- In the prior post I explained there are sometimes differences in vocabulary and expressions between various regions of Québec.
In this post, we’ll look at some words and expressions which are “more often” used in the Québec City region. However, some of these words and expressions may occasionally be heard in other regions of Québec and Canada as well.
A word of caution if you want to use some of this vocabulary: although a good chunk of this vocabulary may still be heard in one manner or another (such as the feminine for of a “bus”, or “des flos” in the next post), some of these terms have already become dated, and a number have fallen off the radar owing to a massive trend of language standardization over the past 30 or more years (explained in the prior post). An example would be “bombe” = “bouilloir” (kettle). Most people have ceased saying “bombe” within the last generation or two (although I know a couple of people in their 40’s who still say bombe… one residing in Québec City and one residing in Montréal). But with that being said, if you do encounter the word “bombe”, you will more likely encounter it in the Québec City Region than in the Montréal region. (It is sort of like how the word “groovy” used to be big back in the 1960s, the word still exists, but few people say it). Just be aware that some of these words may fall into that sort of category.
Online information on Québec City specific vocabulary expressions seems to be non-existent. I therefore did my best to come up with a list of words and expressions I could think of myself or from other people I know or who I’ve come across from Québec City. I’m sure there a host of other words and expressions which could be added. Thus in that sense, this list should not be considered exhaustive. Another note, I purposely left out some of the most vulgar words and expressions (more the most part, they are expressions derived from very graphic… sex — welcome to Québécois slang).
As I said earlier, some people in Montréal, Saguenay Lac St-Jean and elsewhere in Québec may occasionally use a few of these words or expressions, but I want to emphasize that this list, in general, is more apt to be heard in the Québec City region than elsewhere.
A note to language learners: Because most people who learn Québec-specific French concentrate more on the language and accent spoken in the Montréal region, for the sake of comparison, I will offer also you the alternative words / expressions you’ll generally hear in Montréal, rather than providing strict international French comparisons (although I will sometimes give you the international French word if that is the word which is also often heard in Montréal). I’ll also provide the English equivalent, along with some reference notes. In this sense, this list could be considered a “Québec City versus Montréal” vocab list.
Word “X” (this will be the word or expression which could be heard in the Québec City region)
- Word “Y” (this would be the equivalent which could be heard more in the Montréal region or province-wide). I will also include the English equivalent as well as reference notes.
Again. just keep in mind, there is no hard and fast rule about these expressions, things change with time, some of these may be odd-balls or not always said by the majority, geographic lines are blurry for words and expressions, and individuals may say things differently.
“A to E” WORDS AND EXPRESSIONS (“F to Z” will follow in the next post)
- l’asphalte (asphalt in English)
bêche, une (je me suis bêché)
- une débarque, prendre une débarque, se planter, tomber (all mean to fall down, or trip and fall)
biche (i.e. “ma belle petite biche”, with “che” pronounced “sh”)
- une petite femme fine, term of endearment (two girls/ladies who are just friends may say this in reference to one another… like saying “girlfriend” in English in a non-sexual or non-romantic manner). Not to be confused with “bitch” or “bitche“, both of which are said in Montréal, but which have the same meaning as in English… and are pronounced the same as English)
bol (exemple: je vais à l’bol; je dois aller à l’bol)
- toilette, the can (i.e.: I’m going to the can; I have to go to the can).
bombe (older people may still say this)
- bouilloire (kettle); example: chauffer la bombe.
bottes à vailler (pronounced “vaiyé”).
- bottes en caoutchouc, Rubber boots
- louche, ladle
- des bretelles, suspenders (for pants)
bus, le / un (pronounced with an English accent, i.e.: a short “u”)
- “un bus”, Masculine, Means a long-distance, inter-city bus/coach (whereas in Montréal, “un bus” means a regular city bus making stops along a bus route. Thus in Québec City, the word has the opposite of Montréal’s meaning.)
bus, la / une ; la bus (prounounced with a french “u”, like the word “tu”)
- A city bus, Feminine, a regular city bus which makes stops as it goes down city road. In Montréal, this sort of “bus” takes the English pronounciation and is masculine. In Montréal “une bus”, with a French accent “û” as in “tu”, does not exist (whereas it does in Québec City).
