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I’m always on the lookout for good sources of vocab and expressions for you to learn, and I’ve found a pretty good one for learning how people complain and insult others in French:

Comments that appear on paid ads in your Facebook feed.

The bigger the company, the more likely you are to find complaints and juicy insults, either directed at the company itself or other commenters. The comments are also very good for learning all kinds of useful French vocab and expressions in general.

For example, if you want to know how people complain in French about coffee that tastes like dirty dishwater, check out the comments on a Tim Hortons ad.

If you want to know how people accuse a restaurant of serving fake meat, then take a peek at the comments on an ad from McDonalds. You won’t be disappointed.

There’s an ad that’s been appearing in my Facebook feed for many weeks now. The company isn’t a big one — it’s from a butcher located south of Montréal — so a lot of the comments on it are a little more tame compared to the ones on, say, an ad from Tim Hortons.

The guy’s been advertising that he’s got a lot of steaks to get rid of because of an ordering error made by a client. To sell the steaks as fast as possible, he explains in his ad that he’s selling them with no mark-up in price just to break even.

The comments on his advert range from praise over the quality of the meat to accusations that he’s a scammer just looking to sell more steaks with a bogus story.

Many commenters wanted to know practical information, like what time he opens and if he delivers:

Faites-vous la livraison?
Do you deliver?

À quelle heure vous ouvrez?
What time do you open?

À quelle heure ouvrez-vous aujourd’hui?
What time do you open today?

One commenter said that when the ads first started appearing on Facebook, he was interested in buying some of the steaks. But now that the ad has been running for so long, he smells a scam:

Ça me tentait au début, mais ça commence à sentir le scam. Désolé, je passe.

I was interested at first, but this is starting to smell like a scam. Sorry, I’ll take a pass.

The standard word for scam in French is une arnaque. The commenter could have also written ça commence à sentir l’arnaque.

The person who does the scamming is called un arnaqueur. The next commenter used the word arnaqueur when he said that people were getting the impression the butcher was a scammer because of how long the ad and his sob story have been running:

Tu devrais arrêter cette annonce payée, elle te nuit. Regarde les commentaires des gens. Ils n’apprécient pas ton genre de pub sur Facebook. Tu passes pour un arnaqueur.

You should end this paid advertisement; it’s hurting you [i.e., your reputation]. Look at people’s comments. They don’t appreciate this kind of ad on Facebook. You come across as a scammer.

The word for advertisement in French is une publicité, but you’ll often come across the informally shortened form une pub. It’s similar to how “advertisement” in English shortens to “ad” and “advert” more informally.

The commenter also used the expression passer pour un arnaqueur. He said: tu passes pour un arnaqueur (you come across as a scammer). You can replace un arnaqueur with other nouns, for example: tu passes pour un con (you come across as a shithead).

And, in fact, our next commenter used the noun con when he came to the butcher’s defence by attacking other commenters:

Le monde est chiâleux, arrêtez de chiâler comme d’habitude. Bande de cons.

Everybody keeps complaining; stop complaining all the time. Bunch of shitheads.

Chiâler in Québec — we’ve seen it before, like here in entry #808 — means “to complain.” And someone who does the complaining can be described as chiâleux. Other ways to translate con in the sense used in the comment include: idiot, moron, ass, dickhead.

Those Facebook ads can be annoying, but if you change your perspective and see them as a language-learning opportunity, you might find you don’t mind them as much… or at least I don’t — they give me ideas for OffQc!

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In entry #753, we saw six different expressions used in Québec containing the words chien or chienne.

One of the expressions we saw in that entry was avoir du chien. Here’s what you read in that post about this expression:

If you’ve “got dog,” it’s because you’re determined. You’ve got personality. You’re a go-getter.

Ces deux jeunes-là ont du chien et réalisent de grandes choses.
Those two young people are go-getters and are doing big things.

Elle a du talent et du chien.
She’s got talent and determination.

In the comments section, RogerDog commented that he had seen a sign in Montréal promoting the comedy M. Peabody et Sherman, and that the expression avoir du chien was used on it.

I came across the sign too, so I took a photo. It says:

Une comédie qui a du chien

The expression works well here because one of the characters is a dog.

There are probably different ways to translate this, but if we want to hint at dogs, maybe we can say:

Une comédie qui a du chien
A comedy with bite

I wonder what the English version really says outside of Québec. Has anybody seen a poster for it?

_ _ _

By the way, the expression avoir du chien means something different in France. The site linternaute.com defines the French use of avoir du chien as meaning “to be beautiful,” when speaking of a woman.

