WARNING: These few posts are not suitable for minors. They contain quite explicit vocabulary.
Let us continue our little adventure down the road of French swear words. They are something which certainly adds more than just a little colour to our French in Canada and Québec.
Apart from informal talk between friends and peers, you will also tend to hear them used extensively in stand-up comedy, movies (dramas, and especially comedy movies), and literature which features Joual.
You may recall the earlier post on Elvis Gratton. When watching the Elvis Gratton movies and television series, you would almost get the impression that every third word uttered was a vulgarity in some form or another.
I find it unfortunate when I hear learners of French say they have a difficult time understanding us in French when the language level becomes a bit more informal. Of course, one reason is the structure and vocabulary used in Joual, but vulgarities and obscenities (swear words) certainly can throw a person off if you’re not familiar with them.
Hopefully these few posts give you some context and help to fill some of the missing gaps (I actually find it kind of awkard to write about this topic… it’s rarely written about in any depth – but all the more reason for me to cover it, and for you to hopefully find it useful 😉 ).
NOTE 1: In the examples below, it is difficult to give an exact translation for every word. I’ve therefore given the closest approximates with respect to their degree of impact. That is why I list more than one English equivalent after most words.
NOTE 2: Underneath the main words, I also list the “toned-down / softened” versions of the words. These are versions of the main swear word which are considered to be milder, and more acceptable to a wider audience. In English, the equivalent might be the transformation of “F&@#” to “Fudge”, or “Damn” to “Darn” (the latter words which could be acceptable, even on television).
THE LIST: M to SAC
Marde – Shit!, Damn it! Crap!
This one is interesting because it is softer than “shit” in English (which is “Merde” in French). “Marde” is also softer than “Merde” — soft enough to the extent that you will hear it on television and the radio. It also is used in many expressions:
- “Un tas de marde” (a pile of crap),
- “C’est de la marde” (it’s crap),
- “Toute cette marde” (all this crap),
- “Marde!” (Crap!, Damn!, Shit!).
I recommend that you try your best to replace “Merde” with “Marde” as much as possible. It sounds better and less offensive.
Maudite merde – Shit!, Damn it!, God damn it!, Piss!
Maudit – Shit!, Damn it!, Crap!, God damn it!, Piss!
This is one of the most common curse words out there… Right up there in the top five.
- Marois grand P
Maudit bâtard – Damned bastard / F’ing bastard!
A bit Stronger — AVOID if possible, because it is a direct insult.
Although “Maudit” is not so serious of a word when said on its own, if you add “bâtard” after it, you’re looking for trouble (especially if you call someone this).
Maudit calvaire – For Christ’s Sake!, For F’in Sake!
RATHER STRONG, Recommend not using it.
Merde – Shit!
See “Marde” above. It’s stronger than “Marde”, and roughly the exact same meaning, impact, and degree of acceptability (or non-acceptability) as “shit” in English. This is also one of the most common curse words (likely in the top five).
Moses – Christ!, Damn it!, Shit!
Mon… XXX – Used to form “self-curses” by placing “Mon” in front of the curse word.
In English, there are four levels of “self-curses” which are used to give emphasis. Examples:
- Least offensive could be “My Goodness”.
- One level up might be “My bloody luck”.
- A level higher might be “I’ll be damned”.
- The most offensive level would be “F*** me!”
French also has similar levels of “self-curses”. Examples:
- Mon bonjour!
- Mon bon Dieu!
- Mon ciboire!
- “Mon Tabar*** !” or “Mon Câlisse!”.
The rule is this: In Canadian French, you can pretty much add “Mon” in front of any Canadian-specific obscenity (it will work 90% of the time). The more offensive the word to which “mon” is added, the stronger the message. Exception: You generally can NOT add “Mon” in front of most swear words which also exist in Europe (ie: It does NOT work to say “Mon maudit”, “Mon pute”, “Mon foutre”, etc.)
Noune – Cuss word for vagina.
It is not quite as bad as saying “C$#%” (female genetalia) in English, but it certainly is harsher than saying “Pussy”. It’s sort of half way between. In Europe they say “chatte” (a female cat) – which can sometimes also be heard on this side of the Atlantic.
The funny thing is that there is even a well-known, comical song parody using this word (it has gone viral in Québec). You can listen to it by going to its YouTube link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OYcq4nGeYu0
Ostensoir – Shit!, Damn it!, Crap!, God damn it!, Piss!
Ostensoir à pédale – Shit!, Damn it!, God damn it!, Piss!
Patente à gosse! – Shit!, Damn it!, God damn it!, Piss!
Sacré – Shit!, Damn it!, God damn it!, Piss!
Sacre bleu – Shit!, Damn it!, God damn it!, Piss!
Sacréfisse – Shit!, Damn it!, God damn it!, Piss!
Sacrement – F***!, Jesus f***ing Christ! Quite Strong.
Generally do not use this unless you are on familiar territory with the person you are speaking. However, this word has lost much of its punch over the last couple of decades (it was considered much stronger when I was a child than what it is now).
- Sacrement de fesses!
Sacrifice – Shit!, Damn it!, God damn it!, Piss!
The funny thing is that I used to say this one quite a bit in my teens, but I don’t anymore. I suppose the older I got, the more I realized it sounds fairly uncouth. But I do sometimes say the softer “Saint-Sacrifice!”.
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The list will continue in the next post. Hold your tongue until then !!
SERIES: QUÉBEC AND CANADIAN FRENCH SWEAR WORDS (6 POSTS)
- Gettin’ down ‘n vulgar! – Introduction to swear words – Part 1 (#239)
- Gettin’ down ‘n vulgar! – Swears A to CH – Part 2 (#240)
- Gettin’ down ‘n vulgar! – Swears CI to J – Part 3 (#241)
- Gettin’ down ‘n vulgar! – Swears M to SAC – Part 4 (#242)
- Gettin’ down ‘n vulgar! – Swears SAI to V – Part 5 (#243)
- Gettin’ vulgar! This ain’t no picture book for the kiddies! – Part 6 (#244)