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Posts Tagged ‘tough’

This list of 13 English-derived words used in Québécois French is, of course, nowhere near exhaustive. Even if you choose not to use these words yourself, do learn to understand them to increase your understanding of spoken French.

Caveat lector:

The words below are informal usages in Québec. If you’re required to use standard language (e.g., on a French exam), avoid using these words unless you know what you’re doing. That said, these words are fine to use during informal conversations with francophone friends. For each word, I’ve provided an equivalent in standard Québécois French (SQF) for the times when you need or want to avoid using a colloquial, English-derived one.

1. TOUGH

Pronounced as though written toffe; can be used as an adjective or noun. C’est tough à faire. It’s tough to do. C’est tough à accepter. It’s tough to accept. As a noun, tough means tough guy. Lui, c’t’un tough. He’s a tough guy. (C’t’un is a contraction of c’est un. It sounds like the French word un preceded by st, as though it were st’un.) There’s also the verb tougher, which sounds like toffé. Tougher means to tough out, to put up with. J’ai toughé ça deux mois. I toughed it out for two months. I put up with it for two months. SQF: dur (instead of tough), un dur (instead of un tough) and supporter or endurer (instead of tougher).

2. ROUGH

Rhymes with tough; in other words, it sounds like roffe. J’ai eu une adolescence pas mal rough. I had a pretty rough adolescence. (The part that means pretty here is pas mal. Say these two words together; they form a set expression.) SQF: dur.

3. TOUNE

Feminine noun meaning song, tune. ‘Est tellement bonne, c’te toune-là. That’s such a good song. (‘Est is a contraction of elle est; it sounds like è. C’te is a contraction of cette; it sounds like the French word te with an s sound at the beginning of it, as though it were s’te.) SQF: une chanson.

4. CUTE

Adjective pronounced as though it were spelled kioute. C’est tellement cute! That’s so cute! Y’est tellement cute, ton chien. Your dog’s so cute. (Y’est is a contraction of il est; it sounds like yé.) SQF: mignon.

5. FULL

Adverb meaning very, so. Pronounced like the French word foule. C’est full cute! That’s so cute! C’est full malade! That’s so amazing! The use of full is more typical of younger speakers. SQF: tellement.

6. WEIRD

Adjective pronounced as in English and meaning the same thing. C’t’assez weird, ton affaire. What happened (is happening) to you is pretty weird. Your situation is pretty weird. That’s pretty weird what’s going on (for you). (C’t’assez is a contraction of c’est assez. It sounds like assez preceded by st, as though it were stacé.) SQF: bizarre.

7. GANG

Feminine noun pronounced as in English; used to refer to a group of friends, co-workers. Amène ta gang! Bring your friends along! J’aime ça, sortir en gang. I like going out with friends. Aller souper avec la gang du bureau. To go out for supper with my friends from work. SQF: (mes, tes…) amis, (mes, tes…) collègues.

8. GAME

Pronounced as in English; can be used as an adjective or feminine noun. As a feminine noun, it means the same thing as match, which also happens to be from English. Grosse game à soir! Big game on tonight! As an adjective, it means willing. Es-tu game? You game? You up for it? SQF: un match, une partie (instead of une game); être d’accord (instead of être game).

9. FUN

Masculine noun pronounced as though written fonne. C’est l’fun! This is fun! It’s fun! C’t’un gars l’fun. C’t’une fille l’fun. He’s a fun guy. She’s a fun girl. When used adjectively, fun is preceded by le, which contracts to l’. (C’t’un and c’t’une are contractions of c’est un and c’est une. They sound like the French words un and une preceded by st, as though they were st’un and st’une. Gars rhymes with the French words pas, cas, bas. Don’t pronounce the rs.) On va avoir du fun! We’re gonna have fun! SQF: amusant (as an adjective); s’amuser or avoir du plaisir (instead of avoir du fun).

