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Julie LaferrièreIf you live in Montréal and read the Métro while riding the métro, perhaps you’ve come across Julie Laferrière’s column Hors du commun on Tuesdays.

In her column, Laferrière shares her experiences while using public transportation in Montréal.

In her article La noblesse (9 Dec. 2013), Laferrière describes an experience with a homeless man at métro Saint-Laurent: The homeless man asks her for change, but she doesn’t have any. Instead, she offers him the nuts she’s just bought at the dépanneur. The only problem is that he’s got no teeth and can’t eat them. The experience moves her.

In her article, there are several québécois usages that we can look at. On her way to the métro, Laferrière describes how hungry she was:

(…) je n’ai rien avalé depuis la toast de 7 h ce matin.
I haven’t eaten anything since the toast (that I ate) at 7 this morning.

She decides to go the dépanneur to buy a snack:

J’opte alors pour le dépanneur du métro Saint-Laurent et je jette mon dévolu sur un gros sac de noix.
So I decide to go the dépanneur at métro Saint-Laurent, and I set my sights on a big bag of nuts.

After she buys the nuts, a homeless man calls out to her and asks for twenty-five cents:

Madame, t’as-tu vingt-cinq cennes S.V.P.?
Madame, d’ya have twenty-five cents, please?

Laferrière doesn’t have change, so she offers him the nuts she’s just bought. With a large toothless smile, the man tells her:

T’es ben fine, mais j’pourrai pas faire grand-chose avec ça.
You’re really kind, but there’s not much I can do with that [with the nuts].

To read the entire article, click here or on the image above.

une toast
a piece of toast
Toast is a feminine word in French.

un dépanneur
a shop where you can buy snacks, cigarettes, milk, etc.

t’as-tu…?
ya got…?
d’ya have…?
Read more about this informal usage here.

une cenne
one cent

vingt-cinq cennes
twenty-five cents

ben [sounds like bain]
really

t’es ben fine [said to a woman]
you’re really nice, kind

t’es ben fin [said to a man]
you’re really nice, kind

There are some other expressions in the article that you might like to learn:

il flatte son chien
he’s patting his dog

j’ai une boule dans la gorge
I’ve got a knot in my throat [because of emotion]

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The CBC’s Canada Writes published an interview about OffQc today. Take a look when you get the chance. They asked me why it’s difficult to learn French the “traditional” way, how to keep your ears and eyes fresh, as well as some questions about me and the blog.

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When French borrows a word from English, it often becomes masculine in French. But when you’re listening to French spoken by the Québécois, have you noticed that some borrowed words became feminine instead?

Here are just seven of them:

  • toast
  • job
  • joke
  • pinotte
  • sandwich
  • traite
  • bullshit!

Below are examples of how you could hear these words used. The examples were all written by Mario Bélanger in his book Petit guide du parler québécois, which I reviewed in an earlier entry.

For each example, I’ve included a translation into English.

Je veux une toast et un café.
I want toast and coffee.

Tu as une job qui te plaît.
(remember: tu as contracts to t’as in conversations)
You’ve got a job that you like.

C’est pas grave. C’est juste une joke.
It’s no big deal. It’s just a joke.

J’ai le goût de manger des pinottes.
I feel like eating peanuts.

Veux-tu une sandwich au jambon?
Do you want a ham sandwich?

C’est à mon tour de payer la traite.
It’s my turn to treat.

Cette publicité, c’est de la bullshit!
(bullshit is pronounced boulechitte)
This advertisement is bullshit!

For the words job and sandwich, a masculine form exists too (la job, le job; la sandwich, le sandwich). During regular, everyday conversations in Québec, you’re more likely to hear the feminine form. The masculine form of these two words appears more frequently in writing.

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Here are 5 new items for you to learn in French:

  • 3 colloquial French expressions overheard in Montréal
  • 2 images related to dogs seen in Montréal

1. Hier y’a fait chaud en tabarouette!

It was darn hot yesterday!

