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“Regional” Vocabulary and Expressions – Québec City Region (A to E) 2 of 6 (#170)

  • 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

bricoles, des

  • 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 / unela 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

caisse, une

  • 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)

  • toilettes

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).

charrue, une

  • 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”

chiennes, des

  • saloppettes in International French. But many people in Québec simply say “overalls” with a French accent.  Overalls that a mechanic wears

clacks, des

  • 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)

crocheter l’orteil

  • 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.

dompeuse, une

  • le camion à benne (dump truck)

efface, une

  • 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)

être floe

  • 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.



“Regional” Vocabulary and Expressions within Québec – Introduction – 1 of 6 (#169)

Learners of French often say the most difficult aspects to grasp are the speed, grammar, strong accent and vocabulary of French spoken on the street.

We looked at some of these issues in the posts on Joual as well as in the accent series.

Here we’ll take a bit closer look at regional vocabulary – words you may hear in one region of Québec, but not necessarily another.

I’m going to start by saying that all regions of Canada have region-specific vocabulary in French (be it various regions of Québec or Acadia, Newfoundland, Ontario, or the Prairies).  The same holds true for words in Canadian English which can vary from one region to another.    There are not many, but it is an interesting topic nonetheless.

I can give you some parallels in Canadian English to put the concept of regionalisms into context:

  • When I was very young and living in Northwest B.C, I recall people used the word “potlatch” in English, which means a group meal – but nobody else in Canada seems to know what it means.
  • Likewise, I will never forget the following lesson in “regionalisms” when I was 18 years old when I drove from Edmonton (AB) to Baie Commeau (QC).  I stopped at a fast food restaurant in Sault-Ste-Marie, Northern Ontario.  I asked for a meal “to stay”.   The cashier responded “Excuse me?”.  I repeated that I wanted my meal “to stay”.  She asked “You mean for here?”  That was the first time I realized that people in Western Canada (outside the BC Lower Mainland) say “To stay or to go”, whereas people in Eastern Canada say “For here or to go”.   Until that point, I had never heard “For here”.
  • When I was in grade three and living in Northwest Alberta, we had a teacher from Newfoundland. The kids were talking about the frogs we caught in the “sloughs” on the edge of town.  Our teacher had no idea what we were talking about.  He had never heard of a “slough” (pronounced “sloo”).  However, if we were to say “swamp” or “muskeg”, I’m sure he would have known what we were talking about.
  • When I was young, my parents and my relatives in Saskatchewan used to refer to a “sofa” or “couch” as a “chesterfield”. When I was a child, I never said sofa or couch.  For me, it was only known as a chesterfield.

French in Québec and across Canada also has similar-natured regionalisms.

In a prior post on accents, I gave some examples from Prairie French (le français prairien as I call it – from Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba) – Click here for those examples.  Another example of a regional French word from the Prairies which comes to mind is “soyeu” which means “hump day” (Wednesday);  Au moins c’est le “soyeu”, alors il en reste seulement un couple de jours avant la fin semaine.  I have never heard this French word anywhere else outside the Prairies.   The few times I said it in Québec and Ontario, it only resulted in blank stares (I researched it once, and it seems to have come from old Picard in France and Wallon in Belgium, meaning someone who “saws”.  It’s only a guess, but perhaps it came to Western Canada in the 1700s with the voyageurs, and came to be used in the context of “sawing the week in half”).

In the introduction to the prior accent series, I mentioned that regional French accents have been undergoing a major trend of standardization since the 1950s in Québec.   The conditions which lead to the rise of regional French accents across Québec and across Canada were also the same conditions which lead to a rise of many regional words, expressions and vocabulary.

But today, these regionalisms are fewer and fewer as people move around and as mass media and the internet “even out the language differences” (the same phenomenon is happening in Canadian English:   In the last few years I have noticed people in Alberta are beginning to say “For here or to go” in restaurants, and almost nobody ever says “chesterfield” anymore – even in Saskatchewan, where I recall so many people used to say this word).

Despite the rapid standardization of words in Québec, you still may run into French regionalisms in Québec from time to time — particularly with older generations, but occasionally with younger people.

