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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:


RELATED BLOG POSTS:

OUR 32 ACCENTS (7 POSTS)

OTHER RELATED LANGUAGE POSTS (2 POSTS)

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“Regional” Vocabulary and Expressions – Other Regions of Québec – 6 of 6 (#174)

This is the last post in our several-part series on regional vocabulary & expressions from different parts of Québec.  This last post will cover variations from several regions around Québec. A map of some of these regions was given a few posts ago (you can view the map by clicking here).

The vocabulary in this post is presented in the following format:

Name of the REGION or city:  Word “X”  (this will be the word or expression which is most apt to be heard in the specific region)

  • Word “Y” (this would be the equivalent of what could be heard more in the Montréal region or province-wide).  I will also include the English equivalent as well as reference notes.

Once again, there is no hard and fast rule regarding this vocabulary (after all, this vocabulary is based on very informal colloquialisms [informal oral speech]).  Words change with time, and a number of what is presented here may not be said by most people in the stated regions, some words may have fallen out of use with time, and others may also extend beyond the stated region.


Bas-Charlevoix: Pour que c’est fait pas simple de même?

  • Pourquoi tu fais simple comme ça?

Brayon / Acadie: Cuillère à marde

  • louch = ladle (it gets its name because it used to empty bed pans in the olden days – yum yum… eat your soup Johnny!)

Brayon:  ça va d’être

  • Ça va être

Brayonespère moi

  • attends moi

Brayontire-jus

  • Mouchoir = Kleenex

Brayon:  un bat-à-ball

  • une batte de baseball = baseball bat. (note:  un club de baseball is a baseball team/club, but it can sometimes also be heard as the term for a baseball bat… but it sounds strange and hick’ish when used to refer to a bat).

Chaudière-Appalaches:  Fouettes tes brousailleuses

  • Clean up ones mop (ie: clean up one’s scruffy hair).  Bousailleux means scruffy (don’t ask me why it’s said in the feminine form in the above expression or when referring to someone or oneself when cleaning up their scruffiness. It’s a weird expression)

Chaudière-Appalaches:  hauller le char

  • pousser le char (en panne) – To push a car which is broken down.

Chaudière-Appalaches:  frock de cuire, une

  • une veste en cuire, un gilet en cuire = a leather vest

Chaudières-Appalaches:  pantrie, la

  • le comptoir (de cuisine) = the kitchen counter

Côte-nord:  beigne, une

  • The word is correct, but the gender can be feminine in the Côte-nord, whereas it is masculine in Montréal and elsewhere.  (I also met someone once from La Tuque, far north of Shawinigan, who also refered to beigne in the feminine).   An interesting note:  In France, un beigne (masculine) can sometimes (but rarely) be said for a doughnut, but is best known as a “beignet“.  However, when said in the feminine in France, une beigne, it means a slap (une gifle).  As far as I know, it does not have this latter meaning (gifle) in Québec or Canada (not that I’ve ever heard at any rate).   Another quirk:  note that the technical name for a doughnut, in the dictionary, is actually beignet… but nobody ever says this in Canada or Québec (and likely most people would not even be aware it is technically called a beignet.  Menus in Canada which serve doughnuts only show them as beigne (http://www.timhortons.com/ca/fr/menu/beignes.php).    In Belgium, Switzerland, and in different regions of France, a doughnut can have up to 23 different names, depending on the region… here’s the wikipedia article on it:  http://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beignet

Côte-nord:  Ben manque…

  • Je pense que… = I think that…

Côte-nord:  frock, une

  • un manteau = a coat

Estrie:  pitoune, une

  • A four foot “chord” of wood (this word also has a more common meaning used everywhere, that of a nice looking woman, une belle pitoune)

Gaspésie:  Barbe-moi pas

  • Ne me derange pas = Don’t bother me.

Gaspésie:  bourriet

  • moutons de poussière = dust bunnies (note : they are “dust sheep” in Québécois and Canadian French)

Gaspésie:  Ça me barbe pas.

  • Ça ne me dérange pas = It doesn’t bother me (note: in old French, “faire la barbe à quelqu’un” meant to tease or make fun of someone.  I find it interesting that this very old language use managed to hang on so long in more isolated regions).

