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Archive for June, 2016

If you look up ugly in an English-French dictionary, you’ll find (amongst a few other adjectives):

laid (m.) and
laide (f.).

As an approximation, the feminine form laide sounds like the English word led; the masculine form laid sounds like led without the d on the end.

But there’s also another way to say ugly, which can be heard in colloquial language: laitte (also spelled laite), which sounds like the English word let.

Y’est ben laitte, ton dessin!
Your drawing’s really ugly!

Y’est is a contraction of il est; it sounds like yé. Ben is a contraction of bien; it sounds like the French word bain. Ben means really here.

T’es don’ ben laitte!
You’re so ugly!

T’es is a contraction of tu es; it sounds like té. Don’ is a phonetic spelling of donc, where the c is silent. Don’ and ben together before an adjective is stronger than just ben on its own. (It’s also possible to just say t’es ben laitte, of course.)

C’est trop laitte comme nom!
That’s such an ugly name!

We also saw an example of laitte in a past post. An author said that, on the sidewalks of Québec during moving season, there’s plein de vieux divans à motifs laittes (lots of old sofas with ugly designs).

Remember, laitte is a colloquial form. It’s fine during informal conversations, but not on your French exam (not unless, of course, you’re writing informal dialogue or otherwise know what you’re doing such that you can break the rules).

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A few posts ago in #1133, we looked at the word affaires, where it appeared twice in this sentence said by a man in Montréal:

On a pas d’affaires à dire des affaires d’même!
They’ve got no business saying things like that!
They’ve got no right to say stuff like that!

We also saw:

T’as pas d’affaires à dire ça!
You’ve got no business saying that!
You’ve got no right to say that!

Let’s look at another example using affaire, which you’ll want to learn because it’s useful in conversations:

L’affaire, c’est que…

We can translate this as the thing is… This expression can be used to introduce the downside to a situation.

J’comprends, mais l’affaire c’est que…
I understand, but the thing is…
I understand, it’s just that…

L’affaire, c’est que j’ai pas l’goût d’attendre deux semaines.
The thing is I don’t wanna wait two weeks.
It’s just that I don’t feel like waiting two weeks.

The expression avoir le goût de means to want (to). When you say the contracted j’ai pas l’goût (with ne omitted because this is colloquial language) say it in three syllables: j’ai / pas l’ / goût. The second syllable pas l’ sounds as though pas ends with an L.

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Refresh your French or get caught up: The OffQc book 1000 Québécois French is a condensed version of all the language that appeared in the first 1000 posts on OffQc. You can buy and download it here.

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The keyword to learn to talk about being in a relationship is the masculine noun couple.

For example, to say that you’re in a relationship with someone, you can use the expression être en couple.

Ils sont en couple depuis deux mois.
They’ve been in a relationship (or: they’ve been together) for two months.

J’ai un kick sur toi, mais je suis en couple.
I’ve got a crush on you (or: I’ve got the hots for you, I really like you), but I’m in a relationship.

To say in our relationship, you can use dans notre couple.

On a des problèmes dans notre couple.
We’ve got problems in our relationship.

Pronunciation tips:

In ils sont en from the first example, the word en is in fact pronounced t’en because of the liaison. Also, colloquially, ils contracts to i’. This means ils sont en sounds as though it were written i’ son t’en.

In the second example, je suis en can be pronounced colloquially as though it were written ch’t’en, where je suis contracts to the French ch sound (like in chaise, cher, etc.). A t then comes in between the contracted ch sound and the word en: ch + t + en, said all in one syllable (chten). You’ll discover and listen to many more contractions like this in Contracted French.

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When paying for an item in a store in Montréal, I asked the cashier if they accepted my credit card. He said yes, and that they accepted all credit cards. Then he said:

On est équipés pour veiller tard!

What did he mean by that?

Let’s look first at what this means literally before trying to understand what he really meant.

The verb veiller means to stay up (i.e., to not sleep). For example, j’ai veillé jusqu’à minuit means I stayed up until midnight. Veiller tard means to stay up late. Literally, then, équipé pour veiller tard means equipped to stay up late.

In its most literal sense, the expression équipée pour veiller tard refers to a woman with large breasts, so much so that she’s “equipped to stay up late” (it’s sexual innuendo; you’ll be kept “busy” in bed until the early hours with that person). Elle est équipée pour veiller tard!

More broadly, you can also hear the expression used in reference to anybody who’s sexually endowed or seductive. This TVA article describes a frog as being une grenouille équipée pour veiller tard because of what appears to be its large penis. The expression also exists in the form amanché pour veiller tard, where amanché means fitted out, decked out, etc.

This expression doesn’t stop there, though. It’s also used in a broader, non-sexual sense of fully equipped — and that’s what the cashier meant when he used this expression. Because they accept all credit cards, they’re “fully equipped.” On est équipés pour veiller tard! (Even though the sense is non-seuxal here, the original meaning of the expression still comes to mind, and so its use is comical.)

I even managed to spot a form of this expression used on a sign in a Montréal bus shelter. The sign reads:

S’équiper pour veiller tard

What’s being advertised here is a bus pass called soirée illimitée, which allows for unlimited use the duration of one night (from 18h to 5h). This time, there’s word play going on here: we can understand s’équiper pour veiller tard as meaning equip yourself to stay up late, because with this pass you really will be equipped to veiller tard.

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A man in the street approached me to ask for the time. Although you’ve almost certainly learned quelle heure est-il?, that’s not what he said.

Here’s what he did say:

Quelle heure qu’y’est, monsieur?

The qu’y’est part is a contraction of qu’il est. It sounds like kyé.

Another colloquial way of saying this, which we’ve already seen, is:

Y’est quelle heure?

Again, y’est is a contraction of il est; it sounds like yé.

We’ve been looking at how que often gets inserted after question words in colloquial French, like comment:

Comment qu’on appelle ça?

Otherwise, the question word can go at the end:

On appelle ça comment?

The same thing is happening with our two questions asking for the time:

Quelle heure qu’y’est?
Y’est quelle heure?

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A man in Montréal said an equivalent of this while speaking with a friend:

They’ve got no business saying things like that!

He didn’t use the French word choses to say things. Can you think of another way he might have said it? What about the expression they’ve got no business doing (…); how might that be rendered in French?

Here’s what he said, in French:

On a pas d’affaires à dire des affaires d’même!

We’ve got the French word affaires in there twice, but it means something different each time.

In the first instance of affaires, we can liken it to the English word business in the expression to have no business doing something (i.e., to have no right to do something).

An example of this came up back in entry #405, where a character from a television show said:

T’as pas d’affaires à dire ça!
You’ve got no business saying that!
You’ve got no right to say that!

Remember, in spoken language, ne is omitted; that’s why it’s t’as pas and not tu n’as pas. (After ne is omitted, the remaining tu as pas contracts to t’as pas.) In the same way, we’ve got on a pas in our first example, rather than on n’a pas. That said, on n’a pas and the colloquial on a pas sound exactly the same.

The second instance of affaires means things, and de même means the same thing as comme ça. Des affaires de même, then, means des choses comme ça, or things like that.

You’ll notice, though, that I contracted de in the example: des affaires d’même. This means that de loses its vowel sound. To say des affaires d’même, move the contracted d’ to the end of affaires, as though it were dé z’affair’d même. You’ll discover many more contraction tips like this in Contracted French.

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