But it goes on to say that a woman qui a du chien is more than just belle; she also has ce petit truc en plus that makes her completely irresistible.

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In Québec, you’ll hear ici also said as icitte. It’s considered to be a very informal way of saying ici.

The other day, I walked past a dépanneur serving the Haitian community in Montréal.

A small sign in the front window caught my attention. The sign is from a mobile phone company; it’s about recharging the minutes on a mobile.

The sign says: METE MINIT ISIT LA

I don’t speak Haitian Creole, but here’s my guess:

METTEZ DES MINUTES ICITTE, LÀ!

Hmm, too québécois with the là, maybe.

More seriously, I’m not entirely sure what la means on the sign. I’m going to hasard a guess and say that isit la means ici même. If anybody knows, leave a comment. (I should’ve gone in and asked…)

As for isit, it seems fairly clear it means icitte, I think!

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6 gigs, ça fait beaucoup de selfies

6 gigs, ça fait beaucoup de selfies

I saw this ad in the street from Vidéotron advertising a smartphone special.

6 Go
Ça fait beaucoup de selfies

6 GB
That’s a lot of selfies

Sorry for the quality of the image. There was a lot of light when I took the photo, and I had to position myself to avoid getting my fat face de bœuf in the reflection.

Go (gigaoctet), gigabyte
Mo (mégaoctet), megabyte
ko (kilooctet), kilobyte

Gigaoctet is often shortened to gig when speaking, and mégaoctet to meg.

The selfie is a picture taken of yourself with your phone. When I was at university, before cellphones and later smartphones took over the planet (and before I had even sent my very first email ever), we used to playfully call the selfie une autophoto in French!

_ _ _

Update (2014/04/11)

Some readers have made comments that I’d like to add here. On Twitter, @desrosier_j suggests moivatar for selfie. In the comments below, iericksen mentioned égoportrait. On the OffQc Facebook page, Maria pointed out that the OQLF has already recommended autophoto and égoportrait.

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I’m not sure I’ve ever seen an election sign quite like this one, but OffQc approves for breaking the dress code.

This election sign, or pancarte électorale, is from the Option nationale.

Not only is the rugged-faced Viau candidate Benjamin Michaud wearing a casual shirt instead of formal attire, he’s also revealing a hairy chest.

I think his image fits well with the slogan chosen by Option nationale: Réveiller le courage.

I’m sure it takes courage to break away from the “safe” dress shirt and tie.

une pancarte électorale
election sign

un slogan
slogan

Viau
a provincial electoral district of Montréal

_ _ _

If you’ve ever noticed that fire hydrants in Montréal have a yellow post attached to them and weren’t sure why, the image should unravel the mystery.

In the winter, snow may completely cover a fire hydrant, or borne-fontaine, making it impossible to locate.

The yellow post attached to it rises above the snow so that the borne-fontaine can be found by the pompiers, the firefighters.

une borne-fontaine
des bornes-fontaines
fire hydrant

les pompiers
firefighters

un incendie
fire

_ _ _

I saw this large ad from Danone on one of the walls at the Gare centrale in Montréal.

Can you guess the word #?%$ stands for on the sign?

Bottez le #?%$ de vos matins

When you fill in the missing word, it forms a French expression: botter le —.

The missing word is cul.

Bottez le cul de vos matins
Kick your mornings in the ass
[literally: kick the ass of your mornings]

Remember, the last letter in cul is silent. This word is pronounced cu, just like the name of the letter q in French.

Now look up at the top of the sign. There’s another missing word, this one represented by the image of an alarm clock.

The French word for alarm clock is réveil or réveille-matin. But the Québécois also call it a cadran.

un réveil
un réveille-matin
un cadran
alarm clock

Le cadran n’a pas sonné!
The alarm clock didn’t go off!

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I came across the ad in the first image in a public space in Montréal. It’s from a mobile phone company called Fido, who always use dogs in their ads. This one says:

On a du flair pour les bonnes affaires
We’ve got flair for good deals

There’s wordplay here because the text reminds us of the French verb flairer, which is something that dogs do: “to sniff.”

Le chien policier a flairé 50 kilos de pot.
The police dog sniffed out 50 kilos of pot.

The t in pot in the sense of marijuana is pronounced. It sounds like potte.

This ad from Fido reminded me of six expressions used in Québec related to dogs (and bitches):

1. ton chien est mort
2. avoir du chien
3. fucker le chien
4. avoir la chienne
5. donner la chienne
6. c’est chien

Ton chien est mort. You’re shit outta luck!