Gaspésie:  Pile pas dans mes bourriets

  • Get your mitts out of my stuff or things. Keep your hands out

Gaspésie:  tché-ben

  • Je sais ben, Je sais très bien = I understand

Matane:  rye, un

  • un ride, a ride

Maurice / Trois-Rivières / Shawinigan:  pelottes, des

  • Ragout à boulettes = meatball stew (“pelottes” is a specific recipe in the region). It has a funny name which makes people in other regions laugh when they hear it.  It becomes even funnier if you drop the word “ragoût” because the first “e” after the “p” is silent, thus the word sounds like PL#@TE… a very, very BAD word (it might even earn you a smack if the person you are talking to doesn’t know the context of what you are talking about) – Ta grand-mère là… son affaire de pelottes là, ça sent tellement bonne! Je peux-tu y goûter? (I’m going to skip on the explanation… suffice to say, just don’t say that to any females should they serve you ragoût de boulettes at Christmas or at any other time).

Mauricie / Trois-Rivière:  patate à frite

  • galette de pomme de terre, galette de patate, galette = hashbrown, (m’a prendre une patat’à frite = I’ll order a hashbrown)

Mauricie:  râdot, un

  • un petit rat = a small rat

Mauricie: magoua, un

  • quelqu’un qui manque un peu de classe = someone who is a bit rough around the edges and may not be the most classy

Sherbrooke / La Beauce:  sneaks, des

  • sneakers

Valleyfield:  miguenne, une

  • louche = ladle

Victoriaville:    coton, un

  • un coton-ouaté = a sweater. This word can also be heard outside the region.

Victoriaville:  fan, une

  • Fan = electric fan. Feminine versus masculine, un fan.

Victoriaville:  havralle

  • Combinaisons = Over-alls. The letter “r” takes the French pronounciation.

Victoriaville:  tarte à la tarlouche

  • tarte aux raisins sucrés = sweet grape pie (note:  Tarlouche is an old word from the Argonne dialect of French, Northeast of Paris near the Belgian border.  It used to mean a big piece of bread or meat in Europe.  I’m not quite sure how it made its way into Québec regional French or how it came to signify sweet grape pie).

That’s a wrap on the short blog-post series on Québec regional words and expressions.

Informal Québécois “regional” words and expressions (versus province-wide informal vocabulary) are very difficult (and almost impossible) to find online (most online material focuses on province-wide and Canada-wide spoken French words and expressions).  I am more than positive that what I have provided is just the tip of the iceberg, but I hope my own bit of insight through these last few posts has been of interest.

If you’re looking for informal, colloquial French vocabulary, but which is spoken all across Québec (yet sometimes Montréal specific, but also often Canada-wide), I’d like to refer you to Felix Polesello’s website, OffQc, at  www.offqc.com.  Felix has done an amazing job on his website, and has worked very hard and diligently to try to bring you what I believe is the web’s best and most interesting site on the subject.  Make sure to check it out.

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SERIES:  “REGIONAL” VOCABULARY AND EXPRESSIONS (6 POSTS)

“Regional” Vocabulary and Expressions – Saguenay Lac St-Jean – 5 of 6 (#173)

Building on the last few posts, here is another post with more regional vocabulary & expressions — this time from the Saguenay Lac St-Jean region.  You can refer to the map in the previous post to see where this vocabulary primarily comes from.

The vocabulary is presented in the following format:

Word “X”  (this will be the word or expression which is most apt to be heard in the Saguenay Lac St-Jean 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.

In this sense, this list can be considered a comparison of French from the Saguenay Lac St-Jean region versus from the Montréal region.

As I said before, keep in mind that there is NO hard and fast rule about this vocabulary (we’re very much in the realm of lose oral colloquialisms).  Things change with time, some of these words and expressions may not always be said by the majority, the areas they’re restricted to may have fuzzy borders (therefore you may hear these words outside this region).  As well, individuals may say things differently.

Below is some vocabulary from the Saguenay Lac St-Jean region.

————– ——————– ———————

beigne, une

  • un beigne = doughnut.  You’ll recall from the prior “Québec City” vocabulary, there was a “masculine / feminine” difference for buses and french fries between Québec City and Montréal.  Here we have another gender difference between Saguenay Lac St-Jean and Montréal, but this time with doughnuts.

cotteur

  • chaîne de troittoir, chaîne de rue = the curb (of the road), edge of the road, side of the road

durex, du

  • papier collant = scotch tape (note, not a condom)

expression:  A’Jaie pantoute

  • J’en ai pas.  I don’t have any.  The addition of “A” at the front makes this a bit more local (versus J’ai pantoute which is said everywhere in Québec and everywhere in Canada).

expression:  painter les rubbers

  • shine the wheels of your car

expression:  Prendre une petite frette

  • To have a cold one (beer). This one you will hear elsewhere, but perhaps more so in Saguenay Lac St-Jean (I’ve heard it other places… and I say it myself as part of my own vocabulary.  You’ll hear it in Montréal, Ottawa/Gatineau and elsewhere, but I think it’s quite “standard” in Saguenay Lac St-Jean).

expression:  rester en rack

  • tomber en panne = to be out of order, to break down (most often referring to cars, but can be for other mechanical things also).

