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Gettin’ down ‘n vulgar! – Swears A to CH – Part 2 (#240)

The last post gave an introduction to French swears as we use them on this side of the Atlantic.

This post and the next few posts will give you concrete examples.  These lists are not exhaustive, and they generally do not include swear words from Europe.

WARNING:   These next few posts are not suitable for minors.  They contain quite explicit vocabulary.  I have received a couple of emails with questions regarding French swear words, so I decided to present them in an objective format, considering there is not much comprehensive information out there – especially for language learners.

We hear these swear words all the time (sometimes even on television and the radio), and they often confuse language learners.   Thus, this resource may be useful to elementary and intermediate-level language learners (after all, I’m not writing these posts for the sake of being “vulgar”).

When developing language skills, it must be a very confusing experience for elementary (and even intermediate) learners because they would have not learned these words in school.  Yet, when curse words are encountered in the street, learners may incorrectly believe their French skills are failing them for not understanding what is being said.  But if learners are at least able to identify these words as swears, they can then forgive themselves for not understanding, and simply move on.  (Note:  Language learners will encounter Québec and Canadian French swears far more often than European French swears, and they are used more often and more liberally than English swears).

European (France, Belgium, Swiss) swear words are also used on this side of the ocean.  The most common being:

  • Merde (Shit)
  • Vas te faire foutre (F-off)
  • Trou de cul (A. Hole)
  • Vas chier (screw off)
  • Ça fait chier (piss me off)
  • Mange la merde (F-you)
  • Putain (whore)

But there are some European swears which we do not generally say on this side of the ocean.  Some which we do not generally use are:

  • Casse toi! (Piss off, F-off)
  • Chatte (vagina… rarely said – in Canada we generally say “noune”)
  • Encule (F-off)
  • Fils de pute (Son of a bitch… however “pute” can sometimes be heard by itself)
  • Fils de salope (Son of a bitch… however “salope” can sometimes be heard by itself)
  • Zut (darn)… This one makes me laugh because it is taught in so many FSL classes around the world, but is never ever said in Canada.  We’d be more apt to simply say “Merde” or something like “Crîme” in Canada/Québec.
  • Gros cul (fat ass)

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”, “Hell” to “Heck” or “Damn” to “Darn” (the latter words which could be acceptable, even on television).

THE LIST A – CH

Acré gué – Shit!, Piss!, Damn it!, God damn it!

Argya – Shit!, Piss!, Damn it!, God damn it!

Balls – Shit!, Piss!, Damn it!, God damn it!

Baptême – Jesus Christ!, God damn it!,  Christ!

  • Baptiste
  • Bâteau
  • Batêche
  • Batéye
  • Batince
  • Bazwel

Barabbas – Christ

Bâtard – Bastard

Bondance – For crying out lout!, Christ!

Bonyeu – (short “Bon dieu”) Holy crap!, Holy Shit!, Shit!, Damn!

  • Bondance
  • Bonguenne
  • Bonguienne
  • Bongyeu
  • Bonjour
  • Bonyenne
  • Bonyousse
  • Boyenne
  • Vaingieu
  • Vingieu
  • Vinguienne

Bout de crime (sometimes said Bout crime) – Christ!,  God damn it!

Bout de crisse – Christ!,  God damn it!

Bout de Bon Dieu – Christ!,  God damn it!

Bout de calvaire – Christ!,  God damn it!

Bout de sacre – Christ!,  God damn it!

CÂLICEFor F***s sake!, Jesus f***ing christ!  (quite strong).

AVOID THIS in general conversation.  But it is quite acceptable to say one of the words below, with the most common being “Câline”.  Just to give you an idea, I don’t even say câlice (and often you’ll see it blanked out in texts:  C******).  But I will say “Câline”, or even “Câll”.

  • Câlasse
  • Câlif!
  • Câline
  • Câline de binne
  • Câlique
  • Calistirine

Calvaire – Piss!, Damn it!, God damn it!, Oh Christ!

  • Calvanasse
  • Calvasse
  • Calvenus
  • Calvette
  • Calvince
  • Calvinisse
  • Cataplasse

Chette – Shit

Chrisse qui pisse – Piss me off!, Damn it all to hell!, For Christ’s sake!, What the hell!

