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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)



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.

La petite vie (#98)

I set a few rules for myself when writing this blog.   One of these rules was to write about things which are generally current, pertinent and of interest.

On the surface, this post sort of defeats the above rule.  It is about a television sitcom series, La petite vie, which ran for several years, but which went off the air in 1998.  In a sense, you could say it’s not very current, thus its pertinence could be questioned, and if its pertinence can be questioned, it might not be of interest.

However, contrary to the above arguments, I believe the show still carries an unmatched legacy in Québec pop-culture and society which keeps it current;  people are still parodying it (kids still wear Halloween costumes of the main characters), people still talk about it, and re-runs & box sets are still as popular as ever.  The two main characters, môman and pôpa (pronounced with a heavy East-End Montréal accent), still continue to “appear” in costume at award gala ceremonies as award presenters.  It’s pertinent for many reasons; the show attracted (and continues to attract) the attention of an entire society and generation on a scale never seen before, it galvanized the type of humour Québec identifies with and how Québec it views itself (you can judge how someone or a society views themselves by their own self-depricating humour), comedians and subsequent shows (both sitcoms and in a sense even dramas), seem to have based many of their themes around the overall context of La petite vie.  And finally, the show is just plain interesting.

La petite vie literally translates as “The small life”, but it’s actually an expression in French with a bit deeper meaning (and direct relevance to the show).  It basically means a small life” in English (or “a petty life”), in the sense that your whole world revolves around a very small circle, small area, and your views, outlook, and goals are equally small.  You just live life in a tiny comfort zone with little care (and perhaps even little knowledge) of anything outside that comfort zone.  It’s not bad – it’s just small.  Problems which happen to people living “a small life” may not be very big problems in the grand scheme of life — But because these mundane problems constitute “everything” that is happening to these people (owing to their life being so small), the smallest things become overblown and huge issues (ie: it could be the end of the world that the garden hose sprung a leak, that the neighbour gossiped about your daughter, that a little milk got spilled…).

I’d put La petite vie in the category of “ridiculous” comedy, yet genius in its punch lines which makes it absolutely hilarious.  It’s filmed with live characters and centres around a working class East-End Montréal family.  The middle-aged mother and father are the two main characters.  It’s their interactions with their four children and other people around them which constitutes the essence of the scripts.   The parents are magnetic poles who attract everyone into their home, where the series is mostly filmed.  It plays on the absurdity of the oil-and-vinegar personalities of the family members, and makes for amazing comedy.

I’m not sure English North America has something comparable featuring live actors.   The closest comparisons which come to mind are actually cartoons – a mix between The Simpsons, and The King of the Hill.  Now picture those two cartoon series being filmed by live actors, with their ridiculous plots, crude language, and recurrent expanded secondary characters.  It would be an extremely tough act to pull off by any stretch of the imagination.  The only way it would work would be if the humour was quick, witty, and punch lines definately would have to carry the show.  That’s La petite vie – and they actually managed to pull it off!

During the period of its airing, the show twice attracted the largest Canadian television audience in history, exceeding 4 million viewers, and individual episodes regularly attracted over 2 million television viewers.   It appeared nation-wide on Radio-Canada, but also aired in Europe and around the world on TV5 Monde.

Its appeal was enhanced further by way of the self-deprecating humour of a “stereotypical” Québec working-class family;  along with lots of action in the kitchen, adult and near-adult kids charting their own courses in all directions but still running back to the safety of mom & dad, quirky interactions with neighbours, a clash of old and new values, small family scandals, and that ever-so-recognizable East-End Montréal accent.

I want to re-stress that it’s shot in a fast-paced, often very heavy Montréal East-End accent (it might be a bit difficult for Anglophones to follow if their French is at a less-than-upper-intermediate level, at a minimum — but that’s only because the language is extremely heavy on joual combined with a heavy Montréal East-End accent).   The show’s comedy just wouldn’t come through the same if it was made in any other accent or with any less joual.  The accent basically set the subtext for many scenes because the accent is stereotypically associated with a certain type of personality (just as a New York or Texas accent is often stereotyped with a certain type of personality ).

