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Archive for November, 2013

Here are 5 new items for you to learn in French:

  • 3 colloquial French expressions overheard in Montréal
  • 2 images related to dogs seen in Montréal

1. Hier y’a fait chaud en tabarouette!

It was darn hot yesterday!

A man said this the day after the temperature had warmed up a little. He exaggerated though by saying that it was really hot the day before, even if the temperature wasn’t in fact hot (it was just warmer than usual).

Y’a is an informal pronunciation of il, so y’a fait chaud is a colloquial pronunciation of il a fait chaud.

Tabarouette sounds like ta-bar-wett. The expression en tabarouette makes the adjective that comes before it stronger. Tabarouette derives from the québécois swear word tabarnak, but tabarouette is a non-offensive version of it (like “darn” instead of “damn”).

C’est cher en tabarouette!
It’s darn expensive!

Tabarouette!
Darn! Holy cow!

2. Qu’est-ce tu fais à soir?

Whaddya doin’ tonight?

The girl that said this didn’t ask qu’est-ce que tu fais à soir?, she asked qu’est-ce tu fais à soir? She dropped the word que. This often happens during informal French conversations before the word tu. Qu’est-ce on its own without the que sounds like kess.

Remember, tu in Québec sounds like tsu.

Qu’est-ce tu fais?
(kess tsu fè)
What’re you doin’?

Qu’est-ce tu veux?
(kess tsu veu)
Whaddya want?

Qu’est-ce t’en penses?
(kess tan pense)
Whaddya think (about that)?

À soir means the same thing as ce soir. In most forms of writing, it’s better to use ce soir. In regular conversations, you’ll hear both ce soir and à soir.

3. Ah ok, là j’comprends!

Ah ok, now I understand!
Ah ok, now I get it!

Maintenant isn’t the only way to say “now” in French. In Québec, is very often used instead. Sometimes you’ll even hear it repeated for extra effect.

Là là, chu tanné!
Now I’m really fed up!
Now I’ve really had it!

Chu is an informal pronunciation of je suis.

Votre animal fait un effort4. Votre animal fait un effort, faites le vôtre!

If your animal can make an effort, so can you!

This funny sign in Montréal asks dog owners to make an effort (i.e., pick up after their dog) after their dog has “made an effort” (i.e., gone poo).

Merci de ramasser
Thank you for picking up (after your dog)

Remember, ramasser in Québec is pronounced ramâsser. The accented â sounds something like “aww.”

If the word contains â, that’s easy: say “aww.” But some words take the “aww” sound even if they aren’t written with the accent. Here’s a list of 50 French words pronounced with the “aww” sound but not written with the accented â.

Remember, it isn’t necessary for you to pronounce â as “aww” to make yourself understood. If you pronounce â like a regular a sound, everybody will understand you. At the very least, learn to hear the difference between the â and a sounds so that you recognise the word that people are saying.

Nouvelle aire d'exercice canin5. Nouvelle aire d’exercice canin

New dog exercise area

A little farther down the street, I spotted another sign related to dogs.

This sign tells us that in May 2014 the fenced off area will become a zone for dogs to run around in.

The masculine word air means “air.” The feminine word aire means “zone” or “area.” Maybe you’ll remember this no-smoking sign in French containing a play on the words air and aire.

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Passer la nuit sur la corde à lingeIf you share the bed with someone who snores, you know all about having rough nights and getting little sleep. (Get a good pair of ear plugs.)

In French, when you have a rough night, you could say that you’ve spent the night on the clothesline!

I spotted this ad in the métro earlier today. Sorry, the image is a little blurry. It was a bumpy train ride.

The ad asks: Est-ce que vos matins ressemblent à ça? Is this what your mornings look like?

In the image, we see a grumpy guy hanging on a clothesline with his happy-face cup of coffee.

Around him, we read solutions to sleepless nights offered by the business, like good mattresses and pillows. (They forgot the ear plugs.)

But why is the guy hanging on a clothesline? Because he’s had a sleepless night: Il a passé la nuit sur la corde à linge!

passer la nuit sur la corde à linge
to have a rough night, a sleepless night
(literally: to spend the night on the clothesline)

Remember: passer is pronounced pâsser in Québec.

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Some more French overheard (and seen) in Montréal for you:

1. J’ai comme pas trouvé la poubelle

After eating her meal, a young woman walked around with her finished tray of food. She was looking for the garbage bin where she could throw her garbage away and leave the tray. She couldn’t find the garbage bin, though.

She walked back towards her friends with her tray still in hand, and then said to them sheepishly:

J’ai comme pas trouvé la poubelle…
Yeah, so, I couldn’t find the garbage…

2. T’es ben niaiseuse

A young guy was talking to his friends about a girl. As he talked about her, he described her as niaiseuse, by saying:

T’es ben niaiseuse.
You’re so stupid.

The girl wasn’t actually there, but he said this as though he were speaking directly to her while talking to his friends.

Niaiseuse is pronounced nyè-zeuze. The masculine form of niaiseuse is niaiseux. T’es sounds like ; ben sounds like bain.

3. Ludo l’a lu

Can you say this five times fast? Ludo l’a lu, Lili le lit, Luca le lira! This ad in the métro promotes literacy.

Ludo l'a lu

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In an article from the Journal de Montréal called “Pas les moyens de rêver” (3 November 2013), journalist Richard Martineau used three French expressions that borrow a word from English:

1. gérer la shop
2. ça manque de punch
3. passer la moppe

Before the election had come to an end yesterday, Martineau argued in his article that Montréal doesn’t need an ambitious mayor with big projects in mind.

He said that Montréal needs a realistic mayor, someone who can clean up city hall and who knows how to gérer la shop, or “run the place,” like candidate Marcel Côté. The “shop” he was referring to is in fact city hall, l’hôtel de ville.

Martineau admitted that some people probably found Côté’s electoral platform to be lacklustre, ça manque de punch, but that it was also a realistic and prudent one.

Before even thinking about big projects, he said that Montréal needs someone like Marcel Côté to come in and passer la moppe et l’aspirateur dans tous les coins de l’hôtel de ville, or “mop and vacuum every corner of city hall.”

gérer la shop
to run the place

ça manque de punch
it lacks punch
it’s dull

passer la moppe
to mop up

The word shop is feminine: la shop. You may hear this word used to refer to a workshop, for example. But Martineau gave the expression gérer la shop a figurative meaning here. He wasn’t talking about a workshop; he was referring to city hall. We can probably translate the expression here as “to run the place.”

If it’s dull, if it’s got no punch, ça manque de punch. Anything boring could be described this way. A boring idea? A bland dish of food? Ça manque de punch!

The expression passer la moppe was also used figuratively here. Martineau didn’t mean that somebody needs to clean up city hall with a mop and water. He meant that someone needs to put things in order. That said, you can also hear passer la moppe used literally in the sense of washing a floor with a mop and water. When used, moppe is feminine: la moppe.

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