Christ – Christ!, Jesus Christ!, God damn it!, Shit!

  • Christie
  • Christine
  • Christophe
  • Chrysostôme
  • Clif
  • Clisse
  • Clousse
  • Crème
  • Cric
  • Cris
  • Cristal
  • Saint-sicrisse

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The next posts will continue with more lists.

Restes-là câline!! 😉

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SERIES:  QUÉBEC AND CANADIAN FRENCH SWEAR WORDS (6 POSTS)

Gettin’ down ‘n vulgar! – Introduction to swear words – Part 1 (#239)

Swear words lend a colloquial (spoken) impact to the message being shared.   Swear words traditionally relate to matters which are most likely to offend others. This attracts people’s attention and invokes an emotional response from those who are listening.

If you travel anywhere in Québec or listen to Francophones speak anywhere in Canada, you will certainly run into swear words or obscenities.  They are used much more loosely used in French than in English.

In East Asian societies (China for example), the most sacred aspects of society are family networks and honouring one’s parents and ancestors.  It is therefore no surprise that East Asian swear words have mostly to do with one’s mother, ancestors, and family relations (if you were to say “Your mother” to someone in Chinese, don’t be surprised if you get an angry response).

In Western societies, for many centuries the Church was the most sacred aspect of society.  Religious blasphemy was the most sure-fire way to invoke a negative or emotional reaction.  Therefore many of our Western English swear words in Canada and the USA relate to God, or subjects which were determined taboo by religion and religious puritan principles.

Examples are “Damned” (which relates to hell), “F@#$” (which is an affront to the Church’s conservative views towards intercourse), “Hell” (self-explanatory), “Shit” (which indirectly contravenes the notion of the Church’s early puritan obsessions with cleanliness and purity), “Pissed” (for the same reasons as “shit”), “C#@t” (which relates to genitalia – a subject rendered taboo by the church), etc. etc.

In Canadian and Québec French, swear words also stem from a liturgical (church / clerical) origin.   However, unlike more abstract Canadian English swear words, most Canadian French obscenities stem from the objects used in Catholic ceremonies.

Swear words in Québec and Canadian French are called “des jurons” or “des sacres”.

Important note:  French swear words in Canada are very different from French swear words in France, with only a few exceptions (such as merde/marde, pute/putain, etc.)

In Québec and elsewhere in French Canada, there’s a general consensus that most of the objects and swear words relate to traditions in the Catholic Church.  Yet what most people in Québec do not realize is that Canadian & Québec French swear words would not have existed had it not been for the Protestant church’s presence in Québec and North America from the time of Samuel de Champlain (essentially, day one).

st.cib.1

A photo I took of a bar sign in Montréal the other day.  A photo full of irony.   A “Ciboire” is both a sacred Catholic wafer box / ciborium, but is also a French swear word.  Here, the bar is playing on the irony between its modern “obscene” meaning, and its historical “religious” meaning.

There were three major parishioner groups in North America in the 1600s and early 1700s:   (1) the French Catholics, (2) the French Protestants (known as the Huguenots) who were prosecuted in France and who fled to the North America to escape persecution from French Catholics, (3) Anglophone (as well as Dutch speaking) Protestants.

(On a personal note, I’m in part descended from several families of the original Protestant French settlers, not the Catholic French settlers… among them Louis Dubois, the head of the Huguenots, and several others from 1614 to the late 1600s.  The Protestant French colonialists made their way westward, and Western Canada is now populated with many of their descendants.  Interestingly enough, the total number of descendants of the original Protestant French settlers now probably outnumbers all the descendants of the original Catholic French settlers in North America.  All of this is something which is not taught in Québec’s education system… which unfortunately contributes to the notion of the Two Solitudes [It can be a bit frustrating]).

The “Protestant French” population in North America was viewed by the “Catholic French” population as being blasphemous and as “outsiders” (despite being of the same French origins).  The Catholic French population in North America made a specific point of demarcating the difference between “Catholic French settlers” and “Protestant French settlers” by creating swear words which related to “Catholic-specific” ritual pieces (this is why North American French swears are based upon Catholic “objects”, versus North American English swear words which are based upon general abstract religion).