Flo

  • youngsters, kid, teenager. When you were an adolescent, you could say “mon gang de flos” = my gang at school [of young people]. (in Montréal, we’d generally just say “des jeunes” or “des ados“)

frite, un

  • an order of french fries (mostly “des frites” in Montréal).

frock, une

  • un manteau = a coat

gang de rotteux

  • coffee gang, coffee group, the same set of people you often whittle the time away with (des gens avec qui tu pottines la demi-journée). Mon gang de rotteux = “my coffee group” or “my usual gang” (doesn’t always have to be coffee… can just be for hanging out, etc.)

gesteuse, gesteux (a term more specific to the city of Dolbeau-Mistassini)

  • someone overly dramatic (someone who exaggerates a bit too much for the purpose of stretching things or getting attention… perhaps a drama queen in English, but applicable to women and men).

kelouwer

  • clouer = to pound a nail (with a hammer). The “e” right after the “k” is pronounced.

palteau

  • manteau = coat. (mettre ton palteau = put on your coat)

patalons, des

  • des pantalons = pants

patate à frite

  • hasbrown.  (M’a prendre une patat’à frite = I’ll take a hashbrown)

pitoune

  • a bunch of wood, i.e.: perhaps a floating bunch of wood on a lake or river. (It doesn’t mean a nice looking woman in this case, which is another province-wide meaning).

seeyow

  • siau = a bucket

trôler

  • bar-hop. Vas-tu trôler à soir?  (trôler in Montréal means to trole online, like in English).

trôleuse

  • Shrek’s wife (KIDDING!! But you paused for a second, didn’t you !?!).  Trôleuse is actually an old regional term for a bar table.

une soute (ie: un soute de ski-doo)

  • un habit de neige = a snow suite (one piece)

———- ————-

That has is for the vocabulary and expressions which  I know of from the Saguenay Lac St-Jean region.   However, this is a region rich in many other expressions and vocabulary, much of which I do not know or am unfamiliar with.   With that being said, there is more information online regarding this region’s own vocabulary than there is regarding any other region in Québec (with the exception of Montréal).  If you spend some times surfing the web, I’m sure you’ll be able to find more than what I’m able to offer.

I just did a quick 30 second web-search, and these two web-sites popped up at the top of the page:

The next post will be our last one on regional vocabulary.  See you soon!

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SERIES:  “REGIONAL” VOCABULARY AND EXPRESSIONS (6 POSTS)

“Regional” Vocabulary and Expressions – La Beauce Region – 4 of 6 (#172)

The last two posts looked at some vocabulary & expressions which are or were said primarily in the Québec city region (I say “were” because a number of the examples have fallen out of disuse with younger generations).

The next few posts will look at vocabulary samples from other regions of Québec.

v'cb1.3

One note regarding the map… the regions are “approximate” (I purposely wrote “Bas” Chaudière-Apalaches because I already filled in much of the Chaudière-Apalaches region with the Beauce Region – they overlap).  Also the Brayon speaking region is actually a region with its base in Northeast New Brunskswick, but which influences the vocabulary across the provincial border in Québec (a sort of “Acadianization” of Québec French).

The vocabulary is presented in the following format:

Word “X”  (this will be the word or expression which is most apt to be heard in the Beauce 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 this vocabulary.  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 (therefore you may hear these words outside this region), and individuals may say things differently.

Below is some vocabulary from the Beauce region.

———————— ——————–

À’d j’où… ?

  • Où est-ce que… ? = Where is?  (Elsewhere in Québec, including Montréal, and elsewhere in Canada, in spoken French you will often hear “Où ce que…? or “Où ce qu’y est le/la…?” — a very informal way of posing the same question, and which I myself am guilty of saying more often than not).

aH’rien

  • rien = nothing. The first part is pronounced like an English “ah”, but the “H” is said with a big, pronounced expiration.   The adding of a heavily aspirated (breathed) “H” to many words is quite characteristic of language from La Beauce.

bajettes, des

  • des baguettes = chopsticks. In La Beauce, a hard “G” is often transformed into a soft “J”

bondrie, la

  • la frontière = the border (with the USA)

des tennis

  • espadrilles = running shoes

embartcher

  • embarquer = to get in (a vehicle). Note, people in more rural areas of La Beauce with often change a hard “K” or “Q” to a “TCH”.

