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A googler landed on OffQc searching for an answer to what on peut-tu means in Quebec French.

It’s an informal question starter meaning the same thing as est-ce qu’on peut.

On peut-tu faire ça? means est-ce qu’on peut faire ça? (Can we do that?)

On peut-tu changer de sujet? means est-ce qu’on peut changer de sujet? (Can we change the subject?)

Just remember that the form using on peut-tu is informal only. It can be heard in everyday relaxed speech, but you’ll come across it much less in writing (unless it’s particularly informal writing).

The -tu part in on peut-tu has nothing to do with “you” (second person singular tu). It’s an informal yes-no question marker instead.

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While reading the newspaper today, I came across an advertisement for a dentist.

In the ad, they mention that they also offer orthodontic services like braces.

To say braces, they used a feminine plural word proper to the French of Québec: broches.

J’ai porté des broches quand j’étais plus jeune.
I wore braces when I was younger.

J’ai eu des broches quand j’étais ado.
I got braces when I was a teen.

As-tu déjà eu des broches?
Have you ever had braces?

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Two words used in the French of Québec for you to learn or review today:

chiâler
to complain

quétaine
tacky, cheesy

In an article in Montréal’s Métro newspaper, Les Justiciers masqués comment on those friends of ours who always complain about Valentine’s Day. They use the words chiâler and quétaine in their description:

« À la Saint-Valentin, il y a toujours des amis rabat-joie pour dire qu’il s’agit d’une fête commerciale quétaine et un peu arnaqueuse envers les couples, toujours prêts à faire des folies, question de raviver la flamme. Ce sont d’ailleurs habituellement ces amis qui sont d’éternels célibataires, qu’on écoute chiâler du 10 au 16 février, en sachant très bien qu’ils pleurent secrètement en se bourrant de chocolat et en écoutant un film de Meg Ryan le soir de la fête des amoureux. »

If you suffer from a sweet tooth, you might also like to remember another expression from the quote:

se bourrer de chocolat
to stuff oneself with chocolate!

[Quoted text by Les Justiciers masqués in “Bouder son plaisir? Pas question!” Métro Montréal, 15-17 February 2013, p. 13.]

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Yesterday I renewed a membership, and a new carte d’abonné (membership card) was given to me.

As I put the new card into my wallet, the employee serving me told me not to put it away yet because she still needed it.

Serre pas ta carte, she said. “Don’t put your card away.”

She used the verb serrer in the sense of ranger, or “to put away.”

Serrer in this sense is an example of a word now rare in France but still in use in Québec.

The OQLF gives some examples here of serrer in the sense of ranger, including:

serrer son linge dans des tiroirs
serrer sa bicyclette dans la remise
serrer ses papiers importants
serrer la vaisselle dans l’armoire

linge, clothes
remise, shed
armoire, cupboard

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Les Justiciers masqués (two humoristes québécois named Marc-Antoine Audette and Sébastien Trudel) write a column in Montréal’s version of the free Métro newspaper.

In the 8 February 2013 edition of Métro, les Justiciers masqués express their frustration over the people who travel south to escape the winter and then brag about it on Facebook:

« Sérieusement, chaque fois que quelqu’un met ses photos de voyage dans le Sud sur Facebook, on a le goût de signaler son compte comme étant de la torture psychologique pure et simple! »

on a le goût de, we feel like
signaler son compte, to report his account

For the Québécois, un voyage dans le Sud is a trip to warmer climates south of Québec, like Mexico or Cuba.

They continue:

« Chaque fois qu’on a les deux pieds dans la sloche et les mains gelées, agrippant un grattoir pour déglacer le pare-brise de notre voiture, on n’a pas vraiment le goût de penser au fait que d’autres sont en train de boire un daiquiri en se faisant des mamours sur une chaise de plage… »

les deux pieds dans la sloche, both feet in the slush (sloche rhymes with poche)
un grattoir, a tool used to scrape ice off windows
on n’a pas vraiment le goût de, we don’t really feel like
se faire des mamours, to kiss and cuddle oneself

For those of you unfortunate enough to live somewhere hot all year round (sorry, I love the winter!), la sloche is this messy stuff.

[Quoted text by Les Justiciers masqués in “Accusés d’avoir étranglé une marmotte,” Métro Montréal, 8 February 2013, p. 13.]

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If you have access to Radio-Canada on television or all the videos on tou.tv, give the police series 19-2 a try.

You’ll find the dialogue in 19-2 challenging, but you really shouldn’t miss the show if you have the chance to view it. Season 2 is now underway.

In the first episode of season 2, viewers are confronted with difficult scenes to watch. The episode takes place in a secondary school where an adolescent has opened fire.

Not surprisingly, we hear the police officers in this series talk about guns. In different scenes, we hear them refer informally to a gun as un gun.

In one scene, a police officer yells at a suspect:
Drop ton gun! (Drop your gun!)

Then, more aggressively, he yells again:
Drop ton esti d’gun! (Drop your fuckin’ gun!)

Later, an officer yells at a suspect pinned to the ground:
Yé où ton gun? (Where’s your gun?, yé = il est)

Then, more aggressively:
Yé où ton esti d’gun? (Where’s your fuckin’ gun?)

We can look at some more language from 19-2 in future entries. If you’re looking for a series to watch containing a lot of street French, 19-2 won’t disappoint.

[Quotes from 19-2, season 2, episode 1, Radio-Canada, Montréal, 28 January 2013.]

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Author Stephen King said:

“If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot. There’s no way around these two things that I’m aware of, no shortcut.”

If Stephen King were the author of OffQc, I’m sure that he’d have also said:

If you want to be a speaker of French, you must do two things above all others: listen a lot and speak a lot. There’s no way around these two things that I’m aware of, no shortcut.

You listen to French to absorb the language. You speak because you can’t be a speaker of French without speaking.

P.S. Stephen King also said: “French is the language that turns dirt into romance.”

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