These 7 examples really are “street French” because I overheard someone say each one of them in the street!
1. Pardon, ‘scusez!
While waiting in line to get on an STM bus, an elderly woman behind me burped. It caught her off-guard, and she apologised to the people around her by saying pardon, ‘scusez!
‘Scusez is a shortened form of excusez. Instead of saying just pardon or just excusez, she said both. I guess she was particularly embarrassed.
2. J’viens d’avoir un flash.
A woman on her Vespa was parked along the side of a street. She was talking into her mobile phone and said j’viens d’avoir un flash, “I just had an idea” or “I just thought of something.”
I didn’t catch much else, but I think she was making plans to meet up with the friend she was talking to.
3. Un peu d’change, monsieur?
A homeless man in the street asked me for spare change by saying un peu d’change, monsieur? You’ll often hear change referred to as change in Québec.
On the other hand, the word monnaie is used throughout the French-speaking world, including Québec, in the sense of spare change.
I’ve also been asked un peu d’monnaie, monsieur? in the street in Montréal.
4. Fouille-moi, là.
The woman who said this was explaining to someone else that a package had been delivered to the wrong address. When she was asked how it happened, she used the expression fouille-moi, “beats me” or “who knows.”
Fouiller means “to search.” The idea behind this expression is “search me (for the answer, but you’re not gonna find it!).”
If you don’t know how to pronounce fouille, it sounds something like the English “phooey” (as in “oh phooey!”). If you were to pronounce this expression as “phooey-moi,” you’re pretty close to the way it sounds.
She also stuck in a là at the end of her expression. Maybe you’ll remember that là is added to end of all kinds of statements in Québec during conversations.
5. Y’a-tu quelqu’un qui était là?
A woman said this while speaking into her mobile. It means: “Was anybody there?” or “Is there someone who was there?” It’s not as difficult to understand as you may think.
Il y a is often pronounced y’a during conversations. The opposite, il n’y a pas, is often said as y’a pas. So, now you know that y’a-tu quelqu’un qui était là? means il y a-tu quelqu’un qui était là? But what about that tu in there?
That tu is a yes-no question word used during informal speech. To understand it, we can render it as oui ou non:
Il y a (oui ou non) quelqu’un qui était là?
6. Let’s go, let’s go!
A man was leading a group of school kids in the street. When they started to scatter about a bit, he urged them to hurry up and come all together again as a group. He called out: let’s go, let’s go!
This expression obviously comes from English, but everybody in Québec understands it. In fact, it’s used often enough that I think we can just call it a French expression used in Québec!
7. OK les amis, suivez-moi!
That same group of school kids was also led by a woman accompanying the man who said the expression above. When she wanted the kids to follow her in the street, she said: OK les amis, suivez-moi!, “OK friends, follow me!”
When you want to call out to your friends in French, you say les amis!, with the les included in it. For example, you can call out to a group of your friends by saying: hey, les amis!
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