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HOW TO USE SWEAR WORDS IN FRENCH

Swear words in Canadian & Québec French are often inserted into sentences in the same way as in English.   In very general terms, the most common ways of using them follow four simple rules. (There are other ways to use them, but the following are the main ways we use them the most often):

1.  As an imperative:

  • F#@#!  I’ve had it!
  • Tarbarwatte!  Que j’en ai marre!
  • Shit that’s great!
  • Crisse qu’y est bon!
  • God-damn it!
  • Câlisse!

2.  Using “de” (of a) to link the swear word with the object to which it refers:

  • C’est un ciboire de char!
  • That’s a hell of a car!
  • Toé, le p’tit câline de morvaillon!
  • You, ya little pisser of a brat!

3.  As a tensified verb:

Generally by adding the equivalent an English “-ed” at the end (which is “é” in French).   Thus, hostie (damn) can be conjugated to a past/present passive tense, hostié (damned).

  • Son hostié char!
  • His damned car!
  • C’t’un cristié bon gateau!
  • God-damn that cake is good!

4.  Adding “en X” after a verb, an adjective or an adverb

  • Je suis tanné en cimoinak!
  • I’m so F’in tired of it!
  • Le ciel et si bleu en ostie!
  • The sky is so god-damned blue!

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HAVING FUN WITH SWEARS

You can have a lot of fun with our French swears.  They’re much more flexible than English swears.  You can mix and match them, and play on sounds.

Example 1 :  My main gym buddy for many years was Francophone.  He always used to tease me about one physical aspect or another of mine.   But I would throw the insults right back at him.    I played on the French swear expression of calling someone “Viande de chien” (dog meat).  But I modified it and always called him “Viande de bouche de cheval!” (horse-mouth meat).  His busted a gut every time!  (“Hé, toi-là!  Viande de bouche de cheval, que c’est qui se passe?”, “Hey! Horse mouth meat, what’s up?”).

Example 2 : Instead of saying a hard-core swear word, you can substitute it with a less-offensive word which takes the first letter of the offensive swear word, or which sounds similar.

Take this sentence for example: “Il a trop acheté en ciboire!” (Christ, he bought too much!).

“Ciboire” can be replaced by something as mundane as s’il vous plaît, Simon, cite, etc. 

They all start with a “SEE” sound.    Thus you can say “Il a trop acheté en s’il vous plaît“.   This is best when you are unaware of how the obscenity (such as “ciboire”) would be taken by the person you’re talking to.  Creative, isn’t it?

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SOFTENING OF SWEARS

One of the reasons why there are so many swear words in Québec and Canadian French is owing to the number of “softened” swears.    Softening makes them much more acceptable and allows them to be said to a larger audience.

In English a softer version of “Damn” would be “Darn”.  A softened version of “Shit” would be “Schnoot”.  A softened version of “F#@$*” would be “Fudge”.   “Pissed” is softened to “Peeved”.   “C*&#” is softened to “Pussy”, and so on.

Unlike in English, the softening possibilities in French go on and on and on – to the extent that there are hundreds of them (English likely only has a few dozen, or less).

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THE NEXT FEW POSTS

The next few posts will give alphabetical lists of many swear words in Québec and Canadian French, and related “softened” words.   Best now to charge your pace-makers, and to put passwords on your computers for the kiddies!!

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SERIES:  QUÉBEC AND CANADIAN FRENCH SWEAR WORDS (6 POSTS)

Celebrating 400 years of Francophone history in Ontario (#220)

The last post set the table for this post.   In the last post I discussed how curious I find that Francophone Ontario gets so little attention compared to Acadia:  “Les Ontarois”: More than double Acadia’s population, yet they rarely get outside attention”.

In this post, I’ll bring to your attention one of the most significant events in Ontario’s history:  This year’s celebrations 400 years of Ontarois (Franco-Ontarian) history.