étcheurré

  • échoeuré = fed up (with something or someone), tired of dealing with (something or someone)

être pamphlet

  • to be hung over (expression not heard very much anymore). In Montréal, a very local way of saying this (but seldomly said) coud be “avoir le bloc” or “être fripé”.  International French would be “avoir la gueule de bois”

herbe, la (pronounce the “H” with big aspiration)

  • la pelouse, le gazon = grass, lawn

jaipe

  • guêpe (wasp)

jibout

  • hibou – owl

peelouze, la

  • la pelouse, le gazon = grass, lawn

pourde

  • poudre – powder. Note, an “r” is sometimes added after an “ou”.  This can also mean coke (like cocaine).

pourle, une

  • une poule – a hen

pussycat en chaleur, un

  • In Montréal, Ottawa/Gatineau, and elsewhere, it would simply be “un chat en chaleur” (someone horny)

yhhaudières

  • Chaudières (the region the sub-region of La Beauce is physically situated in)

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One can argue that a good number of the above are simply pronunciations transformations, which I suppose many are.    Many other words follow the same type of pronunciation transformations.   You can hear some of these accent transformations in the post which covered Beauce accents in the accent series (click here for the earlier post with audio examples).  

However, I included them in the vocabulary list because have the effect of transforming some words to such an extent that the words, when spoken, resemble something quite different from the standard version, almost like a different vocabulary.

The next couple of posts will continue to explore other regions.

ÀH l’protchaine!! (how was that for my best Beauceron?).  😉

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SERIES:  “REGIONAL” VOCABULARY AND EXPRESSIONS (6 POSTS)

“Regional” Vocabulary and Expressions – Québec City Region (F to Z) – 3 of 6 (#171)

The last post presented vocabulary and expressions which are used primarily in the Québec City region of Québec (although some of the vocabulary may occasionally be heard in other regions of Québec the odd time).

The last post covered “A to E”.  This post will cover “F to Z”.  Afterwards we will move on to other region-specific vocabulary of Québec.

Instead of using International French as the comparison vocabulary, I’ll concentrate more on Montréal and greater-Québec vocabulary for base comparisons.  In this sense, this list could be considered a “Québec City versus Montréal/Québec Province vocabulary” list.

The vocabulary is presented in the following format:

Word “X”  (this will be the word or expression which is most apt to 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.  Let’s keep going…


faces dédaigneuses, des

  • kind of a “Whaaat???” face, with your lip curled up and nose scruntched (you will hear this expression elsewhere in Québec… it is standard vocabulary – but I’ve heard it much more frequently in the Québec City region than elsewhere).   In Montréal, people will be more apt to just say “des faces”.

faire le train

  • soigner les animaux, s’occuper des animaux (sur la ferme). Animal husbandry (raising / looking after animals).  Said more in rural zones.  Likely comes from leading animals, such as cattle, out to pasture or watering holes.

fan, un

  • ventilateur = electric fan. Careful:  This word can be heard in Montréal as well, but it is masculine in Québec City, but feminine in Montréal (une fan).  Careful:  a “fan” (such as a sports fan, or pop-star fan) also exists in French, but it is masculine.

fausette

  • robinet (English = faucet).  In Montréal, a similar word exists, but it is sometimes pronounced “faucé”, although it is spelled “faucet” as in English (in this case, the “et” at the end comes with an “é” pronounciation in Montréal)

flo

  • youngsters, kid, teenager (in Montréal, we’d generally just say “des jeunes” or “des ados”) Adolescents / teens can be heard saying “mon gang de flos” = my gang of school friends / peers [group of young people who are friends]).  I’ve heard stague (male) and staille (female) denote the same thing in other regions across Canada, but I think this is quite dated (perhaps 1980s or earlier).

fourrer la truie

  • remplir la poêle à bois – put wood in the (wood) stove. A “truie” (f) is an Eastern Québec and forested Québec word for a small wood stove.  Note… fourrer, in the “true” sense of the word, actually meant to stuff and oven or stove many decades ago, as well as over the past few centuries – which is why this expression exists.  However, the word fourrer today has taken on a much different meaning. The word became twisted with time.

frite, un (masculine)

  • une frite (feminine) = fries, i.e.: French fries (careful… when said in the “singular”, this word is masculine in the Québec City region, but feminine in Montréal).  In the Québec City Region, it can sometimes be heard when actually ordered fries.    Usage example:   At the fast food counter, when you want to say “I’ll have an order of fries”, in Québec City you can say “Je prendrai un frite”.   In Montréal, however, you’ll be more apt to hear people order in the plural:  “Je prendrai des frites”.   But it becomes confusing when you want to just ask for a petit(e), moyen(ne), or grand(e).  But frankly – nobody who works at a fast-food joint cares.  So don’t worry.  If worse comes to worse, just ask for “des frites”.  Perhaps the best way to pretend that Montréal is a boy, Québec City is a girl (and apply this rule to fries and buses).—— Unrelated note note: An expression which uses the word frites is un casseau de frites. “Un casseau” is the little basket in which fast food joints serve fries.  The other context in which you’ll use “casseau” would be for a casseau of berries (the little basket of strawberries or blueberries at the supermarket).  “Casseau” is standard French, spoken everywhere in Québec and Francophone Canada.