The next few posts will offer you some examples of regional vocabulary in various regions of Québec (Québec City, Saguenay Lac St-Jean, La Beauce, and Gaspésie)



Learning French – don’t be afraid to take things to the next level (#162)

I received an e-mail not long ago from Derek, a reader in Truro, Nova Scotia.  He wanted to share some of his own experiences and had a few questions.   We exchanged a couple of emails, and he allowed me to post his e-mail online, along with some of my own thoughts on a couple of fronts (some directed at Derek, but others thoughts for a broader audience).   (Thanks again for your e-mail Derek !)

—– —– —– —– —– —–

Original Message:

Hello Brad,

I enjoy reading your blog.   You are right when you say that many people are looking for cultural context to supplement their own French experiences and interests.  I also listen to “C’est la vie” on CBC Radio, but other than your blog and “C’est la vie”, there are not many other places we can turn which are devoted to this subject (at least not in English).

I’m from Truro, Nova Scotia. I am Anglophone, and I went through the French immersion program.  Truro is mostly Anglophone, but it has a few Acadians and an Acadian Francophone school system.  But my French immersion school was a different school system than the Acadian Francophone schools.  So my experiences in and out of school were with other Anglophones.   But now that I’m out of school, I work with Acadians, and I insist that they speak only French with me and not English.

There are so many of us who went through French immersion, and the first generation of the “immersion kids” are now adults, and the second generation is just now also graduating.  By now, there must be thousands of us coming out of the program as adults across the country.   I think only good things are going to come out of this, and it is changing Canada.

My French is already very good because I did my education in French, but my accent can always be better.   People tell me I have a bit of an Acadian accent when I speak.  They also tell me I use many Acadian words which are not used in Québec.   It is probably because of the Acadian influence in this part of Nova Scotia.

I read your posts on different Canadian accents.  It was quite interesting because people don’t ever talk very much about the different accents.  Many Francophones I talk to are not even aware there are so many different accents.  Most people I speak with think there are only three or four different accents, probably because much of the television they watch comes from New Brunswick or Quebec.

My question is this:  Because you have experiences with French in different regions of Canada, and because many people tell me I use many “Acadian French” words, would you have a list of French words used in other regions of Canada?  You gave some Prairie French word examples in your accent series.   I’ve heard there are sometimes different words used in Québec city and Lac St-Jean which are not used in Montreal, Moncton or other places.   Would you have some examples or a list of different words from different areas?  I generally only know Acadian and international French because I have not traveled to other Francophone regions of Canada.



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(My answer, apart from the emails he and I exchanged)

Hi Derek…

Thank-you for your email and your thoughts.  I think you have hit on some great points which would be of interest to a good number of people.

I’ll see if I can come up with a list of different words used in different regions over the next few days.  Often the differences are not very big, and French vocabulary has standardized quite a bit over the past three decades (especially in Québec, but also in other regions across the country).  But there are still some unique regional words and expressions which may be heard the odd time, depending on where you are.

I particularly agree with you that it is quite interesting that the original 1980s & 1990s immersion students are now adults, with another generation not far behind them.   I completely agree that this is bound to have an effect on the country as far as openness and new possibilities (regarding a whole host of issues).

I don’t have the updated statistics, but back in 2000 (15 years ago), the following were the overall percentages of students enrolled in French immersion across Canada (hold your seat… the numbers are quite surprising!):

  • New Brunswick: 32%
  • Prince Edward Island: 20%
  • Nova Scotia: 12%
  • Newfoundland and Labrador: 7%
  • Ontario: 6%
  • Manitoba: 6%
  • Alberta: 4% (Go Oilers!)
  • Saskatchewan: 3%
  • British Columbia: 2%

These numbers come from a report published by Statistics Canada entitled “French Immersion, 30 Years Later”

We always hear the usual statistic that there are 1 million “Francophones” (mother tongue) outside Québec.   But really, if you’ve gone through the immersion program, you’re already part Francophone for simply living a huge part of your life in French (at least 7 hours every day during the school years).   It blows my mind that nobody ever talks about those statistics.

Think about it bud !  20% of all Anglophone students in PEI…  4% of all Anglophone students in Alberta… 7% of all Anglophone students in Newfoundland!   Those are mind-blowing numbers.   And these numbers only speak to the students who were still in the school system.   They do not count those of us who are now adults but who used to be in the program (keep in mind the numbers are already 15 years old – so all of those students are now adults, and there’s a whole new wave of students behind them in the immersion system).