10. JOB

Feminine noun used literally in the sense of job and also in certain colloquial expressions. Une job d’été. A summer job. J’ai perdu ma job. I lost my job. Ça va faire la job! That’ll do the job! That’ll do the trick! SQF: un emploi, un travail; ça fera l’affaire (instead of ça va faire la job).

11. NAPKIN

A feminine noun meaning napkin, serviette. Amène des napkins! Bring some napkins! Napkin is pronounced as in English, but shift the stress to the final syllable instead. In the plural napkins, the final s isn’t pronounced. SQF: une serviette.

12. TATTOO

Masculine noun pronounced as though written tatou. J’ai un tattoo su’l’mollet. I’ve got a tattoo on my calf. (Su’l’ is a contraction of sur le. It’s pronounced exactly as written, as sul.) SQF: un tatouage.

13. SHIFT

Masculine noun, pronounced as though spelled chiff. It sounds much like the way an anglophone would say shiff, not sheef. Shift de jour, shift de soir, shift de nuit, day shift, evening shift, night shift. J’travaille su’l’shift de soir. I work on the evening shift. (Su’l’ is a contraction of sur le. It’s pronounced exactly as written, as sul.) Shift is sometimes analysed by francophones as being the French word chiffre. This is because shift and chiffre are both pronounced as chiff, at least in colloquial language. This means that, in informal writing written off the cuff (e.g. a text message), you might see chiffre de jour, chiffre de soir, chiffre de nuit, but it’s still pronounced chiff. SQF: un quart (quart de jour, quart de soir, quart de nuit).

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The OffQc guide 1000 Québécois French will help you to increase your vocabulary and knowledge of essential, everyday expressions. It’s a condensed version of the first 1000 posts on OffQc; you can use it to become acquainted with the most important Québécois French vocabulary and expressions for the first time, or to review a large amount of material in less time.

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Rue Sainte-Catherine in Montréal this week

Rue Sainte-Catherine in snowy Montréal this week

In a radio interview, Jean Leloup described something as being tough en sacrament.

Tough is used informally in the same sense as its English equivalent here: difficult. It’s pronounced toffe.

The expression en sacrament is used to reinforce. We can say that tough en sacrament means “tough as hell” or “damn tough.”

Le français québécois, c’est tough en sacrament.
Québécois French is tough as hell.

Just kidding. It’s not that tough, is it?

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Yesterday, I posted a satirical piece about francophones’ attitudes towards French. I suspect the piece was misunderstood, which is of course the risk that comes with writing satirically. The text wasn’t meant to be taken at face value. I’d like to look at some of what I wrote, without the satirical angle this time.

I remember a conversation I had with two friends while at university. One of the friends was anglophone, and the other was francophone. All three of us were speaking in French.

At one point, the anglophone friend talked about his job. He used the words ma job to talk about his work. The francophone friend corrected him almost immediately. He said the anglophone should say mon emploi instead of ma job. He argued that ma job sounded inappropriate for the anglophone to use.

The anglophone said no, that his job was not an emploi. He explained that his job was just temporary work, and that it wasn’t his career. The francophone said the word emploi could be used for any kind of employment. The anglophone was probably splitting hairs for the sake of conversation, but what he was saying isn’t entirely crazy.

The francophone was right in the sense that emploi can be used for any kind of employment, but he was so caught up in his zeal to call out a québécois usage that he deemed inappropriate that he missed the nuance of what the anglophone wanted to convey. For the anglophone, the word emploi was incorrect because that word turned his job into something more important than what it really was to him.

In this case, my anglophone friend could have maybe used the word une jobine instead. This word conveys the idea of a small job or project, or in my friend’s case, “unimportant” work carried out just for the money. I avoided suggesting the word jobine to him in that moment, though. I didn’t want to give the francophone friend a heart attack by revealing such a québécois word to an anglophone.

