sont « poches »! Ils choisiront donc des avenues de formation irréalistes pour eux, parfois encouragés par leurs parents et leurs professeurs.

[Charette, Mario (27 juillet 2011). « Comment être à la fois réaliste et ambitieux ». Métro (Montréal), p. 19.]

The adjective between guillemets (poches) is an informal one. As an adjective, poche conveys the idea of “no good.” It means the same thing as nul in French.

In the article, the author uses poche to refer to the feeling of being “no good” that some young people experience if they admit that they aren’t cut out for a prestigious career path.

A few more examples of poche:

Ce film est poche.
= Ce film est nul
. (no good, really bad, etc.)

Ce livre est poche.
= Ce livre est nul.
(no good, really bad, etc.)

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J’en ai mon truck (#236)

In a scene from the police series 19-2, Tyler and Bérangère are in their patrol car. (They’re both police officers.) Tyler is driving, and Bérangère is in the passenger seat.

Tyler has a drinking problem. At one point while driving down a street, Tyler starts to drop off to sleep. Bérangère notices, and she tries to wake him up before they get into an accident.

Too late… Their patrol car has veered off onto the side of the road, running into garbage cans and creating a mess in the street. They’ve almost hit three girls walking in the street, too.

Bérangère can’t stand Tyler’s drinking problem anymore. While standing on the side of the road looking at the mess they’ve created around them, she loses her temper:

Ostie de fuck, Tyler. Là, j’en ai mon estie de truck.

[Said by the character Bérangère from 19-2, season 1, episode 9, Radio-Canada, Montreal, 30 March 2011.]

She then goes on to say that she knew something like that was going to happen sooner or later because of Tyler’s drinking problem.

In different entries here, you’ve come across some of the swear words used in Quebec, for example: ostie, tabarnac and câlice. Yelling out any one of these is vulgar and equates to any of the strong obscenities used in English.

Sometimes you’ll even hear one swear word used in combination with another, both separated by the word de. An example of this might be: câlice de tabarnac. This is stronger than simply yelling câlice or tabarnac on its own. In this scene from 19-2, Bérangère said ostie de fuck.

There’s no limit to how many swear words might be used (each separated by the word de); it depends on how angry the speaker is!

Then Bérangère used the expression en avoir son truck, “to be fed up.” This expression is NOT vulgar, but it IS informal. What makes it vulgar here is the addition of estie de to it. J’en ai mon truck could be translated as “I’ve had it” or “I’m fed up,” whereas j’en ai mon estie de truck is swearing. Truck is pronounced as though it were written troc.

Both ostie and estie (also spelled osti and esti) are derived from hostie.

You’ll also notice that Bérangère started that second sentence with là. The here helps signal that an outburst is coming. Sometimes you’ll even hear repeated (), helping to show even more frustration.

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Pas pire (#235)

Back to the series 30 vies again, where school teacher Gabrielle pays a visit to Blaise, a teenaged student from her class. Blaise is at home after having had a seizure in his class at school.

Blaise invites Gabrielle to his bedroom (yes, weird), which is where the two talk about how he is doing. As Gabrielle enters his room, looking around, she says:

Ah, ben t’es bien ici, hein?

Smiling, Blaise responds:

Ouais, pas pire.

The question that Gabrielle asks is really just a way of saying that his bedroom is nice. Literally, it means “ah, well you’re comfortable here, huh?” or “ah, well you’re good here, eh?” When Blaise responds with pas pire, he means “not bad,” in the sense of “yeah, my bedroom’s not bad.”

Pas pire means the same thing as pas mal. You’ll often come across the expression pas pire when people speak French informally in Quebec.

You’ll remember from other entries that ben is an informal pronunciation of bien. It sounds like the French word bain. You’ll also remember that t’es is an informal pronunciation of tu es. Ouais is an informal way of saying “yes,” similar to “yeah” in English.

[Both quotes from the series 30 vies, season 1, episode 47, Radio-Canada, Montreal, 30 March 2011.]

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Dominique is a teenaged boy from the TV series 30 vies. He’s speaking to Gabrielle, a teacher at his school.

Dominique tells Gabrielle that he went to see Blaise, one of his friends. He confides that Blaise hit him while he was speaking with him.

Gabrielle, surprised, asks why. Dominique explains that Blaise doesn’t want to return to school. When Dominique called Blaise stupid because of that, that’s when Blaise hit him.

Try to guess the French expression that was used in this scene to say:
“to call someone stupid”

Two clues: The expression used includes neither the verb appeler nor the adjective stupide.

Give up? 😉

The expression used was:
traiter quelqu’un d’épais

If someone is épais, he’s “stupid” (or literally, “thick”). That’s the masculine form. The form for a female is épaisse.


Il m’a traité d’épais.
Il m’a traitée d’épaisse.
He called me stupid.

You may sometimes hear this adjective used on its own to insult someone:

Épais! Épaisse!
Idiot! You idiot!

Be sure to also learn the expression traiter quelqu’un de (…).

More examples:

Il m’a traité de menteur.
Il m’a traitée de menteuse.
He called me a liar.

Il m’a traité de lâche.
He called me a coward.

Elle m’a traité de sans cœur.
She called me heartless.

[This entry was inspired by the characters Gabrielle and Dominique from the series 30 vies, season 1, episode 47, Radio-Canada, Montreal, 30 March 2011.]

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Embarque! (#233)

In Montreal, we have BIXI bikes. These are rental bikes that anybody can use in exchange for payment. If you’ve been to Montreal, you’ve no doubt seen the rows of BIXI bikes in the streets during the summer months.

At one of the BIXI stations, there was an advertisement encouraging people to use the bikes. The advertisement showed an image of a BIXI bike with a simple caption: Embarque.

In French everywhere, we can use the verbs embarquer and débarquer to talk about getting on and off boats or even planes.

In Quebec, you’ll sometimes hear these two verbs used in even more circumstances, such as getting on or off a bus, the metro, or, like in the example above, a bike. Even in Quebec, this is an informal use; otherwise, monter and descendre would be used.

We could translate the example from the BIXI advertisement as “Hop on” in English.

More examples:

monter dans l’autobus (used everywhere in French, including Quebec)
embarquer dans l’autobus (used at an informal level in Quebec)

descendre du véhicule (used everywhere in French, including Quebec)
débarquer du véhicule (used at an informal level in Quebec)

You can always say monter and descendre yourself because they are used everywhere in the French-speaking world. But do, at the very least, learn to recognise these informal uses of embarquer and débarquer as used in Quebec.

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