If you were to factor in current student numbers, plus graduated student numbers, plus the 1 million Francophones… where do we sit?  2 million?  Even more?  And it increases with every graduation, and every generation.

Another statistic I also like to point out is that for every child in French immersion, there are likely two Anglophone parents who made the conscious decision to ensure that their children became bilingual.  Thus, if you factor in “concerned parents” who are directly involved and devoted to their children’s & Canada’s bilingualism, as well as their openness to Canada’s and Québec’s Francophone culture, the above statistics for people making active efforts to keep French alive and well across Canada balloons to what… 4 million?   That’s a HUGE part of the Canadian population making active efforts – all within 30 or so odd years.  Parents count!   I never would have been part of the first “experimental” immersion group had my parents not taken the active decision to place me and my bother in it (it even resulted in my mother taking French courses so she could understand what my brother and I were saying about her in French when we were kids – hahaha 😉 ).  On this front, I’ve said many times before that Anglophone Canada is not the same country it was in 1980 or 1995.

And then we haven’t even begun to count Anglophones who simply are learning French as part of a regular FSL program (ie:  regular courses in an Anglophone curriculum), or as vocational courses, or as self-taught studies.   They certainly cannot be counted out.  Their efforts should be among those who are commended the most, since they’re the ones who tend to try to go the extra mile — and they’re the ones who have a steeper hill to climb.   Add them to the equation, and that makes for a large chunk of the country.

I can give you an example of how regular FSL and self-taught studies are equally valid and can bear fruit:

In a former life I was a diplomat posted to various Canadian Embassies abroad (I left the government a number of years ago to pursue my own business endeavours).  The first and main operating language of one of the Canadian embassies in which I worked was French (the administration, our internal meetings, staffing, reports, emails, and the language in which we operated with the public and Ottawa).    The diplomatic and locally hired staff therefore had to be fully bilingual (regardless if they were Francophone or Anglophone).  One day we received a new transferee who grew up in a very Anglophone city in Canada (let’s call her Cindy, even though that’s not her real name).   She only started to learn French after graduating high school.  She took the odd course here-and-there in university, but most of her French came from her own studies during her own free time.   I’ll say upfront that Cindy’s French was not the greatest, but she really tried hard, and I think she obtained this particular posting by demonstrating she definitely was the best qualified person for the job (and she was), regardless of rather poor French language skills.   During her first few months at the embassy, owing to a lack of confidence in her own French skills, she would generally only speak English with the Francophone and fully bilingual Anglophone staff.   But then one day something amazing happened which still blows me away many years later.

The ambassador at the time had to make a very important and difficult decision regarding quite a sensitive and delicate matter.   For the most part, he had already made up his mind (rather staunchly might I add) on how to deal with the issue.  Nonetheless, he wanted to call a meeting of embassy staff to seek additional input and to cover any bases he may have missed.   I, Cindy, and several others all met with the ambassador in the meeting room.  After hearing him out for about 20 minutes (in French of course), he then asked everyone, one at a time, what their thoughts were on the issues and if he missed any details before he dropping the gauntlet and proceeded with his plans.   The last person he asked was Cindy.   She understood everything he said (her French comprehension was much better than her spoken French), but when she spoke up, all of a sudden she started to present her views in French.   This was significant, because during any past meetings, she would only speak in English.   Everybody’s ears perked up the moment they heard her try to speak French for the first time.

She completely disagreed with much of what the ambassador said and she wanted to change his mind.   Because she felt so strongly about the issues, she wanted to ensure she had the ambassador’s (and everyone else’s) full attention – and she felt that speaking French was the best way she could ensure she had it.

I’ll be upfront in saying that because her French level was quite low, she struggled – big time – to get her many points across.   The issues were complex, and she needed to talk in great detail if she were to convince the ambassador that her view of the issues and courses of action were the correct ones.   I can tell you that the ambassador obviously did not agree with her, and a bit of a heated debate erupted between the two of them (I’m not sure he was happy that he was being challenged so ardently).  All of us in the room were kind of in shock.  Here was Cindy, who had a very difficult time speaking in French, taking on the ambassador (who’s first language was French) in a full head-on debate on a very complex issue — all in French.   And what’s more, she was holding her own.   She stumbled (quite a bit actually), and had to constantly search for words, but she would not relent.  The Ambassador actually started to speak faster and faster as the debate went on, often cutting her off…  He even tried to switch to English at one point in an effort to debunk Cindy’s points by making his standpoint very clear to her.   But she simply would not relent.   She refused to speak English, and she kept at him in French, giving it her very best shot.    The rest of us around the table gave each other looks of surprise and disbelief.   Cindy was amazing!!   We had never seen this side of her before (let alone see her have the confidence in herself to push her French to the limits when things became heated).

