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Assurez-vous de bien barrer votre vélo.

Un conseil : Assurez-vous de bien barrer votre vélo.

At the marché Jean-Talon in Montréal, a yellow sign advises bike owners to lock up their bikes:

Assurez-vous de bien barrer votre vélo. Be sure to lock your bike securely.

Do you remember from earlier posts on OffQc that the Québécois also sometimes call a bike un bécik at the informal level of language?

Bécik entered the language via English. It’s how the Québécois pronounce bicycle.

Barrer is used in Québec in the sense of “to lock up.” It’s pronounced bâré. The â sound comes close to the “aww” sound of English.

The verb barrer appeared in this list of 50 words pronounced with the â sound in Québec, but not written with the accented â.

barrer la porte
to lock the door

barrer son vélo
to lock one’s bike

barrer son bécik
to lock one’s bike
[this one sounds especially québécois]

You can use barrer to talk about locking any kind of door: a house door, bathroom door, bedroom door, shop door, etc.

barrer sa case
barrer son casier
to lock one’s locker

Both case and casier also appeared in the list of 50 â-sound words. They’re pronounced câz and câzié in Québec.

barrer sa case avec un cadenas
barrer son casier avec un cadenas
to lock one’s locker with a padlock

The second a in cadenas also uses the â sound. That darn â sound is all over the place! The Québécois pronounce those last two examples as:

bâré sa câz avec un cadnâ
bâré son câzié avec un cadnâ

Just behind the sign in that same image, we see a bike locked up to a rack. What’s the term used in Québec for a bike rack?

A sign in the marché Jean-Talon (see below) shows us one way to say “bike rack” in French:

un support à vélo
a bike rack

The term support à vélo (or support à vélos) is standard Québécois French. But during spontaneous conversations, you might also hear:

un rack à vélo
un rack à bécik
[these both sound especially québécois; the second one in particular is guaranteed to make your French teacher’s skin go all goose pimply]

A rack for bikes is called “un support” in French, but you’ll also hear “un rack.”

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Yesterday, we looked at how to talk about jeans that don’t fit in French. Today, let’s look at a fun expression used in Québec related to pants that are way too short!

First, know that in Québec the basement of a house is often called la cave. It’s also known as le sous-sol, but you’ll need to know the word cave to understand today’s expression.

Imagine your basement, or cave, flooded with water. You’d have to roll up the bottom of your pants or trousers before going down to the cave to take care of business, right?

When your pants are rolled up, they look too short. So, if you heard someone say that so-and-so has “water in the basement,” it’s a funny way of saying that his pants are too short!

avoir de l’eau dans la cave
to be wearing pants that are too short
(literally, to have water in the basement)

Remember, dans la often contracts to dans in conversations. So, when you hear people in fact say avoir de l’eau dans cave, it’s not a grammatical mistake; it’s an informal shortcut in pronunciation.

I found this example online about someone who hates how his pants look so short when he gets up on his motorbike:

Je déteste avoir de l’eau dans cave quand je m’assis sur le bike.
I hate how my pants look so short when I get on the bike.

Without wanting to get too far off topic, you may sometimes come across the conjugation je m’assis in Québec. If you use it yourself, francophones may correct you: it’s not the standard form in Québec. I recommend you learn what it means (i.e., I sit) but say or write je m’assois instead. This always works.

As for the difference between the forms je m’assois and je m’assieds, the first one (je m’assois) is used more often in spoken Québécois French than the second one (je m’assieds).

Finally, to say “to wear a pair of pants,” you can use either porter un pantalon or porter des pantalons. For some people, pantalons in the plural is less correct than pantalon in the singular. In a written text, you can avoid all doubt and use the singular. Otherwise, know that both are used.

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Débarre ta villeIn the last post about how to talk about locking up your bike in French, we saw the verb barrer.

I was reminded of this verb’s opposite earlier today on the métro, when I spotted a free newspaper sitting on a seat.