caille, une (which probably comes from the English word “coil”)
- calorifère (plinthe électrique), electric base heater
- un cahier, exercise book, notebook
calverte (the “r” is prounounced with a heavy French accent)
- fossé, a ditch along the side of the road, or a trough in the ground
cannisons (a dated word, seldom heard anymore)
carpot (pronounce the”r” with a French accent, with the last part pronounced “potte”)
- carport (an open garage with no walls, attached to a house… an older style of garage which used to be build on the side of houses in Canada, popular in the 1970s — you’ll still run into this word because many of these houses are still around and being re-sold on the market).
- A woman who is running everywhere… a woman on the go (a woman who is trying to get a billion things done). “Ma secretaire est une vraie charrue, toujours sur le go avec un million de choses à faire”
- saloppettes in International French. But many people in Québec simply say “overalls” with a French accent. Overalls that a mechanic wears
- overshoes (those rubber things people wear over dress shoes to protect them from rain… does anyone still wear them?)
club (the “u” is pronounced “û” as in the word “tu”)
- club, the only difference between Québec City and Montréal (and Eastern Québec versus Western Québec in general) is the pronounciation (in Montréal it takes the English pronounciation, with a short “u”, like “tub” in English). This word can be used in all senses of the word “club” (club sandwich = sandwich club; night club = club [or discothèque]; sports club = club de sports, etc. etc.). Interesting note: In Ontario French, it is pronounced the same way as Montréal, but in Western Canadian French (particularly the Prairies) it is pronounced the same as Québec City. I’ve heard Acadians pronounce it both ways… so the Acadian pronounciation likely varies from one community to the other.
- caleçons, long johns
- babioles (knick-knacks, trinkets)
- se cogner l’orteil (Europe = cogner le pied, taper l’orteil), stub one’s toe
crûtte (i.e.: de la viande crûtte)
- crû (raw) – for example, for meat.
- le camion à benne (dump truck)
- une gomme (intl French). An eraser (but efface can sometimes also be heard in Montréal)
en sur de
- en-dessus de (example, “c’est en sur du comptoir”, it’s on the counter). Note, this expression is dated, and sounds very uneducated… It is guaranteed to make you sound like a hick (you can say this if you really want to be labelled as a Québec “regional” hill-billy from the sticks)
- to be drunk (there are so many ways to say this in Montréal and elsewhere in Québec & the rest of Canada. Some examples: être barbouillé, être en boisson, être ben chaud, en avoir plein son collet, être parti en fête, partir pour la gloire, être gommé, se pacter noir, plein comme un œuf, paqueté, réchaufé, saoul comme une botte, plein comme un sieu)
expression: Avoir de la mine dans le crayon.
- A man with a big sexual appetite (basicallly “a pig”). Man, gardes-y, il cours après tout ce qui bouge… y a vraiment la mine dans’l crayon!
expression: courir la galipot
- courir après les jolies filles, chasing after girls
expression: faire la culture physique
- s’entraîner, faire de l’exercise (physical exercises of all sortes)
expression: faire le pot pête
- to backfire (a car’s exhaust). Pot = tuyau d’échappement or “exhaust pipe. Pot d’échappement = muffler. Pête = a mini explosion or shot of air (also a fart). An interesting note: this expression can have the litteral meaning of a car’s exhaust backfiring, but it can also have a figurative meaning, just as in English; something which backfires. example: “It backfired on the politician” = Il a fait pot pête au politicien, il lui a fait pot pête, ç’a tout fait pot pête. (you will also hear this in Montréal)
expression: jammé dans le coude
- partir sur la brosse (getting smashed with alcohol)
expression: partir sur une chire