In the end, guess what happened… she won out, and she actually convinced the ambassador to take a change in direction.   She fully explained every one of her points and reasoning (and there were many).  It took a while because of her low French proficiency, but she eventually got there.   We were all kind of stunned!  Not because the ambassador changed his mind – he was a very reasonable man – but because Cindy would not relent and she did it all in French… for the first time ever…  Wow!!

After the meeting, everyone left the room except for me and Cindy (I asked her to stay behind for a second).  There were not many Anglophones working at the embassy, and she was a friend of mine.  I went over to her and told her how proud I was of her — not because she hotly argued with the ambassador for half an hour (I’m not sure I would have done that)… but I was proud that she gave it her best shot in French – which was very uncomfortable territory for her – and that she managed to pull it off beautifully.   Judging from one-on-one comments which were said to me by others over the following days, I think everyone else was also equally impressed and proud of her too (including the ambassador).

Later that evening, a bunch of us from work went out for drinks.  Cindy was there, and she spoke French the whole evening (she never had the self-confidence to try to carry out whole conversations in the past).   For the rest of her posting, she tried to speak French as much as she possibly could at work and with friends (we were in a “semi”-Francophone country and it was generally a “French-as-a-first-language” embassy after all).  Her level of French was much better at the end of her posting than during the first few months when she did not have the self-confidence in herself to even try.

This was a big lesson for me.  It showed me that even if you don’t hail from a childhood in which you grew up speaking French, it truly is never too late to learn.  Even with just an elementary level of French, you can still pull off some amazing feats if you really push yourself to try.   The self-confidence that comes from that takes care of the rest.

There are many Anglophones across Canada who are giving it there best shot.  I sometimes really wish the media in Québec talked more about this because there’s this strange myth (and really, it is a myth) that French outside Québec is static or dead – when reality is actually pointing in the opposite direction (propogated more within fringe elements of the PQ & BQ, but not so much within QS, nor within the CAQ, Prov Liberals, Fed Liberals, or NDP).  It’s interesting because I get the feeling the first two parties are trying to propagate this myth to score political points with the public to take up their causes.    However, this myth can pose a problem if people begin to believe it.  This is a tough one to resolve if several major influential spheres of Québec’s media do not give it due attention.   Fortunately, however, from a media perspective, the tide may be turning on this front too.   The new television station, UNIS (http://unis.ca/) is now being broadcast all over Québec (it went on air in September, 2014).  It’s a Francophone television channel with studios across Canada, devoted to programming about Francophone life outside Québec (it’s quite an interesting channel and concept).  It is owned by TV5 Québec Canada and is designated a category A station, meaning that all Canadian households (everywhere in Canada, including Québec) now receive it.   TFO, http://www3.tfo.org/ (Ontario’s public Francophone television network) is also broadcast across many parts of Québec.  It too gives a more realistic situation of French, Francophone and Francophile realities/changes outside of Québec and across Ontario (many of which I discussed above).   Although these two television stations are not politicial in nature, we’ll see role they play to help debunk the myths about French outside of Québec.

But hopefully this can help to encourage you and others to continue with your own efforts.  It’s not necessary to become fully bilingual.  Just keeping an open mind and learning about cross-cultural tidbits are sometimes more important than anything else, even if you’re not able to hold a conversation in French.  People appreciate the efforts, and you end up feeling a deeper connection with your own country and the world at large   But if you are able to pick up parts of the language, then all the more power to you.

In the end, everyone charts their own course within the limits that time, interest and obligations allow for.   But it’s nice to see that there are millions and millions of Anglophones across the country with an interest in, or who have interaction with Canada’s Francophone cultural and linguistic sphere.   It’s very encouraging – and touching.

Examples of Stereotypes France has of Québec, and vice-versa (#141)

This post is to be taken with a grain of salt.  Just go with it and smile (don’t take it too seriously).

This post deals with many “language” prejudices (among others).