4.logo

(The official logo of the 400th anniversary celebrations)

Following Étienne Brulé’s Ontario expeditions in 1610, Samuel de Champlain founded what is now Ontario in 1615, where he took took up residence at his newly-founded settlement 90 minutes North of Toronto (in what is now Penetanguishene-Midland in Cottage Country).

400 years later, Ontarois (Franco-Ontarians) now constitute North America’s largest Francophone population outside Québec, with more than 610,000 people.   In addition, almost 1,500,000 people in Ontario are able to speak French (self-identified as being able to hold a conversation in French, Stats-Can 2011).

According to Statistics Canada, Ontarois numbers are on the increase… with the number of people who speak French at home in Ontario having increased by 9.5% between 2006-2011, to 595,000 people.  This is the largest growth rate of any Francophone population in Canada, be it in Western Canada, Acadia or Québec.

In celebration of 400 years of Francophone history in Ontario, a consortium of government and non-governmental organizations have launched “Ontario 400”Ontario 400 is charged with helping to organize and highlight a whole host of year-long celebrations all over Ontario.   The largest celebrations will be during the summer, but the celebrations are already underway in many parts of Ontario.

The official “Ontario 400” website can be viewed here:

(English):  http://ontario400.ca/en/statistics/

(French):  http://ontario400.ca/

Some interesting highlights & links from the Ontario-400 website:

  • 41.5% % of Ontario’s Francophones live in Eastern Ontario (which includes Ottawa & area),
  • 28.7% live in Central Ontario (which includes Toronto, the Golden Horseshoe & area)
  • 22.5% live in the North-East of Ontario (including Sudbury, North Bay, and the northern highway 11 Francophone regions)
  • 5.9% live in the Southwest (which includes Windsor & area)
  • 1.4% live in the Northwest (which includes Thunder Bay & area)

Have a look through the website… it’s quite interesting.   I’m told that the largest Toronto-Area celebrations will be in Penetanguishene this summer at the original 1615 Samuel de Champlain settlement, which is now Sainte-Marie-aux-Pays-des-Hurons, less than 90 minutes North of Toronto (with people coming from all over Southern Ontario for it).

If you live in or close to Ontario, these celebrations might be a fun way to help you practice your French.

(Pics of Sainte-Marie-aux-Pays-des-Huron North of Toronto)

N.fr2 N.fr3

Happy 400th birthday!!

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SERIES:  FRANCOPHONE ONTARIO & ONTAROIS (6 POSTS)

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“Les Ontarois”: More than double Acadia’s population, yet they rarely get outside attention (#219)

e.cd1

Here is a short, but controversial post for you.

There are more than twice the number of Ontarois as there are Acadians (note: Ontarois(e) is the new name which people use more and more to describe Franco-Ontarians).

But strangely enough, outside Ontario, they do not garner nearly the same amount of attention as Acadians.

Yet, Ontarois also

  • have a few distinct accents
  • have a Francophone history just as long as Québec’s and Acadia’s (Samuel de Champlain also founded Ontario, just like Québec.  He lived in Southern Ontario for over one to two years in 1615.  His home was just North of present-day Toronto, in what is now Midland in Cottage Country.  I guess he liked his cottage at the lake too!  Even today, if you drive 90 minutes North of Toronto to the towns of Penetanguishene and Tiny-municipality – where he established the first European settlement in Ontario — you’ll see and hear wall-to-wall French with an Ontarian accent).
  • have many Francophone media super stars (Marie-Mai and Véronique DiCaire among the most recent ones, but there has been a long line of Ontarois celebrities)
  • have given Canada some of its foremost politicians and other personalities (the recent and former Prime Minister, Paul Martin, is Ontarois from Windsor)
  • have a provincial government, hospitals, and grade-school & post-secondary education institutions which operate or serve its population in French
  • live in a province where some areas are over 85% to 90% Francophone (even more Francophone than numerous areas of Québec).
  • have their own extensive media industry
    • Radio-Canada has numerous studios across Ontario,
    • there are more Francophone radio stations in Ontario than anywhere elsewhere outside Québec,
    • there are numerous Francophone newspapers, among which Le Droit is one of the largest daily newpapers in Canada,
    • the Francophone Toronto-based television station TFO is one of (and possibly is) North America’s largest educational TV stations,
    • the national Francophone TV station UNIS is based in Toronto, which broadcasts coast-to-coast-to-coast
  • are growing in overall numbers (with those speaking French at home having grown by 9.5% from 2006 to 2011 according to the 2011 Statistics Canada census, one of Canada’s largest growth-rates of any community!)
  • shares a province with an an Anglophone community, of which large numbers are able to speak both French and English, and thus lends much moral support and understanding for their Francophone communities (I placed the bilingual numbers on the above map).

