Posts Tagged ‘Office québécois de la langue française (OQLF)’

The OQLF favours two words for hamburgerun hamburger and un hambourgeois, and they recognise an informal usage: un burger.

The thing about words favoured by the OQLF, though, is that they aren’t necessarily the words in use. Hambourgeois was created to replace hamburger, but it never took on. So, in actual usage, we really only have:

  • un hamburger
  • un burger

Use caution if you consult the Grand dictionnaire terminologiqueIt doesn’t reflect how French is really spoken in Québec — it reflects how the OQLF would like to see French spoken in Québec. It’s a collection of a) words in use that they approve, b) words in use that they disapprove, and c) words that are used little or not at all but that ideally they’d like to see catch on, like hambourgeois.

A hamburger restaurant called Harvey’s has this as its slogan in Québec:

à chacun son burger

À chacun son burger literally means to each his (own) burger, but more naturally it means something like your burger, your way. That’s because you can choose what you want on your burger at Harvey’s.

Burger is pronounced as in English (beurgueur), with English r‘s and all. It still uses normal French stress, though (i.e., stress on the second syllable).

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In this post, I’ve taken some usages heard in Québécois French that were said by a woman in her 70s in Montréal.

  • faire peinturer

She was talking about getting a room in her house painted; faire peinturer means to have painted, to get painted (by someone else), for example faire peinturer les murs, to get the walls painted. If you look up the verb to paint in the dictionary, you’ll probably find peindre instead. Québécois usage prefers peinturer.

  • quand qu’y’a fermé la porte

Y’a is an informal pronunciation of il a, but there’s also a que slipped in here that maybe you weren’t expecting; it means when he shut the door. You’ll often hear que inserted after quand like this in colloquial language. Another example: quand qu’y’a fini, when he finished.

  • dans ma chambre de bain

She referred to her bathroom as une chambre de bain. In the Grand dictionnaire terminologique, we read something interesting about this term:

Chambre de bains (ou chambre de bain) est souvent présenté comme un calque de l’anglais à éviter, alors qu’il s’agit plutôt d’un terme d’origine française. Le mot chambre était déjà utilisé en ancien français pour désigner une pièce quelconque de la maison.

Par ailleurs, on trouve chambre de bains et chambre de bain chez des auteurs français du XIXe siècle. Ce terme est toujours utilisé dans certaines aires francophones. On en trouve des traces en France et en Belgique, et il est encore en usage au Québec et en Suisse. Il est toutefois en perte de vitesse dans ce dernier pays.

[chambre de bains | chambre de bain] Au Québec, il est surtout relevé dans des contextes de langue courante, tandis que salle de bains et salle de bain sont employés dans toutes les situations de communication.

Chambre de bains (ou chambre de bain) is often considered an anglicism to be avoided, whereas it is in fact originally a French term. The word chambre was already in use in Old French to designate any room of a house [as opposed to pièce].

Furthermore, chambre de bains and chambre de bain were used by certain French authors in the 19th century. This term is still in use in some French-speaking areas. There are still traces of it in France and Belgium, and it is still in use in Québec and Switzerland. It is, however, falling out of use in Switzerland.

In Québec, chambre de bains and chambre de bain are mostly used in colloquial language situations, whereas salle de bains and salle de bain are used in any language situation.

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In Québec, you’ll find slush all year round… not because winter never ends, but because you can drink it in the summer as a treat.

In the winter, la sloche (or la slush) is snow on the ground that becomes watery and dirty as large numbers of pedestrians or cars pass over it.

Corner of rue Sainte-Catherine and rue Guy in Montréal, December 2013

In the summer, you can drink la sloche (or la slush) in the form of a colourful, icy drink that you slurp up through a straw.

Window of a dépanneur at the Palais des congrès de Montréal, July 2015

For the sake of interest, and as you might have imagined, the OQLF recommends different words for these two concepts because sloche comes from English. For winter slush, one of the recommended words is la gadoue. For summer slush, one of the recommended words is la barbotine. This doesn’t stop people from using sloche colloquially in both cases, of course.

One of the reasons they give for not recommending sloche is that it doesn’t fill any gaps in the French language because words like gadoue and barbotine exist. This argument doesn’t hold up; we can also say that gadoue and barbotine don’t fill any gaps because the word sloche exists. Shall we stop saying content because heureux exists? It’s unclear to me why they need to hide the real motive and which everybody already knows anyway — they don’t recommend sloche because it comes from English.

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I came across an example of the word égoportrait in use in the Montréal edition of the Métro newspaper. Égoportrait, you’ll remember, is an OQLF-approved word meant to replace the English-derived selfie.