PREFACE – First, some context: 

Before going further into this post, readers should be aware that there are many styles of French both in Canada and in Europe.  Stereotypes are generally gross overgeneralizations and misconceptions.  One such overgeneralizations is not being aware of our true linguistic realities.

Québec’s French is only one component of a greater family of Canadian styles of French.  Within Québec French, there can often be large variations.  Even Canada’s overall French situation can be quite diverse, from coast to coast.

Click on the maps below for a bit more context:


Likewise, just as there can be a large degree of variation in Canadian styles of French, so too can there be in Europe.

Click below for some European differences;

fr.acc fr.langwal.dia  bed.acc


The unbelievable spat between Marie-France Bazzo (Québec) & Sophie Aram (France) on the airwaves of Radio-Canada/CBC

Here is an example of how this topic can be very touchy for those few people who take the topic of stereotyping waaaaay too serious.

CBC/Radio-Canada, as Canada’s public broadcaster, shouldn’t be used as an opinion-piece forum for radio-hosts who get their shorts in a knot and use the broadcast button to seek egoistic revenge if they don’t agree with something.

(Before going further, as an aside, right about the time that this less-than-classy spat to air on Radio-Canada, it was announced that Marie-France Bazzo and Radio-Canada’s management had a “difference of opinions”, and that Bazzo would no longer be an employee at Radio-Canada. I don’t know if this is connected to this event.  Bazzo has continued to host her own long-time opinion-piece show on Télé-Québec, as well as producing works for other networks).

If you don’t speak French, no worries, the section after this one has a different example for you, complete with English translations.

But for those who do speak French, I’m starting this post with an example of a childish outburst when a (former) Radio-Canada radio host (Marie-France Bazzo) took a French comedian to task for imitating a Québec accent.

Here is the video of Sophie Aram (comedian in France) imitating a Québec accent.   This is the video which drew the ire of Marie-France Bazzo in Québec.  I searched the web, and Bazzo appears to be the only person in Québec’s media who took it this serious (at least that I heard).

For me the best part of the video is the look on Danny Laferrière’s face when he’s trying to figure out how to react (priceless — Love it!!).

BELOW is the ON-AIR FIGHT (ON RADIO-CANADA of all places!!!!) between Mario-France Bazzo and Sophie Aram:  CLICK THE IMAGE BELOW

(All I have to add is HOLY CRAP !! LIGHTEN UP !! Good grief.)




With the above in context, now let us continue with a different, much friendlier example 

(for those who don’t necessarily speak French, the following may be easier to follow):

Below is another conversation between two celebrities;  one from Québec, and one from France.

I thought this would be a light-hearted, interesting conversation to present to you, precisely because I have heard this sort of discussion on numerous occasions between those of us from Canada and from France.  🙂   It’s the type of conversation which usually makes us smile on both sides of the ocean.

For the readers of this blog who don’t speak French, I’ll paraphrase and summarize the below conversation between Monqiue Giroux (from Québec), and André Manoukian (from France).

In this conversation, Giroux responds to Manoukian after he made public statements on the radio in France which could be considered stereotypes people in France have about Québec; most notably, how they speak.   The conversation (and it is just that, a well-articulated, friendly and humourous conversation) was arranged by, and aired on the France television program “64’ Grand angle”.

Monique Giroux is a Québec music journalist, music program producer / host, and considered one of the French-speaking world’s most authoritative and engaged “activist” for the promotion of French music.   She promotes Francophone music of all types, from Québec, the rest of Canada, Europe and elsewhere in the world.  She has hosted numerous radio music shows from the Montréal studios of Radio-Canada Première, and travels so extensively and so often to places such as France and elsewhere, on a mission to promote Francophone music from a journalistic point of view, that she has become quite well known in European media circles.   In addition, she has befriended some of the largest names in Francophone music (both past and present).   As a testament to her efforts to raise the profile and appreciation for Francophone music, Giroux has been awarded some of the highest civic honours of state of Canada (the Order of Canada / l’Ordre du Canada), of Québec (l’Ordre du Québec), and France (Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres).

André Manoukian is a very famous songwriter from France and he has a radio music program on France Inter.  What I find quite intriguing is that he was educated in Boston – so presumably, because Boston is only a 5 hour drive from Montréal, and because he has travelled many times to Québec, he likely knows Québec quite well.   Manoukian has written songs not only for some of the biggest names in French music, but also for big Anglophone singers such as Janet Jackson.  Of the Francophones he has written songs for, some are also among Québec’s biggest names, such as Diane Dufresne.   Because of his stature, he was one of the judges on the French equivalent of “Pop Idol” in France.