Heck, when Toronto’s mayor, John Tory, recently won the mayoral election, the first words of his live televised victory speech were in French, not English.

There are more Francophones in Ontario than there are Anglophones in Québec (yet people always talk about the Anglophones in Québec, but hardly ever about the Francophones in Ontario).
bnv.on

Considering all of the above, I remain completely baffled as to why only Québecois and Acadians get the bulk of the attention when people outside these regions or outside Canada think about, talk of, or write about French in Canada or of Francophone Canada.

It looks like a case of the Two Solitudes on many, many different levels (Francophone-to-Francophone, Region-to-Region, Québec-to-Ontario, Country-to-Country, Anglophone-to-Francophone, and on and on).

I have some (rather complex) pet theories why this may be the case, but I’ll leave them for another post (check in a couple of posts from now… I have a stab at jotting my thoughts on the issue in a separate post).

I can give you an excellent example of what I regularly see.  Yesterday a private foreign company published a post on their blog pertaining to French in Canada (I won’t mention who they are, so as not to single them out).  Frankly speaking, from a historic and language-explanation perspective, it was one of the best “short” descriptions I have ever seen (better than any Wikipedia article).  I was more than impressed.  Yet, even though they said French in Canada has many dialects and is found across the country, they mentioned the most important and main French speaking areas in Canada are Québec and Acadia.

There was just one problem with this article (which was supposed to discuss Canadian French), there was zero mention of Ontario — one of the largest components in Canada’s overall French and Francophone realities.

It’s just not the above article either… In fact this happens over and over again all over the board when people write and talk about French in Canada.  I find this chronic omission of anything Ontarois-related to be endemic and representative of many articles, blog posts, and general media coverage.  Even I was guilty of falling into this trap in my younger years.  Ontario is scarcely ever mentioned, whereas Acadia gets the lions share of the attention – either abroad or elsewhere at home.

Although I consider my own personal background more tied to Franco-AlbertanFrancoPrairien and Pan-Franco-Canadian culture than what I consider it tied to Ontarois (or Franco-Ontarien) culture, the longer I live in Ontario, and the longer I see and hear Ontarois in my everyday life, the more perplexed I become by this question.

On top of it all, I happen to live in one of the least Francophone regions of Toronto, yet I hear French in my neighbourhood more often than you’d think.

This lack of awareness of Francophone Ontario’s existence (versus an extravagantly large amount of attention accorded to a much “smaller” Acadia) is a real head-scratcher.  One would think Ontario would find itself on near-equal footing with Acadia, in terms of attention from elsewhere in Canada or abroad (Don’t misunderstand what I’m saying… Acadia is certainly unique in many important ways, and does deserve every bit of attention it gets… But one would also think that Ontarois culture and Francophone Ontario should be right up there too).

Am I missing something here??  It sure makes you think, doesn’t it?  What are your thoughts?

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Related posts:

"Tant à Découvrir":  The Ontario Government's French Licence Plates issued to the public...  Seen on vehicles across Ontario.  If you keep your eyes open for them, you'll spot them around Toronto, the North and the East.

“Tant à Découvrir”: The Ontario Government’s French Licence Plates issued to the public… Seen on vehicles across Ontario. If you keep your eyes open for them, you’ll spot them around Toronto, and the North & East of Ontario.

“Tant à découvrir”… Funny how the logo plays right into this theme.  Ironic isn’t it?

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SERIES:  FRANCOPHONE ONTARIO & ONTAROIS (6 POSTS)

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A brief history of France’s former languages, and how they helped to shape our French in Canada (#217)

Not long ago I came across two well-made YouTube videos.  One offers samples of France’s 28 different accents.  The other offers samples of 45 languages which are native to France — from the three major French language groups.

