The last few posts had quite a heavy undertone. So let’s lighten things up a little and have some fun with this one.
If you to were to ask someone where they are from, and they responded in English that they’re an …
- Vancouverite, or
… chances are you would know exactly where they were from. (perhaps this post is not for you if you couldn’t quite get that far 😉 ).
But what if you were to ask someone in French? Would you still know where they were from if the response used the French names?
- Montréalais(e) (Note: the letter in the bracket is the feminine designation)
Very similar. Simple enough, right?
OK, let’s crank this one up a couple of notches, and play a little game.
What about the following community resident designations. See how many of the following you would get right (I’ll give the answers a little further below). Would you know where the person was from, if they told you in French they were…
Have I got you stumped? I will tell you this; you will not find any cities, towns or villages named Tomcoto, Pauline, Sylviefran, or Aigle – because they don’t exist. But the above resident designations do exist. Stumped? OK, I’ll give you the answers.
- A Tomcotois is someone from the town of Saint-François-Xavier-de-Brompton.
- A Paulinois is NOT a supporter of Pauline Marois. Rather, it is a person from Saint-Paul-de-l’Île-aux-Noix (not to be confused with “Saint Paul de l’Illinois” – that’s someone from a whole different country and millennium !! 😉
- A Sylvifranc is not the name of an actual person (although I’m sure there are lots of Sylvie Francs out there). Rather, it is someone from Bois-Francs. (by the way, what’s your score so far??)
- An Aiglon is not a baby eagle (aigle), but rather someone from Cap-à-l’Aigle.
- A Cayen is not a Cajun spoken with… well… a Cajun accent (although I suppose it could be). Rather, a Cayen is someone from Havre-St-Pierre.
I’m sure you got 5 for 5, right? (man, you should buy a lottery ticket if you did !!). I’ll say this; if you did manage to answer these 100% correct, then this blog is waaaaay to simple for you!! You might as well remove it from your bookmarks and turn off your computer right now. 😉
But if you’re like most people (ie: normal, like the rest of us) you were probably stumped from the get-go. All I can say is welcome to Québec’s overly complicated system (or lack thereof) of designations for city residents. It makes for some screwed up names to have to remember!
Due to Québec’s geography and history of being a former catholic state, communities were often named after geological settings or religious saints.
- “Lac-à-la-Tortue” means “Turtle Lake”,
- “Trois-Rivières”, means “Three Rivers”, one of Québec’s larger cities
- “La-Nativité-de-la-Prairie-de-la-Madeleine” means “Madeleine of the Prairie’s Nativity” (yes… that is actually the name of a town. Imagine having to write that every time you have to fill out your address on a form!)
Do you want to take a shot at guessing what the inhabitants from the above few places are called? (I warn you, there is often no rhyme or rhythm to it).
- People from “Lac-à-la-Tortue” are called “Tortunois” (Turtlers)
- People from “Trois-Rivières” are called “Trifluviens” (Tri-riverians)
A note for learners of French: English has only one word to describe a major flowing body of water, a “River”. But in French there are actually two words: One is a “rivière” (river) which flows into anything but an ocean (ie: it flows into a lake or another river, such as the North Saskatchwan River, the Ottawa River, or the Red River). The other one is a “Fleuve”, which is a river which flows into an ocean. The St. Lawrence is therefore a Fleuve, not a Rivière – Le Fleuve St-Laurent. The Fraser River is le Fleuve Fraser, and the MacKenzie River is the le Fleuve MacKenzie.
People from Trois-Rivières are called Trifluviens because the city is at the confluence a couple of rivers (rivières) which all flow into the St. Lawrence (fleuve). Creative, isn’t it?? If you’re from the town just to the west of Trois-Rivières (Trois-Rivières-Ouest), you’re called a Ouestrifluvien (so sometimes there is some sense in all this madness).
- People from “La-Nativité-de-la-Prairie-de-la-Madeleine” are simply (and thankfully) just called Prairiens (which is strange to me, because that’s what we call people from the real Prairies, out in Western Canada – but whatever… at least it’s better than saying you’re a Madelenois de la Nativitien des Prairies!).
Here are some other odd-balls (amongst MANY others!):
- Bellifontain, from Fontainbleu
- Uaskaikaniunnu, from Fort-Chimo
- Tshishe-shipiunnu, from La Grande Rivière
- Hichinbrooker, from Hinchinbrooke
- LaCrosien, from Lac-à-la-Croix (if you know French, this one is kind of comical – since it sounds like someone who, well… likes to play with themselves a bit too much – hahaha! I’ll steer clear of explaining this one!)
- Mitcikanâpikokanicinâbek, from La Barrière
- Septcantonnien, from Les Sept-Cantons-Unis-du-Saguenay
- Jévissois, from McWatters
- Pierremontais, from Mont-Saint-Pierre
- Néo-Carlinois, from New Carlisle
- Nordiste, from Notre-Dame-du-Lac-Saint-Jean-Partie-Nord
- Sudiste, from Notre-Dame-du-Lac-Saint-Jean-Partie-Sud
- Damelacois, from Notre-Dame-du-Lac
- Calumet-Pointois, from Point-Calumet
- Bigiquois, from Saint-Alphonse
- Maskoutains, from Saint-Hyacinthe
- Johannais, from Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu
- Masoutain, from Yamaska
The reason why many of the names of inhabitants seem to bear no resemblance to their communities is three-fold: (1) Sometimes the names of the towns have changed with time or the towns have amalgamated with other communities, but the inhabitants have kept the former names. (2) In other instances, the communities are predominantly aboriginal, and it is more respectful and culturally normal for the inhabitants to be named in the aboriginal language. (3) And the last reason is because someone, somewhere out there in la-la naming land just wants to
#@&% with your head liven life up a little.
If you’d like a full list of the chaos toponyms, you can link to the government of Québec’s municipal toponym list here:
And if you’re wondering;
- Someone from Ottawa is not an Ottawaïen (Ottawa is not quite as warm as Hawaii). Rather they’re called Ottaviens (presumably so people won’t laugh at the former).
- Someone from Québec City is Québécois, just like someone from the province. So to avoid confusion, nobody ever calls someone from Québec City Québécois. People just refer to them as “des gens de Québec” (people from Québec City).
- My home town is Végreville, but thankfully, we’re not known as Vagéniens, but rather just Végrevilliens (I would most definately lie and say I was from another place, like Nunavut, or Mongolia, if we were known as the former!!).
Anyway, at the end of the day, with the exception of very obvious cities, such as Montréalais from Montréal, or Gatinois from Gatineau, very few people refer to themselves or others by these name designations. People generally just say they’re from “X” city. And with good cause !!
ADDENDUM 2014-01-27: One thing I forgot to mention (funny how things suddenly pop into your mind)… when we assign a city name to a person, we call it a gentilé in French (ie: the gentilé for people from Montréal is Montréalais(e) ).