So lets get into the conversation (take it with a light heart and a smile… the tone of it was all in good fun).    I’m going to paraphrase, and skip much of the small talk.

—- The YouTube video for the conversation is here with TRANSLATIONS FOLLOWING:


  • Starts by asking why the French have so many stereotypes about Québec.
  • Says Manoukian stated on an earlier on-air program that Québécois speak with an embellished and outdated/archaic, form of language (une langue archaic fleurie) which makes for laughs (se bien marrer). The presumption is that he made the statements in a pejorative sense, as something to be laughed at.


  • Says wasn’t his intention to make fun. That he was referring to the “naivity” of the language used in Québec music (ooops… he caught himself using the word “naivity” 😉 )
  • He then covers his tracks, and sincerely states that in Québec, people have become vigilant gate-keepers of the French language, in a way which no longer exists in France.
  • Says he likes how older French words are conserved in Québec French, accompanied by a very modern edge.
  • Says people are very attached to their language in Québec because they form a small population in the middle of a very large North American Anglophone population.
  • He says he enjoys hearing authentic French words in Québec, as well as in Cajun communities — words which are no longer used in France (words which sometimes need to be explained to him), and that he misspoke when he made his earlier on-air comments.


  • Asks Giroux what enticed her to write a public rebuttal to Manoukian’s on-air statements regarding Québec French.


  • She says she, like many other people from Québec, heard Manoukian’s on-air comments (his show from France is also broadcast in Québec), and her personal reaction was the same as many others. But what was so surprising to her was the scale of reaction (or backlash) against Manoukian’s comments from Québécois.
  • She believes there is a misunderstanding on the part of France towards Québec’s current (linguistic) situation. She says whereas Manoukian may believe Québécois speak “Old French” (“le vieux françoié”, which she pronounced with an overemphasized slangish twang), that it is not so much the case anymore.   (In this context, she’s speaking of the Québec slang and Joual, as well as other informal ways of speaking).
  • She says Québécois do not use dog-sleds as a mode of transport (the timing for this one was perfect, because I incidentally joked about the same thing a few days ago in my earlier post Comparisons can be a good thing”
  • Giroux emphasized that Québécois live in (North) America, and just like in France and other French nations, we have a ton of different French accents here. She also said when the French visit Québec, it is no longer Québécois who have an accent, but rather the French who have an accent – which is the beauty of the whole thing.
  • She’s happy to see that, as two journalists, they’re sitting and talking about stereotypes, because it is a good way for the public to hear the discussion, and to not focus on it so heavily in the future (especially when it comes to artistic circles, in which French artists will sometimes tease Québec artists on the air about how they speak or their choice of musical genre, such as playing “hick accordions”).


  • Says he has made several trips to Québec for music events, but then was taken by Québécois themselves to a “sugar shack” (cabane à sucre), which plays into stereotypes.


  • Asks if Québec has become the new ardent defender of the French language, rather than France, because Québec is in North America, which makes people feel they must fight harder to protect their language against the weight of US culture. He cites the example of movie titles;  In France, movie titles are known by their English names (cites Twelve Years a Slave in France, whereas it’s known as Esclave pendant douze ans in Québec).


  • The local version of the show “The Voice”, is called “La Voix” in the local Québec version (Québec produces its own version, as does France), but it has retained the English name “The Voice” in France.
  • She said that when Manoukian alledged that Québéc speaks with an embellished archaic language, that Québec’s choice of words of course would sound archaic to France if France does not cease anglicizing words and does not cultivate their vocabulary correctly.


  • (Question to Giroux): Do you say “Où as tu parké ton char?” (which is a very slang, joual-like Québécois and Canadian French way of asking “Where did you park your car?” – in a literal sense, in English it would almost be as if to ask someone “Where did you halt your wagon?”).  This is one well-known slang expression from Québec and Canada that French from France usually cite when teasing Québécois about the way they speak.


  • No.


  • Ok.


  • Says, there may be people who say this in Québec, but even in France, there are people who speak le verlan (which is the word for slang in France). But she said it is not everyone in Québec who says “Où ce que t’as parké ton char?”

