Posts Tagged ‘anglicism’

This won't hurt a bit.

This won’t hurt a bit.

The people over at the Office québécois de la langue française (OQLF) would tut-tut me if they read this, but you can in fact learn some colloquial Québécois French (you know, that really BAD stuff) by using their BDL, or Banque de dépannage linguistique.

The purpose of the BDL is to suggest alternatives to usages the OQLF deems unfit. For example, if we go into the section called Les anglicismes, and then into the subsection Anglicismes intégraux (yes, there are subsections — this is serious business), we find an entry dedicated to the noun rush. We’ll look at what it means in a minute.

On the page for rush, we discover the OQLF considers this noun (and the corresponding verb rusher) to be fautif, or wrong. They provide example sentences using the so-called incorrect word rush (in red), then demonstrate how to rephrase them using OQLF-approved vocabulary (in green).

This condescending approach is detrimental to the French language. Rush and rusher may certainly be inappropriate in formal language, but this does not equate to being outright incorrect in all language situations.

1. Informal language is not inferior language. (Gabe Doyle)

2. Informal language is normal language. (Geoffrey Pullum)

The position adopted by the OQLF is just as misguided as arguing this: “The verb se sustenter is incorrect because it is not used in everyday language. People use manger when speaking normally, therefore se sustenter should be eliminated and replaced by manger in all language situations to encourage comprehension between speakers. Se sustenter does not fill any voids in the language; the perfectly acceptable manger already exists and is used and understood by all speakers.”

That argument is nonsense, of course, and nobody would ever take it seriously. The most we can say about se sustenter is that it’s probably inappropriate in everyday conversations. Why? Because you risk being laughed at for using it, and not because a group of language revisionists working in offices decided it to be so.

Rush and rusher may be inappropriate in formal language, but this doesn’t mean they can’t also be entirely appropriate in everyday conversations. It’s possible (and even necessary) for both to be true without the language falling apart.

Why do we continue to put up with the promotion of language impoverishment? Because, yes, working actively to eliminate certain words despite their obvious utility and richness of nuance (just look at how many different ways rush and rusher were rendered into “correct” French in the BDL) is the promotion of language impoverishment.

Why do we continue to put up with the telling of falsehoods? Because, yes, labelling outright as fautif a word in common usage in the French of Québec is the telling of a falsehood. A manipulative one.

If the OQLF’s revised examples in the BDL were genuinely better, speakers would have already found a way to use them without having to be coerced. Speakers choose to use words that convey what they need them to convey.

The OQLF’s position is detrimental to French: it leads people to apply a negative judgement to something that was never problematic to begin with. Unless you believe the anglophone world to be the Great Satan, there’s nothing inherently wrong with using a word that entered French by way of English. All words come from somewhere.

Let’s (finally!) look at the noun rush and verb rusher. I’ll take some of the “bad” examples of usage from the BDL and put them below, with a translation into English. I won’t include all the examples because some of them aren’t terribly useful, and I won’t include the OQLF’s “cleaned-up” versions either. If you’d like to read them, you’ll find them here on the page for rush.

I take no issue with providing alternative ways of wording sentences, as the OQLF does. We can all benefit — native speakers and learners alike — from learning how to rephrase our thoughts to fit the circumstances. The examples provided by the OQLF can in fact be useful to francophones when writing.

What I take issue with is the notion that an informal word borrowed from English is necessarily inferior and dangerous to the French language. Is the vitality of French so precarious that it requires these kinds of interventions, attempting to amputate certain words from the language as if they were infected with gangrene? I don’t believe so, and not by a long shot.

Or perhaps a better parallel would be to compare words borrowed from English to physical imperfections. Maybe you can get away with a little nip here, and a little tuck there. But if you keep going, you end up with trout pout. Thanks, but no thanks. I’ll take the real thing no matter how “imperfect.”

The noun rush is pronounced roche.
The verb rusher is pronounced roché.

Here are examples from the BDL:

le rush, un rush

C’est déjà le rush du temps des fêtes dans les magasins.
The holiday rush is on in the stores.

Le musée a connu un rush de visiteurs lors de sa dernière exposition.
The museum had a rush of visitors at the last exhibit.

Le rush du retour à la maison m’a paru interminable.
The [after-work] rush home seemed endless to me.


J’ai rushé sur mes travaux scolaires de fin de session.
I rushed my end-of-term school assignments. I worked hard to finish them.

Lise a rushé pour avoir le poste d’adjointe à la direction.
Lise went to a lot of work to get the job of assistant manager.

L’entrepreneur a rushé la construction de l’immeuble avant l’arrivée des grands froids.
The contractor sped up the construction of the building before the cold set in.