1. ton chien est mort

If your dog is dead, it’s because your chances of achieving something have all gone out the window.

Imagine you’re a guy who really wants to go out with a certain girl you’ve been interested in for a long time. Just when you’ve finally worked up the courage to ask her out, you discover she’s begun going out with a guy a thousand times more attractive than you… Fuhgeddaboudit, guy. Ain’t gonna happen. Your dog is dead. Ton chien est mort. You no longer stand a chance!

You can also say mon chien est mort and son chien est mort.

2. avoir du chien

If you’ve “got dog,” it’s because you’re determined. You’ve got personality. You’re a go-getter.

Ces deux jeunes-là ont du chien et réalisent de grandes choses.
Those two young people are go-getters and are doing big things.

Elle a du talent et du chien.
She’s got talent and determination.

3. fucker le chien

Fucker le chien?This expression literally means “to fuck the dog.”

The idea behind this expression is to waste time or go around in circles trying to accomplish something.

A variation on this expression is fourrer le chien. The verb fourrer also means “to fuck.”

Fucker is pronounced foquer.

J’ai fucké le chien dans ma jeunesse.
I did fuck-all in my youth.

J’ai fucké le chien pour modifier mon mot de passe.
I had a fuck of a hard time trying to change my password.

J’ai fucké le chien avec ça pendant deux mois.
I had a fuck of a hard time with that for two months.

4. avoir la chienne

Une chienne is the female form of chien. So, this expression literally means “to have the bitch.” If you’ve got the bitch, it’s because you’re terrified, frightened.

This expression has in fact already appeared twice on OffQc.

In entry #225, a character called Brigitte from the television show 30 vies tells a colleague she must get tested for cancer. She admits to being terrified:

J’ai tellement la chienne.
I’m so terrified.

In entry #238, we saw that a newspaper headline read:

Les libraires ont la chienne
Booksellers are terrified

The newspaper article was about how booksellers are terrified at the idea of becoming irrelevant due to the advent of the iPad.

5. donner la chienne

This is similar to number 4; donner la chienne means to terrify, to frighten.

Ça me donne la chienne.
It frightens me.

Les hôpitaux me donnent la chienne.
Hospitals terrify me.

6. c’est chien

In this expression, chien means méchant.

C’est chien de dire ça, mais c’est vrai.
It’s a nasty thing to say, but it’s true.

C’est vraiment chien ce que t’as fait.
What you did was really mean.

C’est vraiment chien ce que je vais dire, mais…
What I’m about to say is really nasty, but…

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This ad comes from a website where job offers are posted: jobgo.ca.

I first came across this ad in the métro in Montréal (but I borrowed the image above from their website).

Magasiner : 6 heures
Gagner sa vie : 100 000 heures
AIME TA JOB.

Shopping: 6 hours
Earning a living: 100 000 hours
LOVE YOUR JOB.

There are two québécois usages in this ad.
Can you identify them?

1. The first québécois usage is magasiner. This verb means “to shop,” and it’s not used anywhere else in the French-speaking world. Similarly, the masculine noun magasinage means “shopping.” The people who do the shopping are called un magasineur or une magasineuse.

Spelling tip: These words derive from magasin, so they’re always spelled with an s (magasiner, magasinage, etc.) and never a z (magaziner, magazinage). They aren’t spelled with a z because they don’t derive from magazine.

magasiner en ligne
to shop online

faire un peu de magasinage
to take in a bit of shopping

magasiner un nouveau lit
to go shopping for a new bed
to shop around for a new bed

2. The second québécois usage is ta job. Elsewhere in the French-speaking world, job is masculine. Job is sometimes masculine in Québec too, particularly in writing. The feminine usage is much more of a spoken form. So, it’s kind of interesting to see the feminine form used in the ad above, rather than the masculine one.

Here’s an informal expression heard in Québec using la job:

Ça va faire la job!
That’ll do the job!
That’ll do the trick!

A related word is une jobine, which refers informally to smaller projects, temporary work, summer jobs, etc.

On the United Way Ottawa website, there’s a testimonial from a guy called Joshua about how the United Way helped him. He said: “(They) helped me find a job that wasn’t just a pay cheque: it’s a career.”

In the French translation of what Joshua said, we get a good sense of the difference between the words carrière and jobine: « Ils m’ont aidé à trouver une carrière, et pas juste une jobine avec un chèque de paie. »

Because job and jobine derive from the English “job,” they are pronounced with an English j sound, not a French one.

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