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Posts Tagged ‘char’

Spotted this postcard in a Montréal bookshop (we saw others here and here from Tiguidou), where parked cars are depicted as being buried under snow:

image

Tu trouves-tu ton char?
Can you find your car?

tu trouves, you find
tu trouves-tu?, you find?
ton char, your car

In tu trouves-tu?, only the first tu means you. The second tu turns tu trouves into a yes-no question.

The second tu has the same function as est-ce que but is placed after the verb instead here.

tu trouves-tu?
= est-ce que tu trouves?

Both this yes-no tu and the word char in the sense of car are colloquial usages.

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By “informal,” I mean a word or expression far more likely to be found in normal, spontaneous, everyday language — between friends and family, for example — than in high literature or business correspondence or news reports.

In many posts on OffQc, you’ve no doubt noticed that I very often say that such-and-such a word or expression is an informal usage. Maybe you’ve even begun to wonder if all Québécois words and expressions are informal…

They’re not. There are many words and expressions unique to Québec that you’re just as likely to hear in everyday, spontaneous language as you are in a televised news report or formal language, in the same way that words like téléphone and café can cross language levels.

Below are some examples of both informal and level-neutral Québécois French.

Informal (between friends, for example)

  • pogner, to grab, catch
  • checker, to check
  • c’est-tu…?, is it…?, is that…?
  • capoter, to flip out
  • m’as, I’m gonna (+ infinitive)
  • c’est don’ bin cute!, is that ever cute!
  • pis là, and then
  • faque, so
  • enweille!, come on then!
  • un char, car

Level-neutral (not limited to one language level)

  • un cégépien, cégep student
  • faire l’épicerie, to go food shopping
  • magasiner, to shop, shop around for
  • une tête-de-violon, fiddlehead
  • la poudrerie, blowing snow
  • un melon d’eau, watermelon
  • une pourvoirie, grounds where you can hunt, fish, trap
  • à l’arrêt, at the stop sign
  • un téléroman, soap opera
  • un REER, retirement investment, pronounced ré-èr

It’s true that a lot of the language on OffQc falls more in the informal category than the level-neutral one. I do this because this is the language that’s more difficult to learn.

Informal words and expressions are less likely to appear in dictionaries and learning materials than the level-neutral ones. Informal usages are also sometimes “hidden” from learners by language instructors who judge them negatively or, outside of Québec, may be unknown to them if they aren’t familiar with the Québécois variety of French.

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A short Facebook update by Rabii Rammal reminds us of both Québécois vocabulary and good manners on this brutal winter day:

Ce soir après la job, stationne pas ton char dans la place que ton voisin a déneigée. C’est pas très gentil.

This evening after work, don’t park your car in the spot that your neighbour had to shovel. That’s not very nice.

la job
job, work

[ne] stationne pas
don’t park

ton char
your car

la place
place, spot

déneiger
to clear away the snow

When a snowplough comes along, it dumps mounds of snow around cars parked in the street, blocking them in. Owners then have the pleasure of having to dig their car out with a shovel. These are the parking spots that Rabii asks neighbours not to steal after work (wouldn’t it be nice).

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Today’s three usages come to us by way of a woman in her 70s. I overheard her speaking with her husband in Montréal.

1. une sacoche

One of the things the woman talked about was her handbag (or purse), which she called une sacoche. I don’t recall her exact words now, but here’s an example:

J’ai laissé ma sacoche sous la table.
I left my handbag (purse) under the table.

2. un char de police

Not far from us, a man got arrested outside. The woman talked about the police cars on the scene.

We’ve seen the masculine word char before, which means “car” in Québec. The woman used this word to talk about the police cars, calling them chars de police.

Y’a deux chars de police.
There are two police cars.

Remember, y’a is an informal (and the most frequent) pronunciation of il y a.

3. m’as

The woman also used the contraction m’as, which means “I’m gonna…” It’s pronounced mâ.

M’as te dire une affaire, là.
I’m gonna tell you something.

M’as aller m’en chercher un.
I’m gonna go get myself one.

If these don’t make sense to you, replace m’as with je vais.

Where does m’as come from?

je m’en vais
je m’en va’s
m’en va’s
m’as

Je m’en vais is a variation of the simpler je vais.

You don’t have to start using m’as yourself. Nobody expects a non-native Québécois to use it. Do learn what it means though so you’ll understand it when you hear it. It’s always fine to use je vais. (Note that the Québécois very often say je vas as well, which sounds like je vâ.)

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Below is a random sentence that came up in a Google search. The sentence was posted in an online car forum.

The guy who wrote this sentence was looking for someone who could do touch-ups (faire des retouches, faire des touch-up) to his car’s paint job:

J’veux un gars de confiance, pas un bullshitteux ou un gars qui va botcher mon auto.

I want a guy I can trust, not some “bullshitter” or some guy who’s gonna mess up my car.

It’s a short example, but there’s some interesting stuff to look at here.

Even though gars is spelled with an r and s, be sure not to pronounce those letters. Gars sounds like gâ.

You’ll hear the word gars all the time. For example, in the summer months, you’ll see les gars de la construction busy at work. They’re construction guys.

Un bullshitteux (pronounced boulechitteux) in this example is someone who doesn’t take his work seriously or doesn’t know what he’s doing — a wanker. The guy who wrote this doesn’t want some bullshitteux messing up his car.

Then there’s la bullshit (sounds like boulechite). If someone says something nonsensical or that doesn’t hold up to scrutiny, ben… c’est de la bullshit.

C’est de la bullshit ce que tu racontes.
What you’re saying is bullshit.

When the guy talked about not wanting a bullshitteux to mess up his car, he used the verb botcher. It comes from the English verb “to botch.”

C’est un bullshitteux qui va botcher ton auto.
He’s a “bullshitter” who’s gonna mess up your car.
That guy’s gonna do a shit job and mess up your car.

Words used for “car” in Québec are une auto, un char, une voiture. The most informal of the three is un char.

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