In a nutshell, French(as we know it today) is a relatively young language.  It was based in part on languages / dialects which existed in regions in and around Paris for centuries.  Modern French came about when it took elements from the languages / dialects of the Paris area, as well as a number of other nearby and closely related dialects.  In broad terms, they became mixed together in a big language stew, and voilà! — Modern French was born, primarily in the 1600s & 1700s.   (This is an oversimplified summary of what happened – but that’s basically it in a nutshell).

When I use the word “dialect” or “language”, my choice of words is a question of semantics.  Here I’ll use the word “language” (instead of “dialects”) because speakers of many of the dialects referred to in this post would not have necessarily been able understand one another (which is a characteristic of what constitutes separate languages).

Prior to the birth of Modern French (in the 1600s & 1700s), all the languages which existed in the Northern half of France were descended from a “super-group” of languages called the Languages of Oïl (les langues d’oïl).  These 20+ languages existed for roughly 1,500 years, well into the 1700s — at which point modern French began to supersede and replace them.

ld.1

Even though the Languages of Oïl were related, if you were to travel across Northern France in the year 600, 1000, 1500 or even 1700, you would have possibly traveled through 20 different language zones.  Likely you would not have been able to understand the locals as you crossed from one language zone to another (at that time in history, French was not the common every-day language of France).   However, when French began to supersede these other languages, French spread beyond Paris to the outlying regions, and the government began to forcefully suppress (basically wipe-out through forced assimilation) all the regional languages.

A very similar phenomenon existed in the Southern half of France.  Whereas the related languages of the North fell under the umbrella of the Languages of Oïl, in Southern France, there was a different group of many related languages called the Occitan Languages.

A region of Eastern France also had a separate grouping of languages called the Franco-Provençal (or Arpitan) Languages. 

Unlike the Oïl Languages, the Occitan and Franco-Provençal languages did not contribute as much to the formation of Modern French (if you listen to recordings of the Occitan & Franco-Provincial languages, they sound very different from French – with sounds and pronunciations much closer to Italian, Latin, Catalan and Spanish — whereas the Oïl Languages have sounds and pronunciations much more related to Modern French).

Also, just like the other Oïl Languages, the Occitan and Franco-Provençal languages were forcefully repressed by the government, starting in the 1700s, and replaced by Modern French.

Although all these languages of France were wiped out over the course of 300+ years, the inhabitants of each language region retained many different accents which can be associated with the original languages.  Thus, as you travel throughout France today, you will hear many different French accents, sometimes very different from one another.

What I find extremely interesting is that there are still some individuals in France who still speak the former regional languages.  Depending on the language, their numbers can be quite small.  Native speakers are often senior citizens, and some languages may have almost no speakers left (with the only remnants existing only in old audio recordings made 40 to 90 years ago).

How this fits into Canada’s style of French:

In the 1600s and 1700s, the original settlers to Ontario and Québec brought with them the languages of the Paris region (at least how it was spoken in Paris at that time – which is different from how it is spoken in Paris today).  The Parisian language was the main language spoken in New France (the French colonies of North America), but there were significant numbers of other Languages from France such as Norman, Saintogeais, and Gallo.  Settlers also came from other areas in the Northwest and North-central parts of France.   Paris’ language became the standard norm in Québec and Ontario in the 1600s and 1700s, but it carried heavy language influences from other regions of Northwestern and North-central France as people mixed and added their own linguistic nuances to the overall pot.  It was this mixing of Northern France medieval languages which gives us our way of speaking French in Canada today.

Consequently, there are two major forms of French in Canada today (each with many varieties of accents and colloquialisms).

