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Mes Aïeux

Mes Aïeux (click on the image to go to the official site)

On the OffQc Facebook page, Ken asked about a few pronunciations he heard in a modern folk song called Dégénérations by the group Mes Aïeux. In one part of this song about generational degeneration (which you can listen to below), the lyrics go like this:

Et pis toi, ma p’tite fille, tu changes de partenaire tout l’temps
Quand tu fais des conneries, tu t’en sauves en avortant
And as for you, young girl, you’re always sleeping around
Whenever you mess up, you just get out of it by aborting

Ken asked about the word pis, and also wanted to know why toi gets pronounced as toé (or twé) in the song.

You’ll hear pis a lot when people speak French casually. It sounds as if it were written pi, or like the English word “pee.” It can mean “then” or “and” depending on how it’s used. Pis derives from puis.

I found a blog post in which the author wrote a fictional piece (or at least I hope it’s fictional) about saving some guy from choking on his 6-inch tuna sub at a Subway restaurant. He uses the word pis in his writing:

Tantôt, j’étais au Subway, pis y’a un monsieur qui s’est étouffé avec son 6 pouces au thon drette à côté de moi.
Earlier on, I was at Subway [a fast-food restaurant], and there was a man who choked on his 6-inch tuna [sandwich] right next to me.

J’me suis d’abord placé devant lui pis je l’ai entouré de mes mains pis je l’ai serré contre moi.
First I stood in front of him, (and) then I grabbed hold of him, (and) then I pulled him in towards me.

[Quotes by Gran Talen in Sauver une vie grâce à mon collier pur noisetier]

So, when Mes Aïeux sing et pis toi in the lyrics above, we can translate it as “and as for you” (i.e., and now, turning our attention to you…). But Ken notes that they don’t actually sing it as et pis toi — they sing it as et pis toé.

If you listen to traditional québécois music, you’ll often hear moi and toi pronounced as moé and toé in the songs. You might also sometimes hear these pronunciations in conversations. If you came across moé pis toé in French, it means moi et toi.

Is there a difference between moi/toi and moé/toé?

Yes, there’s a difference. They mean the same thing, but some people in Québec may tell you that moé and toé are “incorrect.” These pronunciations are often typically associated with the working class.

As a learner of French, should you use moé and toé when you speak?

Probably not. The Québécois will know that you’re not a native speaker of French, and these pronunciations will almost certainly sound out of place if you use them. (This is maybe similar to the English word “ain’t.” You’d probably find it strange to hear a non-native speaker of English use it.)

This doesn’t mean that moé and toé are “bad” pronunciations. But I do think it’s best to leave moé and toé to the native speakers and just stick with moi and toi yourself.

As for pis, you can probably get away with using that one, even as a non-native speaker of French, because it’s just so very prevalent in conversations. Save it for informal conversations though, and keep listening to French so that you can hear how and when it’s used.

On the other hand, if you’re singing québécois trad music (and I know some of you are), moé and toé will probably sound very appropriate in that context because of the folkloric effect they produce.

In fact, in the Mes Aïeux folk song below, it’s probably moi and toi that would sound out of place!

Enjoy…

You can find the lyrics to the song through Google with the search terms paroles mes aïeux dégénérations.

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Lynda Thalie is originally from Algeria but moved to Québec with her family when she was 16. Her native Algeria influences the sound of her music.

There are some interesting clips on Radio-Canada related to Lynda Thalie and her attachment to Algeria and Oran.

In a description there, we read that Lynda is a blend of two cultures, Québécoise and Algerian; a mix of pure laine (from Québec) and cotonnade colorée (from Algeria):

[Lynda Thalie est] bien ancrée dans l’univers musical québécois. Aujourd’hui maman et artiste accomplie, elle propose une musique métisse, fruit de ses deux cultures, algérienne et québécoise, un mélange de pure laine et de cotonnade colorée.

Pure laine is an expression often used to describe the Québécois who are ethnic French-Canadians, les Québécois de souche. Even though Lynda Thalie is from Algeria, the term is used here to demonstrate her attachment to Québec.

Dance your pain away

Quand le jour s’assombrit
Invariablement bleu
Le ciel restera
Là au-dessus de toi

Quand le monde t’oublie
Toi seul, souviens-toi
Que la roue tournera
Que le vent changera

Quand la terre entière tremble
Que toutes les tours s’effondrent
La foi en toi rassemble
Danse, chante ta vie

Relève tes manches et prie
Erzulie ou Marie
Et ta vie rebâtis

Pense à la mer autour
Oublie les vieux vautours
Garde la tête haute
Puise le feu dans l’amour
La nuit deviendra jour
Garde la tête haute

Dance your pain away
La peine, faut la danser
Dance your pain away
La peine, faut la danser
Dance your pain away

Quand le temps s’alourdit
Invariablement bleu
Le ciel allégera
Le roc au-dessus de toi

Si le sort s’acharne sur toi
Console-toi
Et la roue tournera
Le changement soufflera

Quand la terre sous tes pas tremble
Que les promesses se ressemblent
La foi en toi rassemble
Danse, chante ta vie
Balaie d’un coup tes peurs
Tes regrets, tes rancœurs
Fais de la danse ta demeure

Pense à la mer autour
Oublie les vieux vautours
Garde la tête haute
Puise le feu dans l’amour
La nuit deviendra jour
Garde la tête haute

Dance your pain away
La peine, faut la danser
Dance your pain away
La peine, faut la danser
Dance your pain away

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