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Posts Tagged ‘se casser le bicycle’

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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