  1. One grouping covers Québec, Ontario, the Prairie Provinces (Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta) and British Columbia.  This is also the dominant style in the media (owing to the fact that Montréal is the epicentre of Canada’s Francophone media).  It is based on a much broader mix of old languages and accents which came from France.
  2. Conversely, in Canada’s Easternmost provinces we find Acadia (the provinces of New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia and Newfoundland & Labrador).  The original French settlers to Acadia in 1605 (and those who continued to come up until the 1700s) came from narrower, more localized regions of France.  In France, they came from regions a bit further South than the settlers who went to Québec and Ontario.  But the Acadian settlers were still from the Northern Half of France and the still spoke languages of Oïl.   Because the settlers spoke different Oïl languages than those who went to Québec and Ontario, Acadia ended up speaking a different style of French — a unique style which is still spoken as the main type of French in our Atlantic provinces today (called Acadian French).

The YouTube recordings:

Someone went to a good deal of work in creating the following YouTube videos, and making them publicly available for our viewing and listening.  They found and put together a collage of sound recordings of 28 accents throughout France, and 45 of the languages of France.

  • France’s 28 accents from all regions of France: 

In this first video, see if you can hear aspects of accents in Northern and Northeast France which share some traits with Canadian French accents.   There are some shared traits – and it is quite intriguing to listen to.

Pay particular attention to the Charentes (Saintonge)”, “Nord-Picardie (Thiérache)”, “Orléanais (Blésois)”, andPoitou (Deux-Sèvres)”, accents.   Sound familiar???  —  I especially find the Charentes (Saintonge) accent to be quite interesting – but all of them are very interesting (I’m thinking out loud here… When I listen to the above accents, I certainly can hear accents which share definite traits with those of Québec’s North-Coast,  Gaspésie, Northern Ontario and older Canadian Prairie-French accents).  Now mix all the above accents together (plus a few more), and guess what overall accent you’re likely to begin to get!  (Wink, wink!!).  And that, my friends, is precisely what happened 300 – 400 years ago here in Canada.

  • France’s 45 languages:

As a speaker of Canadian French, what I find fascinating about the video below is that I (quite surprisingly) find some of the languages relatively easy to understand.   Three of the languages which stick out as relatively easy to understand are PercheronMainiot, and Poitevin (despite that I had never heard them prior to listening to this video).  Even though I can understand them, I am not sure that people in other regions in France would understand them quite as easily.   This is because they seem to share many more traits with our colloquial French in Canada than with standard International French (or even colloquial European French).

Something I find quite shocking (but equally fascinating) is that I can hear vocabulary and expressions in these languages which we regularly say in Canadian French but which are not said in France French and have died out in France.   The following are some prime examples of words / phrases I heard in the languages I pointed out.  They are things we say everyday in Canadian French (many many times every day).  I, like most people in Canada, took it for granted that these were uniquely Canadian words — but apparently they’re not, and we now know their true source! (from some of the old Languages of Oïl).

  • où-ce que t’as..?” or où ce qu’y est…?”
    • instead of “où est-ce que tu as…?” or “où est-ce qu’il est… ?”,
    • which means “Where did you…?” or “Where is…?” in Canada
  • à c’t’heure
    • instead of “maintenant”
    • which means “right now” in Canada,
  • fait-qu’là
    • instead of “alors”
    • which means “so in Canada,
  • M’a faire, aller, etc….”
    • instead of Je vais faire, aller… etc.”
    • which means I’m going to do, go… etc.” in Canada,
  • ben’qu-là
    • instead of “bon!”
    • which means “well…”, or “so then” in Canada, etc.

And then there were the accents and tones… such as the old French Montréal-Windsor-St.Louis corridor aveolar “Rs”, and Acadian vowel flattenings.

Truly fascinating stuff — like a 400 year old time-machine, but with a mirror with our face in it!

I suppose it indicates that the degrees of separation from the original French dialects which came to Canada in the 1600’s & 1700’s, and the style of colloquial French we speak today across Canada and Québec may not have diverged as much as one would think.

Other languages which I surprisingly do not have major difficulties understanding are aspects of Picard (Ch’ti), Orléanais (which appears to share many traits in common with Acadian French in Canada), and Gallo.  

It was actually quite eerie listening to these languages for the first time.  There was an instant sense of “familiarity” with them, despite having never heard them before.

Go figure!  😉

Where all this fits on a language tree:

As with any language, I suppose you could say any given language has “sibling” languages and “cousin” languages.