This was the point that I wanted to make with the joke about saying posséder sexuellement le canidé domestique instead of fucker le chien. It would be incorrect to say posséder sexuellement le canidé domestique, even if the words in this made-up expression literally mean the same thing as the words in fucker le chien. It feels wrong to alter the expression like this because fucker sounds necessarily more crude than posséder sexuellement, and because canidé domestique sounds unnecessarily more scientific than chien. Similarly, saying mon emploi instead of ma job felt wrong to my anglophone friend because it added a level of seriousness to his temporary work in a way that he didn’t like.

The part about how posséder sexuellement le canidé domestique is the way that it’s said in France is also a joke. Nobody uses this expression, not in Québec and not in France. The idea behind the joke is this: eleminating an expression that sounds too québécois in favour of another one that sounds more like international French or like French from France does not automatically make the expression correct.

Perhaps you’ll remember the scene from 30 vies where a teacher corrects a student who describes a character he’s invented for a story as un tough. The teacher says he shouldn’t describe his character as un tough because tough is an anglicism; she says he should describe his character as un dur instead. The student, in turn, corrects the teacher by saying: Ben non! Dur, c’est moins tough que tough!

The student understands something that the teacher doesn’t: replacing a québécois usage for an international one doesn’t necessarily result in an improvement of language.

Pretty doesn’t equal right.

I’m not saying that speakers should always stay in the informal level of the québécois variety of French. Different language situations call for different kinds of French. What I am saying is that just because a word or expression belongs to an international kind of French doesn’t automatically make it inherently better, especially when using that word results in a change of meaning. Dur, c’est moins tough que tough.

I ended the piece by saying that one would be better off learning Spanish instead of French to avoid developing a complex of one’s own. I’m joking, of course. I don’t discourage anybody from learning French. Now that OffQc is approaching 1000 posts, I would hope there’d be no doubt on this point.

But behind this joke is my belief that we needlessly complicate the language learning experience for newcomers to Québec. We do newcomers no favours whatsoever by discouraging them from wanting to understand the way French is spoken in Québec. A teacher of French from Québec once accused me of teaching bad French on OffQc. What this teacher fails to recognise, much to my disappointment, is that native speakers of French and learners of French have very different needs.

I can only imagine the dismay he must have felt when he discovered I was presenting on OffQc the kind of language he probably strives to eradicate amongst his native French-speaking students. But a language learner does not have the luxury of being able to skip over the parts of language deemed incorrect. The language learner must learn to understand all of it — even the parts native speakers don’t think are very pretty.

The usual criticism about the way French is used in Québec is that more prestigious forms of language are rejected by speakers. If there is truth to this, then it mostly occurs between native speakers themselves. When a learner of French enters the scene, the tables are often turned and it’s the colloquial form of French that’s often rejected. This explains why so many learners of French have commented to me that Québecois French seems like a secret language, one that they aren’t allowed access to. Hiding the colloquial variety of French is very detrimental to newcomers. Not only does it limit how far they’ll go in the language, it can also erode their self-esteem because it makes them feel like outsiders who don’t belong.

I do my best to point out when certain usages are best to be avoided by learners. For example, I continue to discourage you from saying moé and toé because they are too heavily stigmatised by the native speakers. But I will never discourage you from learning to understand any aspect of language.

In French courses for newcomers to Québec, the colloquial language as used in Québec is almost entirely overlooked. Perhaps a better word would be shunned. This doesn’t mean students in those courses are learning French from France, though. They’re learning a standardised form of Québécois French — the kind used in the media, for example. But it’s not enough. Teaching newcomers only one register of language — the most prestigious one — puts them at a disadvantage.

I’ve seen too many examples of newcomers who’ve made a dedicated effort to learn French in these courses only to find themselves unable to communicate effectively in real language encounters. I do realise of course that there’s no student who’s going to walk out of any language course, no matter how fantastic the course may be, and speak effortless French. That would be utopic. But when I come across a newcomer who’s gone through all the levels of French and still doesn’t know that tu as almost always contracts to t’as when people speak colloquially, there’s a problem.