Now you can understand a bit more why I thought it might be useful, in more than just one way, to write a series on our 32 different accents in Canadian French, in addition to offering other tid-bits here and there on Joual and other language quirks (it’s all starting to slowly come together now — and you’ll be a mini-expert on Québec and Canadian French culture in no time 😉 ).  In addition to providing us with an identity and regional culture, accents and the level of speech we use do carry much in the way of sub-text about who we might be as a person.  Whether that sub-text is true or not, that’s a completely different debate (click HERE and HERE for the earlier two posts relevant to the “Eastern Montréal and Laval old town” accent, and HERE for the post on Joual).

In many ways, when people think of Québec television, they think of La petite vie.    Although the series spanned a good chunk of the 1990s, younger generations (post Y2K) still know it, and still find it funny.   It’s one of the few sure-bet cultural phenomena which has permeated into every Francophone home in Québec (as well as Francophone homes across Canada) .   The show is an institution unto itself.

I’m not going to go into all the characters.   Nor will I delve deeper into the plot, nor its awards (suffice to say it’s an award winner).  I can leave it to you to research on your own if you’re interested (the French Wikipedia article is fairly comprehensive in this sense.  It can be viewed HERE, and Google Translate, with which to read it in English, can be opened HERE).

A few stars and characters in the show were the topics of some earlier posts:  Marc Labrèche was a main actor, Rémy Girard was a regular actor, Janette Bertand made appearances, as did Normand Brathwaite, Claude Legault, and Danny Turcotte.

Box series are available for sale.  If you wish to purchase the box set, you might wa to check out Archambeault or Renaud-Bray’s websites (also the subject of a previous post).

If, for whatever reason, you do want to develop an ear for Montréal East-End accent (and not just limit your language learning to more neutral or “friendlier” accents, such as Standard Québécois, the Greater Montréal accent, or some others), then the box set of this series might be the answer for you.   At least it would be sub-titled if you’re entering the realm of accents for the first time.  But I would not recommend tackling this front unless you’re already fairly comfortable in French, or you find that most of your interactions in French are with people who grew up on the Islands of Montréal, Laval, and part of the South Shore (Longueuil).

You may be able to find official footage online.  Please stick to official sites and do not pirate.  Works such as this is part of our cultural heritage.

“Our 32 accents” Series: The Three big accents – post 4 of 7 (#89)




We still have a number of accents to cover in upcoming posts.   But first I’d like to take a moment and re-highlight the importance of three accents we have already covered in “Our 32 accents” Series: Post 2 – (Montréal accents) and “Our 32 accents” Series: Post 1 – Canadian French accents overview (Standard French):

  • The Greater Montréal & Upper St. Lawrence Valley Accent,
  • Montréal East-End and Laval Old Town Accent, and
  • Standard Québécois.  

If you have not read the previous posts on Montréal accents, or standard Québec accents, I recommend you go back and do so before reading onward (it puts much in context for the text below).

In terms of numbers, these three are the French accents with the greatest number of speakers in Canada.  All three accents are spoken in the Metropolitan Montréal region, with Standard Québécois overlapping with the other two throughout regions in and around Montréal.   It’s worth re-looking at them, not only from a demographics and population point of view, but from the point of view of their importance and prominence in numbers and in overall Francophone, Québec, and Canadian societies.

The map below is an estimate of the number of speakers of these three accent groups.   The shading also indicates the approximate areas where most of these speakers are found.  I say “approximate” because you can sometimes hear trace accents reminiscent of the Greater Montréal & Upper St-Lawrence accent in areas close to Gatineau (the Ottawa area on the Québec side of the Ottawa river), in the Laurentians, and areas further South than St-Jean-sur-Richelieu.    It’s important to note that the Greater Montréal – Upper St. Lawrence accent can also be heard overlapping in the smaller area which traditionally speaks in the Montréal East-End accent .  Thus be aware that these borders are only approximations, owing to the fact that it is difficult to find hard data.

As for the the population estimates, they were made by correlating Stats-Can and Stats-QC census data to accent observations on the ground.  Example:  if I’ve experienced approximately 80 out of 100 people speaking with X accent in Y area, then I would label Y area as having 80 people speaking X accent (as a proportion of the census Francophone population living in that area), and the 20 remaining people would be grouped into the “standard Québécois” population statistics.   Thus, the numbers I give for Standard Québécois accent is the population of these accent speakers spread throughout all regions on the map below.