A man said this the day after the temperature had warmed up a little. He exaggerated though by saying that it was really hot the day before, even if the temperature wasn’t in fact hot (it was just warmer than usual).

Y’a is an informal pronunciation of il, so y’a fait chaud is a colloquial pronunciation of il a fait chaud.

Tabarouette sounds like ta-bar-wett. The expression en tabarouette makes the adjective that comes before it stronger. Tabarouette derives from the québécois swear word tabarnak, but tabarouette is a non-offensive version of it (like “darn” instead of “damn”).

C’est cher en tabarouette!
It’s darn expensive!

Tabarouette!
Darn! Holy cow!

2. Qu’est-ce tu fais à soir?

Whaddya doin’ tonight?

The girl that said this didn’t ask qu’est-ce que tu fais à soir?, she asked qu’est-ce tu fais à soir? She dropped the word que. This often happens during informal French conversations before the word tu. Qu’est-ce on its own without the que sounds like kess.

Remember, tu in Québec sounds like tsu.

Qu’est-ce tu fais?
(kess tsu fè)
What’re you doin’?

Qu’est-ce tu veux?
(kess tsu veu)
Whaddya want?

Qu’est-ce t’en penses?
(kess tan pense)
Whaddya think (about that)?

À soir means the same thing as ce soir. In most forms of writing, it’s better to use ce soir. In regular conversations, you’ll hear both ce soir and à soir.

3. Ah ok, là j’comprends!

Ah ok, now I understand!
Ah ok, now I get it!

Maintenant isn’t the only way to say “now” in French. In Québec, is very often used instead. Sometimes you’ll even hear it repeated for extra effect.

Là là, chu tanné!
Now I’m really fed up!
Now I’ve really had it!

Chu is an informal pronunciation of je suis.

Votre animal fait un effort4. Votre animal fait un effort, faites le vôtre!

If your animal can make an effort, so can you!

This funny sign in Montréal asks dog owners to make an effort (i.e., pick up after their dog) after their dog has “made an effort” (i.e., gone poo).

Merci de ramasser
Thank you for picking up (after your dog)

Remember, ramasser in Québec is pronounced ramâsser. The accented â sounds something like “aww.”

If the word contains â, that’s easy: say “aww.” But some words take the “aww” sound even if they aren’t written with the accent. Here’s a list of 50 French words pronounced with the “aww” sound but not written with the accented â.

Remember, it isn’t necessary for you to pronounce â as “aww” to make yourself understood. If you pronounce â like a regular a sound, everybody will understand you. At the very least, learn to hear the difference between the â and a sounds so that you recognise the word that people are saying.

Nouvelle aire d'exercice canin5. Nouvelle aire d’exercice canin

New dog exercise area

A little farther down the street, I spotted another sign related to dogs.

This sign tells us that in May 2014 the fenced off area will become a zone for dogs to run around in.

The masculine word air means “air.” The feminine word aire means “zone” or “area.” Maybe you’ll remember this no-smoking sign in French containing a play on the words air and aire.

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Passer la nuit sur la corde à lingeIf you share the bed with someone who snores, you know all about having rough nights and getting little sleep. (Get a good pair of ear plugs.)

In French, when you have a rough night, you could say that you’ve spent the night on the clothesline!

I spotted this ad in the métro earlier today. Sorry, the image is a little blurry. It was a bumpy train ride.

The ad asks: Est-ce que vos matins ressemblent à ça? Is this what your mornings look like?

In the image, we see a grumpy guy hanging on a clothesline with his happy-face cup of coffee.

Around him, we read solutions to sleepless nights offered by the business, like good mattresses and pillows. (They forgot the ear plugs.)

But why is the guy hanging on a clothesline? Because he’s had a sleepless night: Il a passé la nuit sur la corde à linge!

passer la nuit sur la corde à linge
to have a rough night, a sleepless night
(literally: to spend the night on the clothesline)

Remember: passer is pronounced pâsser in Québec.