Yes, the responsibility for learning a language will always lie with the student. But if we’re going to go to the trouble of offering French courses in the attempt to help newcomers to integrate, can’t we please drop the ideology that the colloquial language of Québec is inferior and begin teaching newcomers the way people really speak in the kind of language situations they’re most likely to find themselves?

With all of this in mind, perhaps you’ll reread my text from yesterday and even find some humour in it this time — or disagree with it entirely, that’s fine too.

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French-language purists will tell you not to use the words below, but you gotta know ’em if you want to understand the Québécois!

We won’t concern ourselves with the ideas of the purists here. We’ll let them squabble amongst themselves as we get down to the more important work of learning French.

Even though these words are often referred to as anglicismes or as examples of franglais, I don’t see a reason why we can’t just think of them as French words that entered the language by way of English.

That said, it’s important to know that these words are reserved to informal speaking situations. They’re not used in formal speech or writing.

The examples below are not the only way those ideas can be expressed in French. For example, although you’ll hear a tattoo called un tatou in Québec, you’ll also come across the standardised tatouage. In the list below, we’ll just look at ways you might hear things said using a word taken from English.

If you like this list of 31 gotta-knows, there’s also a list of 50 must-knows and a list of 30 full-québécois on OffQc.

If you learn everything in those 3 posts, that’s 111 MB of example sentences uploaded to your brain. And if you learn everything on OffQc, then your brain will definitely need a memory upgrade pretty soon. 🙂

1. Tu m’as fait feeler cheap.
You made me feel bad (about myself).

2. Je badtripe là-dessus.
I’m worried sick about it.

3. J’ai eu un gros down.
I got really down.

4. C’est tough sur le moral.
It’s tough on your morale.

5. C’est weird en masse.
That’s totally weird.

6. Ce médicament me rend stone.
This medication stones me out.

7. C’est tellement cute son accent.
His accent is so cute.

8. Ça m’a donné un gros rush.
It got me all pumped up.

9. Mon boss est venu me voir.
My boss came to see me.

10. À l’heure du lunch, je fais de l’exercice.
I exercise at lunchtime.

11. Ça clique pas entre nous.
We don’t click with each other.

12. C’est pas cher, mais c’est de la scrap.
It’s not expensive, but it’s junk.

13. C’est roffe à regarder.
It’s tough [rough] to watch.

14. Je sais pas dealer avec ça.
I don’t know how to deal with this.

15. J’ai mis une patch sur la partie usée.
I put a patch on the worn-out part.

16. Es-tu game pour un concours?
Are you up for a contest?

17. J’ai rushé sur mes devoirs.
I rushed my homework.

18. Y’a un gros spot blanc sur l’écran.
There’s a big white spot on the screen.

19. Je veux vivre ma vie à full pin.
I want to live my life to the max.

20. Le voisin m’a blasté.
The neighbour chewed me out.

21. J’ai un kick sur mon prof de français.
I’ve got a crush on my French prof.

22. T’as l’air full sérieux sur cette photo.
You look full serious in this photo.

23. Écoute ça, tu vas triper!
Listen to this, you’re gonna totally love it!

24. Viens me voir, j’ai fuck all à faire.
Come see me, I’ve got fuck all to do.

25. J’aime les idées flyées.
I like ideas that are really out there.

26. J’ai pas de cravate pour matcher avec ma chemise.
I don’t have a tie to go with my shirt.

27. Je t’ai forwardé sa réponse.
I forwarded her answer to you.

28. Elle a un gros tatou sur l’épaule.
She’s got a huge tattoo on her shoulder.

29. Ça me fait freaker.
It freaks me out.

30. Merci, on a eu un fun noir!
Thanks, we had an amazing time!

31. J’ai lâché ma job parce que j’étais en burn out.
I quit my job because I was burnt out.

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Although I’ve written the examples in this post myself, they were inspired by Maude Schiltz‘s book Ah shit, j’ai pogné le cancer and by Rabii Rammal‘s blog posts on Urbania, both of which I encourage you to check out.

