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Archive for August, 2015

Sometimes you’ll hear people say that, in Québécois French, the second-person singular tu (meaning you) gets added in anywhere and everywhere in sentences… without rhyme or reason!

On y va-tu?
T’as-tu vu ça?
Ça se peut-tu?
Shall we go?
Did you see that?
Is that possible?

But, as we’ve seen before, the tu they’re referring to isn’t the second-personal singular at all. It’s a yes-no question marker used in informal language.

On y va-[oui/non]?
T’as-[oui/non] vu ça?
Ça se peut-[oui/non]?

If you leave out the yes-no tu, the question still means the same thing:

On y va?
T’as vu ça?
Ça se peut?

But, rather than just making the voice rise at the end like in those last examples, the tu is often included when formulating yes-no questions — or at least in informal language, it is.

The answer to the title of this blog post is ça se peut-tu, with a t in peut, not an x. That’s because the tu in ça se peut-tu isn’t the second-person singular; it’s not the subject. The conjugation, then, aligns with ça (i.e., peut), not tu (i.e., not peux).

Why is this important?

The next time you hear someone say the Québécois add in the second-person singular tu just about anywhere they like as if it were salt, you’ll know it’s not true!

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I found the interesting quote below in the Journal de Montréal (27 August 2015, p.5). It was said by a woman talking about how the water in her area has been dirty, smelly and undrinkable for the past five years:

C’est pas buvable! C’est même pas sentable! Tu entres dans ta douche et l’odeur te pogne au coeur.
It’s not drinkable! It’s not even “smellable”! You go in your shower and the smell is just sickening.

L’odeur te pogne au coeur… This literally means the smell grabs your heart (the informal verb pogner means to grab, catch, etc.), but we can understand it as meaning that the smell hits you in the gut and makes you want to be sick. Why? Because the water’s pas sentable, it stinks.

That’s the really interesting usage in this quote — pas sentable. If something’s not drinkable, c’est pas buvable. And if it’s pas sentable, then it’s… not smellable!

Pogner au coeur can also be used in the sense of evoking strong emotions. For example, you might say of a touching story: ça m’a pogné au coeur, it went straight to my heart.

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I took this photo in a pharmacy in Montréal. The reason I took it is for the vocabulary on the sign hanging from above.

The French word location doesn’t mean the same thing as the English word location.

The French word location means rental, for hire. Une voiture de location, for example, is a rental car.

You can use the French word emplacement in the sense of the English word location. Le nouvel emplacement de la pharmacie, for example, means the new location of the pharmacy.

Back to the sign, it’s a list of things we can rent in the pharmacy.

Une béquille is a crutch. Une marchette is a walker. Une chaise roulante is a wheelchair.

Chaise roulante is a Québécois usage. It exists alongside the masculine term fauteuil roulant, which means the same thing.

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Métro Pie-IX (Montréal)

Métro Pie-IX (Montréal)

Here are a few more colloquial usages pulled from comments on Facebook. The first two are more typical of younger to middle-aged speakers.

1. C’est weird.

That’s weird.

  • Weird follows English pronunciation.

2. Pis là, je me suis dit whatever!

And then I thought ‘whatever’!

  • Pis là sounds like pi là. Pis is an informal contraction of puis. Pis means and here, and means then.
  • Je me suis can contract informally to j’me su’.
  • Dit sounds like dzi. When d appears before the i sound, it sounds like dz.

3. Je trouve ça vraiment tannant.

I think that’s really annoying.

  • Je trouve can contract informally to j’trouve, which sounds like ch’trouve.

By the way, I heard some newcomers to the country pronounce métro Pie-IX (see the image above) incorrectly as pi-iks. In fact, the correct pronunciation is pi-neuf, pi-9. It’s named after le pape Pie-IX.

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We’ve seen before on OffQc that the three meals of the day in Québec are called:

  • le déjeuner, breakfast
  • le dîner, lunch
  • le souper, supper

On the radio, though, here’s what the host said to us listeners:

C’est l’heure du lunch qui s’en vient bientôt.
Lunchtime’s coming up.

That’s lunch’s second name in Québec: le lunch.

A reader of OffQc liked this Québecois usage: la boîte à lunch, which she found in this newspaper article online. The article is called Suggestions pour la boîte à lunch, and contains suggestions of lunches kids can take to school. You can say un sac à lunch if it’s a bag.

There’s another meal that could be added to this list: le brunch. It’s a meal that occurs between breakfast + lunch.

In advertising especially, you might notice the typically Québécois terms are sometimes not used. Here’s what’s on the back cover of an Ikea catalogue that showed up in my mailbox:

Petit-déjeuner au lit… comme ça, sans raison.
Breakfast in bed… just because.