(A personal side comment: Something quite interesting I had not thought about:  probably 8 times out of 10, I myself say “voiture” (car) instead of “char” (wagon)… but there are those 2 times out of 10 where I will say “char”… It completely depends one who I am talking to, the informality of the discussion and the situation, the language being used by the person I am speaking with, and the mood of the discussion.   For example, I had a business meeting in Québec City not long ago.  There would have been zero chance I would have entertained the thought of calling my car a “char” when speaking in a business context.   But later, when I went for a beer with people not related to anything business, the environment was much more relaxed, and I probably slipped in the word char when I was talking about a drive I did on the outskirts of town earlier that day.  When I was younger, in my teen years, I was more apt to say “char”, but I grew up, just like everyone else.  😉 .  You may recall from the Joual recording, which I made in an earlier post, that I did use the word “char” in the dialogue, but I also used “voiture” in the International French dialogue I recorded.   It goes to show that what Giroux says does hold merit, and that stereotypes the French have of how Québécois speak, on the whole, are not necessarily correct, but there are exceptions — just as someone may say “an old beater” or “old clunker” in English instead of a “used car”, or refer to their car as their “wheels”).


  • Says the Belgians make fun of how the French speak, and the French make fun of how the Belgians speak. He asks Giroux if the Québécois make fun of how the French speak.


  • After pondering the question, she says “Not really, but perhaps a bit”.
  • She says she has noticed, surprisingly, that the old expression “les maudits français” (“the damned French”) is making a come-back in Québec society.  It is a Québec expression which means “Oh, it’s just the snobbish French and their usual nose-in-the-air habits”).

(Giroux’s last comment is interesting.  When I think of it, I’m also hearing this expression more and more often in the media, at least more often than when I was young — but it’s usually said in an endearing, light-teasing kind of way).

  • Referring to particular topic, she said she heard a reporter recently state, on a major Québec TV network, that “This [subject] is too ‘France!’ ”, as if the subject at hand was not a good thing because it has too much of an aura of France.  She says this last narrow-viewed statement got to her when she heard it in Québec.  Particularly didn’t like hearing this statement because imagine if someone described a situation as being “too ‘Amermenian’ ”, or “too ‘Arabic’.”.  But she said in Québec, people will tolerate hearing  “This is too –French-.”.    She said this is how stereotypes take on a life of their own, and she’s recognizing the phenomena exists on both sides.


  • He goes on to talks about how the mouth, lips, and tongue are physically positioned when Québecois speak French versus people from France, and how that influences accents and ways of singing (kind of unrelated stuff)

It’s always interesting to hear these types of discussions – as simple distractions if for nothing else.

François Massicotte (#140)

In the last post “Rendez-vous de la Francophonie, I mentioned that François Massicotte is one of the co-spokespersons for the event.

This actually is a big thing because Massicotte is such a well-known public figure (he was one of the people I watched on television growing up and who I continue to often see on TV as an adult).

He is best known as a (stand-up) comedian. I’d venture to say that Massicotte is as well known in Québec and other Francophone regions of Canada as the Canadian comedian, Howie Mandel, is known in Anglophone Canada (an interesting quirk… Mandel grew up only a couple blocks from where I live in Toronto).

Like Mandel, Massicotte has routinely ventured beyond his stand-up comedy mould and has filled the roles of a game show host, as well as acting roles in sitcoms and television commercials.

It’s François Massicotte’s numerous high-profile television commercials which perhaps has solidified him in the minds of Québécois as much as his comedy career has (we may see his comedy acts a few times a year, but for a good number of people, we’ve seen his commercials much more often).

He is known for using his notoriety for supporting good causes, such as La Fondation du centre de jeunesse de Montréal (The Foundation for the Montréal Youth Centre), and his support for Le Rendez-vous de la francophonie is one more cause to which he has offered his name.

Across Canada, you can often catch him on the televised portions of the Juste pour rire! (Just for Laughs!) comedy festival (which periodically airs on Radio-Canada throughout the year).

Massicotte’s official website is: http://francoismassicotte.com. His website actually is quite interesting. Unlike many other celebrities, his website offers his own short blog section in which he gives his thoughts on a range of issues (that’s actually quite bold for a celebrity). Check it out.

I’m happy to see that he’s one of the official spokespeople for Le Rendez-vous de la Francophonie – I think that speaks volumes to the type of guy Massicotte is, and it’s a great way to raise the profile of such a wonderful event.