Comme chaque année, les employés du magasin vont rusher le jour des soldes de l’Après-Noël.
Like every year, store employees are going to have a lot of work during the Boxing Day sales.

In fact, the term Boxing Day is still heard in Québécois French (the Boxing Day tradition traces back to the British), alongside the OQLF-approved term soldes de l’Après-Noël. So you might catch someone saying that last example as:

Comme à chaque année, les employés du magasin vont rusher le jour du Boxing Day.

You’re probably so observant that I failed to sneak in that à this time without you noticing, didn’t I?

comme chaque année
comme à chaque année

What’s the difference between the two? There’s no difference in meaning whatsoever. But in regular conversations with the Québécois, I bet you’ll hear the second one, comme à chaque année.

In fact, you may even catch someone use comme à chaque année (or one of the other examples below) in formal language too. Why? Well, because it sounds perfectly normal! Alas, the Grammar Police disagree and insist the preposition à here must go, ‘cos, you know, it’s like a big deal or something.

à chaque jour = chaque jour,
à chaque semaine = chaque semaine,
à chaque minute = chaque minute,
à chaque fois = chaque fois,

À chaque fois que je visite le site de l’OQLF, je commence à shaker.
Everytime I visit the OQLF website, I start to shake.

As a learner of French, it’s best to say things the way people you associate with say them. The advice from the OQLF is meant for native speakers, who can either take it or leave it. I suggest you take your cue from francophones in your own age and social group, rather than from sources like the BDL. And if you are indeed going to use something like the BDL, take what you find there with a grain of salt.

Let’s finish up by looking at a usage the OQLF didn’t touch on: the expression c’est rushant.

C’est rushant, cinq enfants.
Five kids — it’s a lot of work.

Maudit que c’est rushant le rôle de maman.
Damn it’s a lot of work being a mother.

La première fois, c’est rushant. La deuxième fois, c’est du gâteau.
The first time is hard. The second time is a piece of cake.

Rushant is pronounced rochant.

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French-language purists will tell you not to use the words below, but you gotta know ’em if you want to understand the Québécois!

We won’t concern ourselves with the ideas of the purists here. We’ll let them squabble amongst themselves as we get down to the more important work of learning French.

Even though these words are often referred to as anglicismes or as examples of franglais, I don’t see a reason why we can’t just think of them as French words that entered the language by way of English.

That said, it’s important to know that these words are reserved to informal speaking situations. They’re not used in formal speech or writing.

The examples below are not the only way those ideas can be expressed in French. For example, although you’ll hear a tattoo called un tatou in Québec, you’ll also come across the standardised tatouage. In the list below, we’ll just look at ways you might hear things said using a word taken from English.

If you like this list of 31 gotta-knows, there’s also a list of 50 must-knows and a list of 30 full-québécois on OffQc.

If you learn everything in those 3 posts, that’s 111 MB of example sentences uploaded to your brain. And if you learn everything on OffQc, then your brain will definitely need a memory upgrade pretty soon. 🙂

1. Tu m’as fait feeler cheap.
You made me feel bad (about myself).

2. Je badtripe là-dessus.
I’m worried sick about it.

3. J’ai eu un gros down.
I got really down.

4. C’est tough sur le moral.
It’s tough on your morale.

5. C’est weird en masse.
That’s totally weird.

6. Ce médicament me rend stone.
This medication stones me out.

7. C’est tellement cute son accent.
His accent is so cute.

8. Ça m’a donné un gros rush.
It got me all pumped up.

9. Mon boss est venu me voir.
My boss came to see me.

10. À l’heure du lunch, je fais de l’exercice.
I exercise at lunchtime.

11. Ça clique pas entre nous.
We don’t click with each other.

12. C’est pas cher, mais c’est de la scrap.
It’s not expensive, but it’s junk.

13. C’est roffe à regarder.
It’s tough [rough] to watch.

14. Je sais pas dealer avec ça.
I don’t know how to deal with this.

15. J’ai mis une patch sur la partie usée.
I put a patch on the worn-out part.

16. Es-tu game pour un concours?
Are you up for a contest?

17. J’ai rushé sur mes devoirs.
I rushed my homework.

18. Y’a un gros spot blanc sur l’écran.
There’s a big white spot on the screen.

19. Je veux vivre ma vie à full pin.
I want to live my life to the max.

20. Le voisin m’a blasté.
The neighbour chewed me out.

21. J’ai un kick sur mon prof de français.
I’ve got a crush on my French prof.

22. T’as l’air full sérieux sur cette photo.
You look full serious in this photo.

23. Écoute ça, tu vas triper!
Listen to this, you’re gonna totally love it!

