Archive for the ‘Entries #251-300’ Category

In a scene from the TV show Les Parent, Thomas asks his mother to buy him a new cell phone.

Mother gives son the usual lecture — your current cell phone is fine, you don’t always need to be à la fine pointe de la technologie, it’s just peer pressure to have a better phone, bla bla bla…

Thomas tells his mother the real reason he needs a new cell phone, though. It’s because he’s dropped his current one in the toilet. Oups.

A couple ways you could say this French (the next time you find yourself in this situation!):

J’ai échappé mon celluaire dans la toilette.
I dropped my cell phone in the toilet.

J’ai échappé mon cell dans la toilette.
I dropped my cell in the toilet.

You can also say mon téléphone instead of mon cellulaire or mon cell.

How’s that for some useful French?? Ah — I guess you should also learn this one: déboucher la toilette. To unclog the toilet.

[This entry was inspired by Les Parent, “Trois garçons dans le vent,” season 4, episode 10, Radio-Canada, Montreal, 14 November 2011.]

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In this article published yesterday by Radio-Canada, we find three different nicknames for the Canadiens de Montréal:

  • le Canadien
  • le CH
  • le Tricolore

The team can be referred to in either the singular or plural in French: le Canadien or les Canadiens. The singular form is a sort of nickname. The nickname le CH comes from the team logo. (The H stands for hockey, not “Habs.”) The nickname le Tricolore comes from the three team colours: red, white and blue.


Le Canadien a affronté les Bruins.
Le CH a triomphé des Bruins.
Le Tricolore a remporté le match.

affronter, to play against
triompher de quelqu’un,
to triumph over someone
remporter le match, to win the game

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Tabarnouche! (#299)

You’ve no doubt noticed that a lot of inspiration for these entries comes from the shows La Galère, Les Parent and 30 vies. Another good series is 19-2, which isn’t currently running, but season 1 is available on DVD.

In this entry, more from La Galère — an example of a softened version of the swear word tabarnac in Quebec French:

Stéphanie loses her temper, and the swear word tabarnac starts to come out of her mouth…


But then a priest approaches, whom she knows personally, and Stéphanie says the last syllable of the word as…

… nouche.

The priest comments:

Nac. Tu peux le dire.

Tabarnouche is a softened version of tabarnac (or tabarnak).

We don’t say nac on its own like in the last quote above — the priest just meant that Stéphanie didn’t have to replace the last syllable with something softer just because he showed up. (This doesn’t mean that it’s okay to say tabarnac in front of priests in real life, though. He was just being friendly with Stéphanie, who’s an acquaintance — and this is just a TV show!)

There are more notes regarding swearing in French in the comments section.

[The quotes above are taken from La Galère, season 4, episode 7, Radio-Canada, Montreal, 24 October 2011.]

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Isabelle from the series La Galère is a lawyer. In her personal life, she likes things to be in order. She’s very concerned with what people think of her — she’s always dressed professionally when she goes out, even when she’s not working. Isabelle never relaxes.

But then, one day, she meets a new man. He rides a motorbike, he’s rough on the edges, and Isabelle thinks he may even be a criminal. But she’s intrigued and, although she doesn’t let on, she’s attracted to him.

Try to picture these two different personality types: one, an uptight lawyer who never relaxes; the other, a rough guy who rides a motorbike, someone who maybe has a “past.”

In a scene where this new guys stops by Isabelle’s house on his motorbike, Isabelle puts forward her usual inhibited self — she doesn’t like that he’s stopped by without notice, and she doesn’t like motorbikes. She lets him know that she’s not impressed (even though we suspect that she’s secretly happy to see him). To tease Isabelle about how uptight she is, he says:

T’as l’air pognée.

[Said by a biker (un motard) in La Galère, season 4, episode 7, Radio-Canada, Montreal, 24 October 2011.]

When you come across new expressions in French, you can use Google or another search engine as a guide. Imagine that you’ve come across the expression avoir l’air pogné for the first time. Using Google, you can search for variations of this expression to see what you come up with. If you put your search terms between quotation marks, you’ll search for those exact words in that exact order.

As an example, you can type “as l’air pogné” (with quotation marks) into Google and find these examples:

Sois plus à l’aise au mic*, t’as l’air pogné.
T’es pas drôle en personne, t’as l’air pogné.

You can try the same experiment with different expressions that you’re learning. You can usually find good examples that help you to deepen your understanding. Just be aware that you’ll probably find lots of spelling mistakes in online forums!

