Archive for June, 2013


In this La Presse article about the use of coupons at Maxi (a supermarket in Québec), we learn that une couponneuse is an avid coupon collector and user.

According to the article (16 June 2013), the majority of couponneuses are women between the ages of 25 and 45:

[…] les accros des coupons, qu’on appelle familièrement les couponneuses (majoritairement des femmes de 25 à 45 ans).


After writing about the expression être s’a coche, Eva commented that she knew another expression from Québec using the word coche: péter une coche.

This expression means to get angry and “blow a fuse” or “lose it.” Here’s an example of this expression pulled from the Wikébec glossary:

Y’a pété une coche quand y’a coulé son examen.
= Il a pété une coche quand il a coulé son examen.
He lost it when he flunked his exam.

You may also hear sauter une coche used in the same sense.


You’ve already seen the verb couler from the example above (couler son examen) if you’ve read this entire blog. I’ve used examples of it from TV series like Les Parent, La Galère and 30 vies. The kids in these shows talk about flunking at school using the verb couler.

For example, Olivier in Les Parent said this about his maths teacher:

Y fait couler tout le monde!
He flunks everybody!

[Les Parent, season 4, episode 15, Radio-Canada, Montréal, 6 February 2012]

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C’est s’a coche! Ian asks me about the meaning of the expression être s’a coche used by younger people in Québec.

The Wikébec glossary defines this expression here as: être à la page, à la mode, intéressant, super, plaisant. We could also add “cool” to this list. In short, it means that something is very good.

Maybe you’re confused about the s’a in the middle of it. This s’a is in fact an informal spoken contraction of sur la. If we were to “decontract” the expression, it would be être sur la coche.

Une coche is a nick or mark, like the kind made with a knife by carving a notch in a piece of wood.

In French, the expression être à côté de la coche refers to being off the mark, on the wrong track. If being off the mark is bad, then maybe we can say that being on the mark, like in être s’a coche, has to be very good!

I found a clip on YouTube of two people practising a slogan to promote their restaurant’s poutine. They use the expression être s’a coche in the video: Au resto Magik Gus, la poutine est s’a coche!

Here’s another clip where the expression is used. In this ad from the STM (Montréal’s public transport provider), the speakers flaunt the ecological nature of the métro.

At the end of the clip, a kid yells out: Le métro, c’est s’a coche!

Maybe you noticed that the uploader of this video entitled it Le métro, c’est su’a coche. The contraction su’a means the same thing as s’a. In fact, it’s half-way between sur la and s’a!

Contracting sur la isn’t limited to this expression. You may hear it contracted elsewhere during an informal conversation. I suggest that you stick with the full sur la in regular language situations yourself — except perhaps with this informal expression, if you’re particularly keen on using it!

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You’ll often hear the verb barrer used in Québec in the sense of “to lock,” as in locking a door, a bike, a car, or anything really that can be locked up to prevent people’s access to it. For example, you can say barrer une porte (lock a door).

In Québec, barrer is pronounced bârrer. The vowel â sounds a little like “aww.”

This use of barrer comes from a different meaning of the same verb, which is to close up a door with a bar or plank. Using barrer to mean closing up with a lock is just an extension of this idea.

The Usito dictionary gives us examples of this québécois use of barrer in the sense of locking up, which, in fact, is not exclusively québécois. The authors of the dictionary point out that this use is also known in parts of France and other French-speaking areas.

Francophones elsewhere in the world who do not use barrer like this prefer to use fermer à clé or verrouiller instead. These two ways are of course also understood in Québec.

Three good examples of barrer provided by Usito are:

barrer la porte en sortant
to lock the door on the way out

barrer son vélo avec un cadenas*
to lock up one’s bike (with a lock)

barrer son auto
to lock one’s car

The opposite of barrer is débarrer, “to unlock.”

débarrer les portières d’une auto
to unlock the doors of a car

Here are more examples that you can learn (not from the dictionary):

La porte est barrée.
The door is locked.

La porte est débarrée.
The door is unlocked.

As-tu barré la porte?
Did you lock the door?

Trottoir barré J’ai barré mon vélo en bas de la côte.
I locked my bike at the bottom of the hill.

J’ai mis mon passeport* dans ma valise barrée.
I put my passport in my locked-up suitcase.

You’ll frequently see signs reading rue barrée and trottoir barré in the streets of Montréal. In this sense, it just means that the street or sidewalk is closed.

*Both cadenas and passeport use the â sound: cadnâ, pâspor.

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It’s been a while since we’ve looked at some French language from the TV show Les Parent. Let’s look at a scene from season 5, where we come across the québécois usages épeurant, moumoune and ben correct.

The scene:

Louis Parent has received his cousin Kevin Parent as a guest at his place. (Kevin is played by real-life singer Kevin Parent.)

During Kevin’s stay, a character called Marie takes a liking to him. Marie is a friend of the Parent family. She wants to watch a scary movie with Kevin late at night hoping to put the moves on him.

When Marie is alone in the living room with Kevin, she begins to flirt, using the subject of the scary movie that she’s about to see as her excuse:

Est-ce que c’est très épeurant comme film? Parce que moi j’suis vraiment moumoune.
Is it a really scary movie? Because I’m a real scaredy-cat.

Kevin doesn’t seem to be into Marie. He responds:

Non, c’est un peu dur, mais c’est pas vraiment épeurant. Tu vas être ben correcte.
No, it’s a bit rough but it’s not really scary. You’re gonna be just fine.

épeurant, scary
moumoune*, scaredy-cat, wimp, sissy
ben correct, just fine

*A note about une moumoune:

In the quote above, Marie used moumoune as an adjective to refer to herself as someone who gets scared easily. This word can become offensive if a gay male is referred to as une moumoune.

[Language taken from Les Parent, “Kevin qui vient dîner,” season 5, episode 1, Radio-Canada, Montréal, 17 September 2012.]

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Be better than your best excuse

Click to see a larger version. (Sorry for the weird angles. It was the only way to take the photos without my big nose being reflected in them.)

The Club Athlétique Mansfield in Montréal is back with 5 new ads posted outside their front entrance.

The last set of ads from this gym that I posted used swear words in French. You can see them in Fuck the excuses! 5 unique weight-loss ads in French.

In this new set of ads, the gym reminds people to keep at their efforts to lose weight and get into shape.

Interestingly, you can draw a parallel between these ads and the perseverance it takes to integrate into your new society in Québec or to master French.

1. Si c’était facile, tout le monde le ferait!
If it were easy, everybody would do it!

To master French, spend a lot of time with the language over the long term. Learning the basics of a language is easy. It takes perseverance to get past the basics and go all the way.

2. Soyez meilleur que votre meilleure excuse!
Be better than your best excuse!

We’ve all got a few excuses holding us back in our endeavours. If your excuses are preventing you from learning French or integrating, there’s only one thing to do: identify what they are and dismantle them.

3. Ça ne devient jamais plus facile, vous devenez simplement meilleur!
It never gets easier, you just get better at it!

If you find that you’ve reached a stable level in French, you may want to turn up the challenge factor a little to keep progressing. You advance when there’s challenge involved.

4. Pas de challenge, pas de changement!
No challenge, no change!
No challenge, no gain!

And not “no pain, no gain,” which I think is bad advice. Challenge and pain aren’t the same thing.

5. Nous formons des habitudes et ces habitudes nous forment!
We form habits and these habits form us!
We are shaped by the habits we form!

Make speaking with francophones a regular habit and this habit will shape you into a confident speaker of French.

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