A cousin language would be when one older language gives rise to a few parallel new languages.   In a broad sense, Latin gave birth to many different language groupings.  Some examples would be the Italo-Dalmatian grouping (which includes Corsican, Italian, Sicilian, etc), the Eastern Grouping (which includes Romanian, Aromanian, etc.), the Langue d’Oïl grouping (which includes French, Norman, Walloon, etc.).

In general, these “groupings” could be said to be positioned like “cousins” with respect to one another on a family tree.   In language terms, sometimes you can understand your cousins, but sometimes you cannot.   Some of French’s cousins would include Italian, Spanish, and Portuguese.  I can understand (especially read) a good deal of these three language cousins.  Conversely, English’s closest cousin is the language of West Frisian which is spoken in the Northern Netherlands.   English speakers cannot understand or read West Frisian (or any other cousin of English) owing to too much separation in terms of time and geography.   So it’s hit and miss when it comes to understanding cousin languages.

Then there are the sibling languages.  Each of the “cousin groupings” gives birth to a number of other languages (“sibling” languages) through closely related circumstances of geography and history.   In the Oïl Language grouping, we find the languages in the above video (for example, Percheron, MainiotPoitevin, Picard (Ch’ti), Orléanais and Gallo).  As a Canadian French speaker, the above-mentioned sibling languages are not difficult for me to understand, despite that I had never heard them before (whereas other “sibling” languages in the Oïl Language grouping are difficult for me to understand).   Conversely, English has two sibling languages… one has gone extinct (Yola), and the other is Scots.  Sometimes Scots can be a bit difficult to understand if you are not used to hearing it (see the video below), but if you were to read it aloud, chances are you would understand 80% of it if your native language is English.

Click below to open the language tree to see where French and English sit with respect to their language “cousins” and “siblings”.    The languages discussed above are in “Blue” on the tree.

Indo-European Tree - blue - jpg

We already heard samples of some of French’s language siblings.  But as an English speaker, if you’re curious about English’s only remaining sibling, Scots, here are some examples:

This is a sample text of Scots from Wikipedia:  Quebec (Québec in the French leid) is a province o Canadae. It is the mucklest province gaun bi aurie o Canadae. Quebec haes a population o 7,651,531 fowk. The offeecial leid o Quebec is French, an aboot 90% o the indwallers o Quebec speaks it (aside French, baith Inglis an Inuktuit are spoken). The caipital ceety o Quebec is Quebec Ceety (Ville de Québec in French), an the mucklest ceety is Montreal (Montréal). Maist o the fowk in Quebec are French Canadians (or Québecois), but Erse-Quebecers, Scots-Quebecers, Inglis-Quebecers, Italian-Quebecers an Jewish-Quebecers bide there an aw.

Just for the fun of it, I’m going to have a go at translating it.  Let’s see how I do (I’ll put my guesses in parenthesis):  Quebec (Québec in the French language) is a province in Canada.  It is the largest (?) province (something something) of Canada.  Quebec has a population of 7,651,531 people (or folk).  The official language of Quebec is French, and about 90% of the inhabitants (dwellers) of Quebec speak it.  Apart from French, (something) English and Inuktitut are spoken.  The capital city of Quebec is Quebec City – Ville de Québec in French.  And the largest city is Montreal.  Most of the population (folk) in Quebec are French Canadians – or Québécois, but (something) Quebeckers, Scottish-Quebeckers, English-Quebeckers, and Jewish-Quebeckers also live (abide) there (but I assume they’re not saying they live there “in awe”… so I don’t know what the last word is).

How did I do?  It looks like I could understand 90%.   If you want to read the full Wikipedia article, you can find it here;  http://sco.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quebec

But… Let’s ramp this up a notch, and see how well your listening skills are.  I’ve seen the following video, and although I would likely not have many problems “reading” what is being said – I cannot say the same regarding my listening skills.  I have only ever had minimal exposure to listening to Scots, so believe me when I say that 80% of what is being simply flies over my head.   Have a listen and see how you do (if you are an Anglophone Canadian, I’m sure you will do NO better than me in understanding what is being said):

FURTHER READING

If you want to read more on all these topics, you can check out the following Wikipedia articles:


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