Archive for June, 2013

Here are 7 random expressions in French that I overheard in Montréal this week and made a mental note of.

1. Tu me niaises-tu?
(Are you kidding me?)

When the métro train I was on pulled into the station, it came to a stop, and then the lights and motor when off completely. A young woman near me, standing with her friend, exclaimed: tu me niaises-tu? She was frustrated that a long delay seemed imminent. An older woman behind me yelled out sarcastically: super!

2. Allô? Allô? Ça coupe!
(Hello? Hello? You’re cutting in and out!)

A man talking on his mobile phone couldn’t hear what the person on the other end was saying. He kept saying allô? allô? and then ça coupe! The connection was obviously bad.

3. Y mouille un p’tit peu.
(It’s spitting out.)

The verb mouiller is often used in the same way as pleuvoir in Québec. Someone who says il mouille is saying the same thing as il pleut. The man who said this also said un p’tit peu. It was only spitting out when he said it.

4. Voulez-vous la facture?
(Do you want the receipt?)

When you order food at the cash, like in a food court, the cashier may ask if you want the receipt. You’ll hear a lot of employees working at the cash refer to the receipt as la facture.

5. En régulier?
(By regular post?)

I took an envelope to the post office. The man working at the cash asked if I wanted to send it by regular post: en régulier? If you wanted to send an envelope by regular post, you could say: en régulier, s’il vous plaît.

6. On va checker ça.
(We’ll check it out. We’ll take a look.)

A guy speaking into his mobile phone said this to the person on the other end. If you heard someone say check-moi ça! or even just check!, it means “check it out!” or “take a look at that!”

7. C’est moins dispendieux.
(It’s less expensive.)

An employee in Pharmaprix was showing a product to a customer. She told her that product was less expensive, moins dispendieux, than another similiar product. This means exactly the same thing as moins cher, which is of course also said in Québec. The word dispendieux looks big and fancy and formal, but it’s not. It really does just mean the same thing as cher in Québec.

And an image…

In entry #631, you read about how the Québécois use the word vidanges in the sense of garbage. In the comments, roxannabanana asked if this word is always used in the plural.

In the sense of garbage, yes, vidanges is used in the plural. You may come across the singular form when vidange is used to refer to an oil change in a vehicle, however.

In the image, taken at a garage, we read: vidange d’huile (oil change) above the door on the left. This usage in the sense of oil change is known throughout the French-speaking world, but the plural usage in the sense of garbage is québécois.

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At a BIXI bike rental station in downtown Montréal, we see an eye-catching ad that reads:

Cassez-vous pas le bicycle!

Considering that we’re at a BIXI station, you might think that the BIXI people are warning us not to break our rented bike!

That’s the literal meaning, but this is in fact a québécois expression that also has a figurative meaning.

Looking a little more closely, we see that the ad is for laser eye surgery. It says optez pour le LASIK under the expression. What we’re really being told is to not go to a lot of trouble (cassez-vous pas le bicycle) and choose LASIK.

se casser le bicycle
to go to a lot of trouble, to complicate things, to struggle, etc.

The expression works very well here because of its additional literal meaning about not breaking your bike in an accident because you still wear glasses!

We can learn two things about québécois pronunciation from this example.

1. Casser is pronounced câsser.
2. Bicycle is pronounced bécik.

Remember that “aww” sound that Ricardo used when he pronounced carré? That same sound is used in the verb casser.

The word bécik (and bicycle) is an informal use, generally limited to spoken French. On the other hand, you can use vélo in any language situation, including informal ones.

That said, you may in fact come across the spelling bécik on occasion. In the image, Bécik vert is the name of a bike sharing programme.

We can also learn something about informal sentence structure from the laser surgery ad:

Cassez-vous le bicycle
Cassez-vous pas le bicycle

The expression was made negative by just adding in pas. This is different to the standard grammar of written French, which would require a change in word order to make it negative:

Ne vous cassez pas le bicycle

Take another example:

Ne t’inquiète pas.
Do not worry.

When people are speaking casually, you may hear that said instead as:

Inquiète-toi pas.

Again, it just follows the affirmative word order with pas added in:

inquiète-toi pas

Remember that inquiète-toi pas is an informal use mostly limited to spoken French, whereas ne t’inquiète pas adheres to the standard grammar of written French.

Getting back to the expression in the laser surgery ad, it uses the vous form. If you wanted to use the informal singular tu form, it becomes:

Casse-toi pas le bicycle!

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In Québécois French, â sounds a little like “aww.” You’ll come across this sound in words like tâche, pâte, mâcher and lâcher.

You’ll also hear it in certain words that don’t use a written â, however. For example, you’ll hear the â sound in jaser, passer, brasser and carré.

In the video below, Ricardo demonstrates different ways of cutting a mango. As you listen, note how he pronounces the word carré. Maybe you’ll even become a pro at preparing the mango at the same time!

The â sound is a standard feature of Québécois French.