In the Métro article, Catherine Deneuve is quoted as saying that she hates selfies:

Elle avoue également «détester les selfies» dans une interview publiée dans le Journal du Dimanche […].

In an interview published in the Journal du Dimanche, she also admits to hating selfies.

Métro (Montréal edition), “Vie de stars,” 11 May 2015, p.17.

A bit farther along in the article, we read that the Cannes Film Festival has launched a campaign this year to restrict the taking of selfies on the red carpet:

Notons que le Festival de Cannes mène cette année une campagne pour limiter les égoportraits sur le tapis rouge, une pratique jugée «ridicule et grotesque» par son délégué général, Thierry Frémaux.

It should be noted that the Cannes Film Festival has launched a campaign this year to restrict selfies from being taken on the red carpet, a practice deemed “ridiculous and grotesque” by managing director Thierry Frémaux.

Métro (Montréal edition), “Vie de stars,” 11 May 2015, p.17.

I don’t feel that égoportrait and selfie are entirely synonymous. Because of the égo prefix, égoportrait might work if you want to shed a negative light on the practice, like in this article. Selfie, on the other hand, doesn’t immediately sound negative to me. Could you imagine casually saying that you’re going to take an égoportrait of yourself for your Facebook profile? I think the OQLF would’ve done well to consider this before backing the word.

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I saw this first image — an ad from the SAQ — when walking past a bus shelter. Click on the image to see the full size. The text in the ad reads:

Aspergez-vous de bruine en pouche-pouche ou passez à la SAQ Spray yourself with mist from a spray bottle or visit the SAQ

What on earth does this mean?

The SAQ is where you buy wine, spirits and liquors in Québec. It’s similar to the liquor corporations, commissions and control boards in other provinces, like Ontario’s LCBO. SAQ stands for la Société des alcools du Québec.

In this ad, the SAQ is telling us we can keep cool this summer by a) spraying mist on ourselves with a spray bottle or b) getting drunk by consuming refreshingly cold alcoholic drinks bought at the SAQ.

Do you remember the words feeling, chaudasse and chaud from entry #808 to describe two different states of drunkenness? The expressions être chaudasse and être feeling mean only partially drunk, like when you’re buzzed or tipsy, but être chaud is used to describe being completely drunk.

And what about the term un pouche-pouche, which refers to a spray bottle? We first saw an example of pouche-pouche in entry #800. In that example, a mother-to-be with a slightly detached placenta asked in an online forum if it’s okay to take a dip in the pool on hot days. Another woman provided her with this advice to keep cool:

Moi, j’ai toujours un pouche-pouche d’eau dans le réfrigérateur. Quand je me peux pus, je m’arrose de cette eau très froide et OH que ça fait du bien! I always keep a spray bottle filled with water in the refrigerator. When I can’t take it anymore, I spray myself with the cold water and OH does it ever feel good!

The mother-to-be referred to her slightly detached placenta as un léger décollement placentaire. I do try my best to find the most relevant French vocabulary for you to learn, you know!

Oh, and do you remember in entries #762 and #771 how we looked at the use of the word un selfie in French? And how the OQLF has endorsed the use of the words une autophoto and un égoportrait in an attempt to replace selfie?

In #762, I posted the image of an ad from Vidéotron where the word selfie appeared in French. But, just the other day, I noticed that Fido (another mobile phone company) had chosen to use the word autophoto instead at their kiosk in a shopping centre.

The text in the image reads:

Partagez une autophoto de votre chien sur les réseaux sociaux Share your dog’s selfie on social networks

This doesn’t mean the word selfie has already been replaced in regular language, of course. Despite the use of autophoto in this example, my guess is that selfie is here to stay.

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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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un gros party à la maison avec la gang du bureau

The OQLF’s name in full is Office québécois de la langue française. Have you ever wondered about the meaning of the masculine word office?

Office is a French word, but it looks just a little like the English word “office,” doesn’t it? The French word office doesn’t come from the English word “office,” though. The OQLF would never dare use an English word in its name!

The French word office comes from Latin, and the English word “office” comes from French.

In the OQLF’s name, office means “bureau” or “agency.” Office québécois de la langue française means “French Language Bureau of Québec” or “French Language Agency of Québec.”

Don’t confuse the French words office and bureau. When you’re talking about the office at the company you work for, use bureau.

Je dois aller au bureau.
I have to go to the office.

Lui, c’est un collègue de bureau.
He’s an office co-worker.

J’ai fait un gros party à la maison avec la gang du bureau.
I held a big house party with my friends from the office.

Remember, la gang in Québec is pronounced like its English equivalent “gang.” In France, gang sounds like “gong,” is masculine, and isn’t used in the sense of a group of friends, like in Québec.

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