The map and numbers may not be perfect, but it’s likely about the closest we have to real numbers based on what is available at the moment (at least until a linguistics researcher can carry out a full scientific project on this matter).  Click map below to enlarge.


The Greater Montréal & Upper St. Lawrence Valley Accent:

  • Comprises approximately 3,500,000 speakers (the most spoken French accent in Canada). Here are two YouTube videos with fairly good examples, spoken by three personalities who come from all corners of this region (all with the same accent):
  • Jean-René Dufort was the topic of an earlier blog post. He’s from St-Jérôme, Northeast of Mirabel (see map).  You can hear his Greater Montréal accent here:

  • Éric Salvail, was also the topic of an earlier post.  He is from Sorel-Tracy, in the Northeast end of the Greater Montréal accent zone (see map).   Here is a video of Salvail interviewing Georges St-Pierre (also the topic of an earlier post), who is from St-Isidore, just outside Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu in the Southern end of the accent zone (see map).  You can see the Salvail – St-Pierre interview video here, and hear their accents.  Salvail’s accent is more neutral than St-Pierre’s.  Whereas St-Pierre’s accent is instantly recognizable as being from this region, you’d have to listen more carefully to pin down Salvail’s accent.  But it’s there nonetheless (you can catch it on how he pronounces a good deal of his “a” vowels, and on a number of his “ei” vowel combinations).  Both men are from the same Greater Montréal – Upper St. Lawrence accent zone, and it Salvail’s more nuanced would be more apparent if you were to hear his speach if it were compared to someone from Québec City, for example.  You can view the video here (you’ll notice St-Pierre’s accent right away through many different parts of his speach , but see if you can pick up Salvail’s when you listen to his “a” and “ei” vowels, and compare them to St-Pierre’s “a” and “ei” vowels – you’ll then notice they’re from the same accent zone) :

Standard Québécois:

  • Comprises approximately 1,500,000 to 2,000,000 natural speakers (the second most spoken French accent in Canada) — those who have “for the most part” lost the strongest traits of local accents (refer to the first post in this accent series for more information).  Standard Québécois is not only newscast French, but there is also a shift which sees more and more people across Québec speaking with in this accent at work and home.  Examples:
    1. Bazzo.tv is a weekly television talk show on the network “V”.   The show’s host, Marie-France Bazzo, speaks with more-or-less a neutral Standard Québécois accent, as do many of her guest.  You can view the latest episodes online here:  http://zonevideo.telequebec.tv/media/18586/emission-370/bazzo-tv.
    2. The socio-cultural radio talk show, Medium Large, on RC Radio première generally features guests from different walks of life, sometimes with different accents. But its host, Catherine Perrin speaks in a Standard Québécois accent.    The link is here: http://ici.radio-canada.ca/emissions/medium_large/2014-2015/.  To play the episodes, you’ll have to scroll down until you see “AUDIO FIL”, with an arrow beside it.
    3. Le téléjournal on Radio-Canada is another examples — nightly newscasts are all in a Standard Québécois accent:  http://ici.radio-canada.ca/emissions/telejournal/2014-2015/ 

Montréal East-End and Laval Old Town Accent :

  • Comprises approximately 600,000 speakers. As you can see from the map, it tends to be highly localized (but can be heard in other areas around Montréal as people move to the suburbs).  People who have this accent have generally grown up on the Montréal Islands.  If you spend any time in Montréal, you will undoubtedly run across this accent, but you may encounter the other Greater Montréal – Upper St. Lawrence Valley accent more and more often as it gains prominence as suburbia grows and accent evolutions continue.  Here are a couple of examples which show how much stronger the Montréal East-End and Laval Old Town accent can be (and these examples are even tame by some measures).  For those who are not fluent in French or regularly exposed to Québécois French, the Montréal East-end and Laval Old Town accent will invariably be more difficult to understand than the lighter Greater Montréal – Upper St. Lawrence Valley accent:
    • Yvon Deschamps is one of Québec’s most famous comedians. He relies in part on his Montréal East-End accent to carry his acts.   He was born in St-Henry (Southwest of downtown) and grew up in Montréal.   A clip with his accent can be viewed here:

  • Here is another clip of the Montréal East-End Accent.  Throughout 2014/2015, Patrick Huard (a famous actor) has been doing advertisements for Intact Insurance based on a plot based on his former TVA television show Taxi 0-22 from the early 2000’s.   The accent in the advertisements and the original television series is a strong Montréal East-End Accent.

