Mes Aïeux (click on the image to go to the official site)
On the OffQc Facebook page, Ken asked about a few pronunciations he heard in a modern folk song called Dégénérations by the group Mes Aïeux. In one part of this song about generational degeneration (which you can listen to below), the lyrics go like this:
Et pis toi, ma p’tite fille, tu changes de partenaire tout l’temps
Quand tu fais des conneries, tu t’en sauves en avortant
And as for you, young girl, you’re always sleeping around
Whenever you mess up, you just get out of it by aborting
Ken asked about the word pis, and also wanted to know why toi gets pronounced as toé (or twé) in the song.
You’ll hear pis a lot when people speak French casually. It sounds as if it were written pi, or like the English word “pee.” It can mean “then” or “and” depending on how it’s used. Pis derives from puis.
I found a blog post in which the author wrote a fictional piece (or at least I hope it’s fictional) about saving some guy from choking on his 6-inch tuna sub at a Subway restaurant. He uses the word pis in his writing:
Tantôt, j’étais au Subway, pis y’a un monsieur qui s’est étouffé avec son 6 pouces au thon drette à côté de moi.
Earlier on, I was at Subway [a fast-food restaurant], and there was a man who choked on his 6-inch tuna [sandwich] right next to me.
J’me suis d’abord placé devant lui pis je l’ai entouré de mes mains pis je l’ai serré contre moi.
First I stood in front of him, (and) then I grabbed hold of him, (and) then I pulled him in towards me.
[Quotes by Gran Talen in Sauver une vie grâce à mon collier pur noisetier]
So, when Mes Aïeux sing et pis toi in the lyrics above, we can translate it as “and as for you” (i.e., and now, turning our attention to you…). But Ken notes that they don’t actually sing it as et pis toi — they sing it as et pis toé.
If you listen to traditional québécois music, you’ll often hear moi and toi pronounced as moé and toé in the songs. You might also sometimes hear these pronunciations in conversations. If you came across moé pis toé in French, it means moi et toi.
Is there a difference between moi/toi and moé/toé?
Yes, there’s a difference. They mean the same thing, but some people in Québec may tell you that moé and toé are “incorrect.” These pronunciations are often typically associated with the working class.
As a learner of French, should you use moé and toé when you speak?
Probably not. The Québécois will know that you’re not a native speaker of French, and these pronunciations will almost certainly sound out of place if you use them. (This is maybe similar to the English word “ain’t.” You’d probably find it strange to hear a non-native speaker of English use it.)
This doesn’t mean that moé and toé are “bad” pronunciations. But I do think it’s best to leave moé and toé to the native speakers and just stick with moi and toi yourself.
As for pis, you can probably get away with using that one, even as a non-native speaker of French, because it’s just so very prevalent in conversations. Save it for informal conversations though, and keep listening to French so that you can hear how and when it’s used.
On the other hand, if you’re singing québécois trad music (and I know some of you are), moé and toé will probably sound very appropriate in that context because of the folkloric effect they produce.
In fact, in the Mes Aïeux folk song below, it’s probably moi and toi that would sound out of place!
You can find the lyrics to the song through Google with the search terms paroles mes aïeux dégénérations.
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