The front page reads:

Débarre ta ville
Unlock your city

If you can lock things up with barrer, then you can unlock them with débarrer, like:

débarrer un cadenas
to open a lock

débarrer une porte
to unlock a door

Débarre ta ville is a treasure hunt from the STM.

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Bien verrouillerDo you know what a bike lock is called in French? What about those U-shaped bike locks… what are those called? How about locking up your bike: can you talk about this in French?

I saw this sign in a park. Bien verrouiller, c’est important! “It’s important to lock up well!” And it’s true — bike robberies are commonplace in Montréal, so be sure to never leave your bike unattended without locking it up.

The sign uses the verb verrouiller in the sense of “to lock.” But maybe you’ll remember from a previous post that the verb barrer is very frequently used in Québec in the same sense.

Barrer is pronounced with the â sound, even though the letter a in this verb isn’t actually written with the circumflex accent. Remember, â sounds something like “aw” to an English speaker.

Both of these expressions mean “to lock my bike”:

verrouiller mon vélo
barrer mon vélo

A lock is called un cadenas in French. When you say cadenas, don’t bother pronouncing that letter e in the middle, and don’t say the s on the end either. It’s pronounced cadnâ.

We can also be more specific and say cadenas pour vélo, or “bike lock,” if the context hasn’t already made it clear.

In the image, we see two kinds of locks, in fact. One is a U-shaped lock, the other one is a cable. That U-shaped lock is called un cadenas en U. The cable is called un câble. We can also call it un cadenas à câble.

You noticed that câble is spelled with â, right? This word takes the â sound.

When you choose where to lock your bike, choose something solid, like a pole, un poteau. We read on the sign:

Roue et cadre attachés à un support solide
Wheel and frame locked up to a solid support

Guess what… cadre is pronounced câdre. That’s another word that uses the â sound but it has trouble openly admitting it!

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At a BIXI bike rental station in downtown Montréal, we see an eye-catching ad that reads:

Cassez-vous pas le bicycle!

Considering that we’re at a BIXI station, you might think that the BIXI people are warning us not to break our rented bike!

That’s the literal meaning, but this is in fact a québécois expression that also has a figurative meaning.

Looking a little more closely, we see that the ad is for laser eye surgery. It says optez pour le LASIK under the expression. What we’re really being told is to not go to a lot of trouble (cassez-vous pas le bicycle) and choose LASIK.

se casser le bicycle
to go to a lot of trouble, to complicate things, to struggle, etc.

The expression works very well here because of its additional literal meaning about not breaking your bike in an accident because you still wear glasses!

We can learn two things about québécois pronunciation from this example.

1. Casser is pronounced câsser.
2. Bicycle is pronounced bécik.

Remember that “aww” sound that Ricardo used when he pronounced carré? That same sound is used in the verb casser.

The word bécik (and bicycle) is an informal use, generally limited to spoken French. On the other hand, you can use vélo in any language situation, including informal ones.

That said, you may in fact come across the spelling bécik on occasion. In the image, Bécik vert is the name of a bike sharing programme.

We can also learn something about informal sentence structure from the laser surgery ad:

Cassez-vous le bicycle
Cassez-vous pas le bicycle

The expression was made negative by just adding in pas. This is different to the standard grammar of written French, which would require a change in word order to make it negative:

Ne vous cassez pas le bicycle

Take another example:

Ne t’inquiète pas.
Do not worry.

When people are speaking casually, you may hear that said instead as:

Inquiète-toi pas.

Again, it just follows the affirmative word order with pas added in:

inquiète-toi
inquiète-toi pas

Remember that inquiète-toi pas is an informal use mostly limited to spoken French, whereas ne t’inquiète pas adheres to the standard grammar of written French.

Getting back to the expression in the laser surgery ad, it uses the vous form. If you wanted to use the informal singular tu form, it becomes:

Casse-toi pas le bicycle!

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