Here is the advertisement with the strong Montréal East-End Accent:

Here is a clip from the original television series with the strong Montréal East-End Accent:

  • The late Gilles Latulippe (who recently passed away) was also one of Québec’s most famous comedians. Also from Montréal, his accent was very heavy Montréal East-End.   One of his clips is here:

  • The movie Mommy (the subject of an earlier post) was filmed in a very strong, working-class Montréal East-End accent.  The accent of its two main characters (mother & son) was so strong in fact, that I know of at least one Francophone person (born, raised and who lived his entire life in Québec City) who said that at times he actually had difficulty understanding certain lines being said in the film when he watched it in a movie theatre in Québec City.  A fairly comprehensive video trailer of the movie (with small clips of the Montréal East-End – Laval Old Town accent) can be viewed here:

Montréal's official flag - most closely associated with the Montréal-East-End accent.

Montréal’s official flag – most closely associated with the Montréal-East-End accent.

I am re-mentioning these three accents in this post for a couple of additional reasons:

  1. As I said earlier, to give you context as to the significance of the accents being discussed, thus helping you to identify these three accents, and
  2. If you are learning or improving your French, you may thus want to ensure you can understand accents which will most often be heard (ie: the accents with the largest population groups, or those which you interact with the most).  Regardless where you live in Canada, because the above three accents are heard so often in the media and daily life, it’s important to be able to navigate them.   They also are regularly heard in overall Canadian business, government, and education (note: the fourth most spoken French accent is the Québec City accent, with 500,000 speakers – but because it is very close to Standard Québécois, I haven’t listed it as a “must-know” accent, since knowing Standard Québécois is sufficient to fully comprehend a Québec City accent).

Therefore, when people ask me what accents they should concentrate on, when honing their listening skills, I always recommend :

  • Standard Québecois (which is comparable and interchangeable with International French, and the foundation of French learning), and
  • the Greater Montréal & Upper St. Lawrence Valley Accent which has between three and four million speakers.  (don’t worry so much about the Montréal East End – Laval Old Towns accent — in many ways it is being supplanted by the Greater Montréal & Upper St. Lawrence Valley Accent, and is heard more on the ground, on the street, than in media.  BUT, if you work in Montréal itself, or if your daily face-to-face dealings are with people who reside on Montréal Island, then you might want to reconsider also training your ear to the Montréal East-End accent – otherwise the Greater Montréal accent should be more than sufficient).

Québec City Accent:

  • Because the Québec City accent is so close and similar to a Standard Québec city accent, I’m not listing it as a separate recommendation, in terms as accent to specifically acquaint yourself with.   For most untrained ears (ie: French as a second language learners), they probably wouldn’t be able to hear the difference between Standard and Québec City.   If you learn Standard Québécois, then you’ll have absolutely no problems with the Québec City accent.

If you concentrate on these two accents (Standard Québécois accent, and the Greater Montréal accent), you basically will be able understand most other accents with relative ease.   If you concentrate only on a Standard Québécois accent, that is also more than OK.  But if you only have an ear for Standard Québécois, you may encounter a degree of difficulty in understanding someone who speaks with a different accent (which, as you can see, comprises a very large percentage of the overall population).   This is because all other accents have similar twists and turns when it comes to how they deviate from Standard Québécois.  Thus, if you develop an ear for one of the non-standard accents (especially the Greater Montréal accent which has the most speakers), it makes it so much easier to navigate your way through other accents when you come across them.

You may be thinking “Good grief!  Now I have to learn two different ways of speaking French!”  Actually, no, that’s not what I’m saying.  On the contrary, learning to speak, read or write international and standard French is sufficient.  Learning to understand spoken standard French is also sufficient.  But taking that simple additional step to develop an ear for a Greater Montréal & Upper St. Lawrence accent (without having to learn how to speak it) will open a whole other world for you, and a huge swatch of your own country.  Consider it a bonus rather than an obligation.   The wonderful thing about learning to understand this accent is that there are easy-access resources which allow you to listen to it anywhere, anytime (pan-Canadian television, movies, live radio, streaming radio and streaming video).    It’s never been easier to pick up an ear for this accent, so why not take advantage of such a great opportunity?

Tomorrow we’ll continue looking at other accents as we move into new regions of the country.