Then you can start to use the expression in combination with other ones that you already know. For example, avoir l’air pogné + sur une photo:

T’as l’air pogné sur cette photo.

Were you able to infer the meaning of the expression avoir l’air pogné without needing a translation into English? (If not, you can check out the comments section.)

* mic = mike (i.e., microphone)

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In this entry, you’ll discover another way that you might hear the verb niaiser used in Quebec French.

On niaise pas avec ça.
Don’t joke around with that.

The expression niaiser avec means “to joke around with” or “to mess around with,” in the sense of not taking something seriously.

For example, imagine someone isn’t taking his health seriously. A friend might tell him that when it comes to health, on niaise pas avec ça.

In a scene from 30 vies, we hear a character say to a young woman:

On rit pas de la santé, ma belle, on niaise pas avec ça.

[Said by a female character in 30 vies, season 2, episode 9, Radio-Canada, Montreal, 26 September 2011.]

In a scene from La Galère, Claude says that she’s not going to pay one of her debts. Her friend Isabelle tells her:

C’est important d’honorer tes dettes, là. Tu peux pas niaiser avec ça.

[Said by the character Isabelle in La Galère, season 4, episode 7, Radio-Canada, Montreal, 24 October 2011.]

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The Office québécois de la langue française (OQLF) considers the expression prendre une marche (to take a walk) to be incorrect, at least in writing. So, shhhhhhh, we won’t tell them that Radio-Canada is probably in possession of a transcript that uses this naughty anglicisme.

In a scene from 30 vies, a school teacher named Brigitte says to a teaching colleague on a sunny day:

Beau temps pour prendre une marche!

[Said by Brigitte in 30 vies, season 2, episode 9, Radio-Canada, Montreal, 26 September 2011.]

Right, so, even though I disagree* with the OQLF’s use of the wording exemples fautifs here, you probably will want to avoid using this expression in most forms of careful writing because someone will either tell you that you’ve made a mistake, or it may just sound inappropriate.

Just don’t be surprised if you hear it during an informal conversation…

* Can a language item that’s used and understood by a body of speakers really be called fautif (incorrect) just because it isn’t liked?

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In entry #293, you read about how to improve your accent in French. Here’s a clip in French from Radio-Canada about the Nephila spider. You can use this clip to improve your accent following the steps described in that entry, or you can just use it for listening practice in French.

You’ll find a transcription of the video below. I’ve put in bold a few expressions you may wish to learn if you haven’t already.

If you can’t see the video above, watch it here on YouTube.

C’est la championne des araignées. La Nephila tisse la toile la plus grande et la plus résistante. Sa soie est la plus étudiée par les scientifiques à cause de ses propriétés exceptionnelles de résistance et d’extensibilité. On savait que l’origine des araignées Nephila remontait à plusieurs millions d’années. Mais ce genre d’araignée est encore plus âgée que ce que l’on croyait.

C’est en Mongolie intérieure, une région du nord de la Chine, que les paysans ont trouvé ce fossile de deux virgule cinq (2,5) centimètres — le plus gros fossile d’araignée à avoir été découvert. Baptisé* Nephila Jurassica, il nous arrive directement de l’ère du Jurassique, l’époque des dinosaures, il y a cent soixante-cinq (165) millions d’années. Sa découverte a fait la manchette du National Geographic.

Trouvé dans la roche, le fossile a été préservé de façon exceptionnelle grâce à une couche de cendres volcaniques. En comparant ses traits à une Nephila moderne — la Nephila clavipes —, le paléontologue américain Paul Selden et ses collègues ont observé de grandes similitudes.

Ils ont constaté que sa morphologie est restée pratiquement inchangée jusqu’à aujourd’hui. Sur ses tibias, on retrouve les mêmes poils microscopiques caractéristiques des Nephilas. La longueur de son corps est semblable et correspond à celui d’une femelle. Aujourd’hui, les Nephilas vivent sous les tropiques, ce qui laisse croire aux scientifiques que le climat de la Chine du Nord-Est était beaucoup plus chaud et humide à l’ère du Jurassique qu’il ne l’est maintenant.

Les chercheurs pensent que les Nephilas ont pu survivre jusqu’à aujourd’hui parce qu’elles ont développé une stratégie gagnante — en tissant la meilleure des toiles, capables d’attraper de gros insectes comme des papillons de nuit et des coléoptères.

tisser une toile, to spin a web
remonter à, to go back as far as
faire la manchette, to make the top story
vivre sous les tropiques, to live in the tropics

* baptisé — the p is silent in this word

[Source: Découverte, Radio-Canada. Narrated by Charles Tisseyre.]

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