Rather than calling breakfast in bed déjeuner au lit like they did in this TVA article, the Ikea magazine uses petit-déjeuner au lit.

Here’s how the TVA article used déjeuner au lit:

Vous cherchez à gâter maman à l’occasion de la fête des mères? Pourquoi ne pas lui préparer un décadent déjeuner au lit pour débuter sa journée en beauté?
Want to spoil Mother on Mother’s Day? Why not make her a decadent breakfast in bed so she can get her day off to a great start?

How do you say things like to have breakfast, to have supper, etc.? You can use the verb forms of the words (dîner, souper…). In #451, we saw:

Vous avez pas encore soupé.
You haven’t had supper yet.

Ça vous dérange pas qu’ils soupent avec nous?
Is it okay if they stay for supper? have supper with us?

You can also say things like aller souper, aller dîner, aller bruncher, etc. In #991, we saw:

aller souper au restaurant
to go out for supper

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A story in the Journal de Montréal tells of a restaurant owner who posted a complaint on Facebook. Her complaint was about a customer who’d brought lactose-free milk into the restaurant for her child to drink.

The owner argued that the customer should’ve ordered the milk in her restaurant instead of bringing it in from outside.

Long story short, her complaint on Facebook went viral because the Internet sided with the customer, not the restaurant owner. A marketing specialist commented on how the restaurant’s reputation will be affected:

À court terme, ça va fesser fort. […] C’est une petite entreprise, c’est sûr que ça va faire mal.
In short term, it’s going to hurt (lit., “to hit hard”). It’s a small business, it’s going to hurt for sure.

[«Un contenant de lait crée un tollé contre une restauratrice», Journal de Montréal, 21 août 2015]

Literally, fesser means to hit. It can be used in both its literal sense, or in a figurative sense meaning to hurt (one’s reputation, one’s ego, etc.).

This isn’t the first time we’re seeing fesser on OffQc.

In #285, we saw how a character called Stéphanie from the TV show La Galère was proud that her son had punched a sexual predator and eventually managed to get him arrested. As she takes care of her son’s hand, she asks him:

T’as fessé fort?
Do you hit [him] hard?

  • t’as, informal contraction of tu as

In #415, we saw how a character called Olivier from the TV show Les Parent got into a fight with another boy. When Olivier explains to his parents why he got into the fight, he says he was protecting his little brother Zak and his friend:

Y’était en train d’écoeurer Zak pis son ami.
Y’allait fesser sur Zak!
He was picking on Zak and his friend.
He was gonna hit Zak!

  • y’était, informal pronunciation of il était
  • y’allait, informal pronunciation of il allait
  • pis (sounds like pi), informal pronunciation of puis; means and here

In those last two examples, fesser is used literally. But in #547, we saw a figurative use: a radio show host wishes a happy 40th birthday to a listener and admits that turning 40 is hard to take:

40 ans, ça fesse.
[Turning] 40 hurts.

The Usito dictionary also gives a couple examples:

Fesser sur un clou avec un marteau.
To strike a nail with a hammer.

«J’ai remarqué que, quand Alexandre est fâché, il est violent; il donne des coups de poing, il fesse partout»
“I’ve noticed that, when Alexander is angry, he gets violent; he goes around punching, hitting everything.”

[Michel Gosselin, Le repos piégé, 1988]

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Two readers have asked for help with French terms of affection to use with their Québécois boyfriend, so I’ll try to start adding examples of these.

Québécois Jean-Pierre Ferland sings a love song called Une chance qu’on s’a, which you can find on YouTube.

The title means we’re lucky to have each other, it’s a good thing we’ve got each other, etc. On s’a means the same thing as nous nous avons.

I won’t put all the lyrics here, just the first five lines:

Une chance que j’t’ai
Je t’ai, tu m’as
Une chance qu’on s’a

Quand tu m’appelles «mon p’tit loup»
Avec ta p’tite voix […]

I’m lucky to have you (good thing I’ve got you)
I’ve got you, you’ve got me (I’m yours, you’re mine)
We’re lucky to have each other (good thing we’ve got each other)

When you call me “my little wolf”
In your little voice […]

So there’s our first term of affection: mon p’tit loup. Loup is pronounced lou. Petit can be pronounced colloquially as p’tit or ti.

Of course, if you can say mon p’tit loup, then you can also just say mon loup, or you can go in the other direction entirely and say mon gros loup!

mon loup
mon p’tit loup / mon ti-loup
mon gros loup

By the way, if you listen to the song, you’ll hear Ferland say both je t’ai and the informally contracted j’t’ai. J’t’ai sounds like ch’t’ai. Do you hear how je changes to the ch sound when it contracts to j’ before t?

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