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Some more French overheard (and seen) in Montréal for you:

1. J’ai comme pas trouvé la poubelle

After eating her meal, a young woman walked around with her finished tray of food. She was looking for the garbage bin where she could throw her garbage away and leave the tray. She couldn’t find the garbage bin, though.

She walked back towards her friends with her tray still in hand, and then said to them sheepishly:

J’ai comme pas trouvé la poubelle…
Yeah, so, I couldn’t find the garbage…

2. T’es ben niaiseuse

A young guy was talking to his friends about a girl. As he talked about her, he described her as niaiseuse, by saying:

T’es ben niaiseuse.
You’re so stupid.

The girl wasn’t actually there, but he said this as though he were speaking directly to her while talking to his friends.

Niaiseuse is pronounced nyè-zeuze. The masculine form of niaiseuse is niaiseux. T’es sounds like ; ben sounds like bain.

3. Ludo l’a lu

Can you say this five times fast? Ludo l’a lu, Lili le lit, Luca le lira! This ad in the métro promotes literacy.

Ludo l'a lu

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In an article from the Journal de Montréal called “Pas les moyens de rêver” (3 November 2013), journalist Richard Martineau used three French expressions that borrow a word from English:

1. gérer la shop
2. ça manque de punch
3. passer la moppe

Before the election had come to an end yesterday, Martineau argued in his article that Montréal doesn’t need an ambitious mayor with big projects in mind.

He said that Montréal needs a realistic mayor, someone who can clean up city hall and who knows how to gérer la shop, or “run the place,” like candidate Marcel Côté. The “shop” he was referring to is in fact city hall, l’hôtel de ville.

Martineau admitted that some people probably found Côté’s electoral platform to be lacklustre, ça manque de punch, but that it was also a realistic and prudent one.

Before even thinking about big projects, he said that Montréal needs someone like Marcel Côté to come in and passer la moppe et l’aspirateur dans tous les coins de l’hôtel de ville, or “mop and vacuum every corner of city hall.”

gérer la shop
to run the place

ça manque de punch
it lacks punch
it’s dull

passer la moppe
to mop up

The word shop is feminine: la shop. You may hear this word used to refer to a workshop, for example. But Martineau gave the expression gérer la shop a figurative meaning here. He wasn’t talking about a workshop; he was referring to city hall. We can probably translate the expression here as “to run the place.”

If it’s dull, if it’s got no punch, ça manque de punch. Anything boring could be described this way. A boring idea? A bland dish of food? Ça manque de punch!

The expression passer la moppe was also used figuratively here. Martineau didn’t mean that somebody needs to clean up city hall with a mop and water. He meant that someone needs to put things in order. That said, you can also hear passer la moppe used literally in the sense of washing a floor with a mop and water. When used, moppe is feminine: la moppe.

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Chris asks what the phrase arrondissement du cent means on a receipt he received at the grocery store (à l’épicerie).

The penny (sou noir or cenne noire) isn’t used in Canada anymore, so the price you pay is now rounded up or down to the nearest increment of five cents if you’re paying cash. Cash registers still display the price before being rounded-off.

If the cash register displays 6,52 $ (six et cinquante-deux), round the price down and pay 6,50 $ (six et cinquante). If it displays 6,53 $ (six et cinquante-trois), round the price up and pay 6,55 $ (six et cinquante-cinq).

A receipt may show both the original price and the rounded-off price. If it shows the rounded-off price, it may be preceded by something like montant arrondi or, like on the receipt that Chris received, arrondissement du cent.

The verb arrondir means “to round off.” Rounding up is arrondir à la hausse. Rounding down is arrondir à la baisse.

You’ll often hear cashiers call the receipt une facture. For example, a cashier may ask if you want the receipt by saying:

Voulez-vous la facture?
Do you want the receipt?

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