- This has a several different colloquial meanings in Montréal as well as in all of Québec and Francophone Canada in general. It can mean (1) partir sur une dérape (to go off on a tangent, related to anything which can be done in a tangent, such as arguing, grumbling, complaining, running off in a flash, dashing off, doing something in a flash, binge drinking, quickly getting severely drunk or high, whatever else can be done in a tangent); (2) Partir sur une brosse (to go on a drinking binge); (3) Partir sur le go (to go on a drinking binge, or to dash off in a mad rush); (4) se souler (get drunk); (5) déconner (to kind of go off on a rant or “capoter“)… i.e.: arrêtes de déconner un instant! = “shut up with your rant & ramblings for a minute!”); (6); déblatérer (to rant); (7) partir sur la trace (same as above meaning as “partir sur une dérape”); (8) partir sur le patch (same as above meaning as “partir sur une dérape”); (9) partir sur une tripe (same as above meaning as “partir sur une dérape”); (10) often simply used in the context to “go off on a tangent”, “take off in a flash”
expression: Prend son café à paille
- This is sort of a weird semi-trend in Eastern Québec (more in rural areas), taking hold with truckers and others who don’t want to spill their coffee while driving. Tim Hortons. McDonald’s, or even Starbucks (yikes!!), when asked, will pierce a hole in the coffee lid and serve it with a straw (yup… some people will drink their coffee with a straw in Eastern rural regions of Québec to avoid spilling! How’s that for a cultural tid-bit?). At the take-out window or cashier’s counter, you can say “je prendrai mon café à paille” (I’ll take my coffee with a straw). I’m not sure anyone in Montréal is doing this, and if someone from Montréal really wanted to do this, because the expression hasn’t become part of the vocabulary, they probably would ask it in more “formalized” French, i.e. “Je prendrai mon café avec une paille”.
expression: se faire attention aux machines en t’en allant
- Look in both directions before crossing the road. In this sense, a “machine” refers to a vehicle (Anglophone sometimes refer to their vehicle as a “machine” too… “That’s a mean machine you have there” = “That’s quite the car / truck you have there”)
expression: se faire chier dans la pêle (I love this expression!!)
- se faire choker par quelqu’un, se faire traité de chokeux. This is a case where the French word does not match the English equivalent (a false friend). “Choker” in colloquial Québec and Canadian French means “to skip out, absenteeism, to be late” (i.e.: missed a meeting, been stood up, made to wait for someone who’s late). Someone who does this is a “chokeux“. Just for general info “choker” also has other meanings, but they are unrelated to what we’re discussing here.
expression: un ordre de toast
- deux tranches de toast, two slices of toast (probably because restaurants usually bring 2 slices). In Québec City, if you were to say you’ll have “un ordre de toast”, the waiter/waitress would know you want two slices of toast. But in Montréal, they would know you want toast, but perhaps would not know it specifically means “two” slices.
expression: va donc péter dans les fleurs
- envoyer quelqu’un promener. This is a way to tell someone to “get lost” (Vas te promener! = Get out of here!).
Expression: Vas te crosser avec une poignée d’hyper (very vulgar)
- This one pushed the limits of vulgar expressions I decided to include. But because this series of expression is still heard from time to time, I decided to include it. It means “Screw off / F-off”. In Montréal, it would be “Vas te crosser avec une poignée de clous” or “… poignée de clous rouillées”, or “…poignée de brackets” (very Elvis Gratton if you’re looking for a cultural reference), or “…poignée de braquettes”. Litterally: Go beat yourself off with a handful of nails! (but if you use the Québec City version and say “hyper”, it would mean “Go and beat yourself off like a mad-man”.
expression: T’es donc ben bolot.
- You’re such an idiot. You’re such a dingbat. You’re such a twit (not vulgar… It is kind of a soft way of saying someone is an idiot or did something dumb – you could say this to tease a friend or relative with while joking and laughing)
The next post will cover F to Z for the Québec City Region. Then we’ll look at vocabulary & expressions in other regions of Québec.
SERIES: “REGIONAL” VOCABULARY AND EXPRESSIONS (6 POSTS)
- “Regional” Vocabulary and Expressions within Québec – Introduction (#169) – PART 1
- “Regional” Vocabulary and Expressions – Québec City Region – A to E (#170) – PART 2
- “Regional” Vocabulary and Expressions – Québec City Region – F to Z (#171) – PART 3
- “Regional” Vocabulary and Expressions – La Beauce Region (#172) – PART 4
- “Regional” Vocabulary and Expressions – Saguenay Lac St-Jean (#173) – PART 5
- “Regional” Vocabulary and Expressions – Other Regions of Québec (#174) – PART 6