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Maude Schiltz was diagnosed with cancer in both breasts at age 39. After her diagnosis, she began sending emails to her friends to keep them updated on her health. Her book Ah shit, j’ai pogné le cancer is a collection of the emails she sent.

Maude’s book is peppered with a lot of colloquial French. In this post, let’s take a look at how she uses the words tough (toffe) and toffer, which you need to understand. We’ll also look at some examples taken from other sources.

In an email, Maude describes the different surgical possibilties that exist to treat her breast cancer. She mentions which surgical procedure she prefers, but she also describes the negative aspects of the procedure, such as excessive scarring, as being tough on a woman’s femininity. She writes: C’est tough sur la féminité! (That’s tough on a woman’s femininity!)

Maude put the word tough in italics. This is because she recognises the word as being an informal borrowing from English. Nevertheless, tough has been absorbed into the French vocabulary of Québec. Unlike its English equivalent, however, tough is felt to be an informal usage only in French.

When francophones say tough, the gh is pronounced like an f, just like its English equivalent. To use a more phonetic spelling, we can write the word as toffe. In texts written informally, you may come across the spellings tough, toffe, tof.

This isn’t the first time tough has shown up on OffQc. In entry #322, we saw tough used as a noun: C’est un tough, lui. Un vrai tough! (He’s a tough guy. A real tough guy!)

In that same entry, we saw how a teacher from the television show 30 vies corrected her student when he used the word tough to describe a tough-acting character he had invented for a story. She told him he should say dur instead of tough to avoid using an anglicism. He disagreed with his teacher. According to him: Dur, c’est moins tough que tough!

Tough (or toffe) can also be transformed into a verb in Québec: toffer. When you hear the Québecois use the verb toffer, they’re talking about toughing something out.

Maude used the verb toffer in her book. She describes a medical procedure that she’d like to try during chemotherapy, which involves freezing the head with a cold cap, and freezing the hands and feet with cold gloves and slippers. She explains that doing this may help to prevent the loss of hair, fingernails and toenails.

She says that the procedure is very difficult to withstand, however. It causes severe headaches and shivering. She questions whether or not she’d be able to tough it out. She writes: Est-ce que j’arriverai à « toffer » un casque, des chaussettes et des gants glacés? (Will I be able to tough it out wearing a cold cap, slippers and gloves?)

This time, Maude use guillemets («») around toffer, again because she recognises that this verb derives from an English word, even if it’s been absorbed into French and given a French spelling.

This isn’t the first time toffer has shown up on OffQc either. In entry #392, we’ve got the following example of toffer that I overheard in Montréal on the métro: Tu vas devoir toffer un peu. (You’re gonna have to tough it out a bit.)

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Here are this entry’s examples again in list form and with references:

1. C’est tough sur la féminité!
That’s tough on a woman’s femininity!

[Maude Schiltz, Ah shit, j’ai pogné le cancer, Éditions de Mortagne, Boucherville, 2013, p.20.]

2. C’est un tough, lui. Un vrai tough!
He’s a tough guy. A real tough guy!

[First used in entry #322.]

3. Dur, c’est moins tough que tough!
Dur is less tough than tough!

[30 vies, season 2, episode 37, Radio-Canada, Montréal, 14 November 2011. First used in entry #322.]

4. Est-ce que j’arriverai à « toffer » un casque, des chaussettes et des gants glacés?
Will I be able to tough it out wearing a cold cap, slippers and gloves?

[Maude Schiltz, Ah shit, j’ai pogné le cancer, Éditions de Mortagne, Boucherville, 2013, p.21.]

5. Tu vas devoir toffer un peu.
You’re gonna have to tough it out a bit.

[Overheard in Montréal in January 2012. First used in entry #392.]

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