gaudasses, des

  • des souliers = shoes

grayveur

  • la coulée = gravey made from meat (the kind you pour over your meat & potatos)

gum, une

  • chewing gum (also heard in Montréal, but is spelled gomme). In Europe you’ll hear chewing, or chewing-gum (the latter you’ll also hear in Montréal).

main, la (pronounced mayne)

  • the drag, strip (in the sense of a road)… “Faire un tour sur la mayne” means “cruising down the drag /strip / street” in a car.

miroirs à souvenir, des

  • photos :  very interesting expression, especially one which could be of interest to linguists. Here’s the story as I understand it:   At the time photos were being invented, the invention did not yet have a formal name.  Some people called them “memory mirors” in French, before the word “photograph” existed (recall that some of the first photographs were invented in France).  The word made it to this side of the Atlantic, and photos continued to be called “miroirs à souvenir” in some isolated communities in Québec, right up until very recent generations.   I’ve been told some people can still remember their grandparents or parents calling photos “des miroirs à souvenir”.  The fact that such an old word still exists to a certain extent illustrates just how isolated some communities were in Québec from one another up until the mid 20th century.

moine (pronounced “mwenne”, not “mwanne” like a monk)

  • perceuse (a drill for drilling things) (France = foret)

pépine

  • retrocaveuse (backhoe)

petacles (can have two pronounciations, with or without “é”)

  • patates (pommes de terre) = potatos

pétacles (sometimes “des pétacles frîtes” if fried)

  • patates (pommes de terre) = potatos (same as the above, but with a different pronounciation by adding an « é »)

pinces qui barre, des

  • pinces-étaux or serre-joint en C, or serre-joint (international French terms you’ll see written on the packaging at Canadian Tire or Home Depot) = self-locking clamps, C-clamps, or vice-clamps.

pinch

  • This is interesting, because you’ll hear it in Montréal and Ouataouis, as well as Ontario. But in these latter places it usually refers to a goatee, or facial hair when the “chin” is involved.  In Québec City, you’ll hear it take the same meaning as elsewhere, however in Québec city you’ll also sometimes hear it refer to only a “mustache”.  (which is generally a usage unique to Québec City).

pépites de poulet, des

  • croquettes de poulet, nugget de poulet = chicken nuggets, little fried chunks of chicken. Some people may also refer to fried chicken strips as “pipites de poulet”.

pour sortir

  • pour emporter. This phrase is the “evil twin” (or the “better twin” – take your pick) to the Canadian English equivalent.  This is what you say if you want take-out instead of dining-in.  In Québec city people might know you’re not local if you say “pour emporter”, whereas in Montréal, you would generally say “pour emporter”.  This is quite interesting, because almost the exact equivalent situation exists in Canadian English between Eastern and Western Canada.   Manitoba and anywhere further West = “to stay”, whereas Ontario and anywhere further East = “for here” (I mentioned this a couple of posts ago).

snicks, des

  • chaussures de sport = sports shoes

soute, une (ie: une soute de ski-doo)

  • un habit de neige. (note :  habit is pronounced habee), a snow suit (often one piece, but sometimes just snow pants… the big puffy kind kids wear)

syng, le

  • lavabo, évier (a sink). Here’s a language-learning tip for people learning Canadian French… in general, (1) évier = kitchen sink for washing things, (2) lavabo = a sink for washing your hands or face in the washroom/restroom, (3) cuve = big deep sink you might find in the laundry room (usually those big, white plastic ones).

tarte à hubard

  • tarte à rhubarbe = rhubarb pie

tennis, des

  • espadrilles = tennis shoes, running shoes

tirer la chaîne

  • tirer la chasse d’eau, flocher (flush the toilet, with the 1st one being international French, and the 2nd one, flocher, being very informal French you’ll hear across Canada)

truie

  • petit poêle à bois, small wood stove (careful because it has a completely different meaning in International French and in Europe where it is a cochonne = sow)

vire-vent, un

  • ventilateur, electric fan

The next post will cover vocabulary and expressions in a different region of Québec.   Stay tuned to find out which region… 😉

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SERIES:  “REGIONAL” VOCABULARY AND EXPRESSIONS (6 POSTS)