24. Viens me voir, j’ai fuck all à faire.
Come see me, I’ve got fuck all to do.

25. J’aime les idées flyées.
I like ideas that are really out there.

26. J’ai pas de cravate pour matcher avec ma chemise.
I don’t have a tie to go with my shirt.

27. Je t’ai forwardé sa réponse.
I forwarded her answer to you.

28. Elle a un gros tatou sur l’épaule.
She’s got a huge tattoo on her shoulder.

29. Ça me fait freaker.
It freaks me out.

30. Merci, on a eu un fun noir!
Thanks, we had an amazing time!

31. J’ai lâché ma job parce que j’étais en burn out.
I quit my job because I was burnt out.

_ _ _

Although I’ve written the examples in this post myself, they were inspired by Maude Schiltz‘s book Ah shit, j’ai pogné le cancer and by Rabii Rammal‘s blog posts on Urbania, both of which I encourage you to check out.

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Maude Schiltz was diagnosed with cancer in both breasts at age 39. After her diagnosis, she began sending emails to her friends to keep them updated on her health. Her book Ah shit, j’ai pogné le cancer is a collection of the emails she sent.

Maude’s book is peppered with a lot of colloquial French. In this post, let’s take a look at how she uses the words tough (toffe) and toffer, which you need to understand. We’ll also look at some examples taken from other sources.

In an email, Maude describes the different surgical possibilties that exist to treat her breast cancer. She mentions which surgical procedure she prefers, but she also describes the negative aspects of the procedure, such as excessive scarring, as being tough on a woman’s femininity. She writes: C’est tough sur la féminité! (That’s tough on a woman’s femininity!)

Maude put the word tough in italics. This is because she recognises the word as being an informal borrowing from English. Nevertheless, tough has been absorbed into the French vocabulary of Québec. Unlike its English equivalent, however, tough is felt to be an informal usage only in French.

When francophones say tough, the gh is pronounced like an f, just like its English equivalent. To use a more phonetic spelling, we can write the word as toffe. In texts written informally, you may come across the spellings tough, toffe, tof.

This isn’t the first time tough has shown up on OffQc. In entry #322, we saw tough used as a noun: C’est un tough, lui. Un vrai tough! (He’s a tough guy. A real tough guy!)

In that same entry, we saw how a teacher from the television show 30 vies corrected her student when he used the word tough to describe a tough-acting character he had invented for a story. She told him he should say dur instead of tough to avoid using an anglicism. He disagreed with his teacher. According to him: Dur, c’est moins tough que tough!

Tough (or toffe) can also be transformed into a verb in Québec: toffer. When you hear the Québecois use the verb toffer, they’re talking about toughing something out.

Maude used the verb toffer in her book. She describes a medical procedure that she’d like to try during chemotherapy, which involves freezing the head with a cold cap, and freezing the hands and feet with cold gloves and slippers. She explains that doing this may help to prevent the loss of hair, fingernails and toenails.

She says that the procedure is very difficult to withstand, however. It causes severe headaches and shivering. She questions whether or not she’d be able to tough it out. She writes: Est-ce que j’arriverai à « toffer » un casque, des chaussettes et des gants glacés? (Will I be able to tough it out wearing a cold cap, slippers and gloves?)

This time, Maude use guillemets («») around toffer, again because she recognises that this verb derives from an English word, even if it’s been absorbed into French and given a French spelling.

This isn’t the first time toffer has shown up on OffQc either. In entry #392, we’ve got the following example of toffer that I overheard in Montréal on the métro: Tu vas devoir toffer un peu. (You’re gonna have to tough it out a bit.)

_ _ _

Here are this entry’s examples again in list form and with references:

1. C’est tough sur la féminité!
That’s tough on a woman’s femininity!

[Maude Schiltz, Ah shit, j’ai pogné le cancer, Éditions de Mortagne, Boucherville, 2013, p.20.]

2. C’est un tough, lui. Un vrai tough!
He’s a tough guy. A real tough guy!

[First used in entry #322.]

3. Dur, c’est moins tough que tough!
Dur is less tough than tough!

[30 vies, season 2, episode 37, Radio-Canada, Montréal, 14 November 2011. First used in entry #322.]

4. Est-ce que j’arriverai à « toffer » un casque, des chaussettes et des gants glacés?
Will I be able to tough it out wearing a cold cap, slippers and gloves?

[Maude Schiltz, Ah shit, j’ai pogné le cancer, Éditions de Mortagne, Boucherville, 2013, p.21.]

5. Tu vas devoir toffer un peu.
You’re gonna have to tough it out a bit.

[Overheard in Montréal in January 2012. First used in entry #392.]

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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.


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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