Avant de peler ou de trancher une mangue, il faut savoir qu’est-ce qu’on veut faire avec la chair. Si on veut se faire des cubes par exemple, on commence pas par la peler, on veut la trancher. Ce qui est à se rappeler c’est que le noyau est long et plat, donc on veut couper notre mangue en deux sur la longueur, et on fait glisser la lame contre le noyau.

On voit très bien la forme du noyau qui est très plat, et il reste un peu de chair autour, on la jette pas, on la gruge directement, les enfants adorent ça. Maintenant, pour faire des cubes, on va prendre notre couteau et on va faire des carrés, en fait directement dans la chair, sans transpercer la peau. Et on va le faire dans les deux sens, vraiment on veut obtenir des carrés.

Et en faisant les cubes, essayez de pas transpercer la peau. C’est pas un drame mais ça va mieux parce qu’après on veut faire une pression dessous pour vraiment faire ressortir tous ces beaux carrés-là, c’est très beau. Des fois on peut même mettre ça tel quel comme décoration dans un plateau de fruits. Pour retirer les cubes, on prend le couteau, tout simplement, puis on glisse la lame le plus près possible de la peau pour pas gaspiller. Voilà pour les cubes.

Disons qu’on veut se faire des tranches de mangue. À ce moment-là, il faut commencer par peler la mangue. Ensuite, on va retirer le noyau. Et maintenant pour faire les tranches, pas compliqué. Et pour faire un éventail, c’est pas compliqué. On fait des tranches, mais pas jusqu’à l’extrémité. Alors cubes, éventail ou tranches!

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On the sign in the image above, we read:

Les déchets domestiques ne vont pas dans cette poubelle!
Do not put household waste in this bin!

Déchets is just one of the words used to refer to garbage in French.

Another one that you’ll hear in Québec is vidanges, which is an informal use. You’d wouldn’t see vidanges in the sense of garbage used on a sign like this, for example.

Here are some ways that you might hear vidanges used.

As-tu sorti les vidanges?
Did you take out the garbage?

J’ai oublié de sortir les vidanges.
I forgot to take out the garbage.

Je l’ai jeté aux vidanges.
I threw it in the garbage.

In a scene from the television series La Galère, we hear the term un sac à vidanges, or garbage bag.

A character called Stéphanie has broken up with her boyfriend. She’s at home packing up his clothes neatly into a box so that she can return them to him.

Stéphanie’s friend Claude gets pissed off at how nice Stéphanie is being towards her ex by packing his stuff up for him. So Claude grabs the box, empties it all over the place, and tells Stéphanie to just dump his damn stuff into a garbage bag:

Tu me crisses ça dans un sac à vidanges!

[La Galère, season 4, episode 9, Radio-Canada,
Montréal, 7 November 2011]

The verb crisser comes from the name “Christ.” So when Claude tells Stéphanie to Christ his stuff into a garbage bag, she was really telling her to just throw his stuff the hell out.

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Lynda Thalie is originally from Algeria but moved to Québec with her family when she was 16. Her native Algeria influences the sound of her music.

There are some interesting clips on Radio-Canada related to Lynda Thalie and her attachment to Algeria and Oran.

In a description there, we read that Lynda is a blend of two cultures, Québécoise and Algerian; a mix of pure laine (from Québec) and cotonnade colorée (from Algeria):

[Lynda Thalie est] bien ancrée dans l’univers musical québécois. Aujourd’hui maman et artiste accomplie, elle propose une musique métisse, fruit de ses deux cultures, algérienne et québécoise, un mélange de pure laine et de cotonnade colorée.

Pure laine is an expression often used to describe the Québécois who are ethnic French-Canadians, les Québécois de souche. Even though Lynda Thalie is from Algeria, the term is used here to demonstrate her attachment to Québec.

Dance your pain away

Quand le jour s’assombrit
Invariablement bleu
Le ciel restera
Là au-dessus de toi

Quand le monde t’oublie
Toi seul, souviens-toi
Que la roue tournera
Que le vent changera

Quand la terre entière tremble
Que toutes les tours s’effondrent
La foi en toi rassemble
Danse, chante ta vie

Relève tes manches et prie
Erzulie ou Marie
Et ta vie rebâtis

Pense à la mer autour
Oublie les vieux vautours
Garde la tête haute
Puise le feu dans l’amour
La nuit deviendra jour
Garde la tête haute

Dance your pain away
La peine, faut la danser
Dance your pain away
La peine, faut la danser
Dance your pain away

Quand le temps s’alourdit
Invariablement bleu
Le ciel allégera
Le roc au-dessus de toi

Si le sort s’acharne sur toi
Et la roue tournera
Le changement soufflera

Quand la terre sous tes pas tremble
Que les promesses se ressemblent
La foi en toi rassemble
Danse, chante ta vie
Balaie d’un coup tes peurs
Tes regrets, tes rancœurs
Fais de la danse ta demeure

Pense à la mer autour
Oublie les vieux vautours
Garde la tête haute
Puise le feu dans l’amour
La nuit deviendra jour
Garde la tête haute

Dance your pain away
La peine, faut la danser
Dance your pain away
La peine, faut la danser
Dance your pain away

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