day 25 – those french canadians talk funny
When I was a kid, I grew up in an English household in a French village outside of Montreal. In that little village, all day long, people would talk funny and say strange sentences like “Monday, y va falloir que t’ailles au dépanneur changer quat’ trente-sous pour une piasse.” My 4-year old brain could not compute what was being said. Why did they have to go to the corner store on Monday? Where was this mysterious 30-cent coin they spoke of? What was a piasse?
By high school, I’d begun to grasp the fine subtleties of the language, the intricate merging of English into French, the Québécois patois. Monday in this instance is not Monday at all. No, ladies and gentleman. It sounds like Monday but in fact, it is short for mon idée, as in “my idea” or in my opinion.
Indeed, things aren’t always what they seem in French Canadian. For example “dewow” is not meant to represent awe, amazement, Le Wow! It is, quite simply, the French word dehors for outside as said by my grand-ma, sometimes with her teeth in, sometimes without, in which case the ‘d’ was a little muffled but the whole word was phonetically wrong anyways so it didn’t make much of a difference. Bless her soul.
A while back, in a Nablopomo of yore, I wrote a post on funny little expressions the Québécois use. Seeing as there are so many indigenous French Canadian expressions, I couldn’t possibly sum them up in one post and so today, I present to you “Expressions Part Deux: En bon Québécois”.
Gelée comme une crotte
Literal translation: Frozen like a little poo
Meaning: Have you ever seen dog poo on the sidewalk in the winter? It becomes as hard as a hockey puck. That’s how cold it gets in Québec. We freeze like little poo pellets.
How to use it: I can see there’s a meter of snow outside but is it cold? J’suis gelée comme une crotte, osti!
Etre dans les patates
Literal translation: Being in the potatoes
Meaning: In a state of confusion. Not knowing what you’re talking about.
How to use it: If someone says to you: “Mercury is the biggest planet in the solar system.” You can let them know they are “being in the potatoes” with a simple T’es din patates, man!
J’ai mon voyage
Literal translation: I have my trip
Meaning: Expressing awe or exasperation or both at the same time, if you fancy. The English equivalent might be “Shut! Up!” Or, “I’m fed up! I’ve had enough of this s$@%”.
How to use it: Sarah is dancing naked in the village fountain again. J’ai mon voyage.
Assis-toi sur ton steak
Literal translation: Sit on your steak
Meaning: Sit your butt down and take it easy/shut up. The “sit down” bit is clear and it can take on a different meaning depending on tone and circumstance. The steak part, however, is totally whack and makes no sense what-so-ever.
How to use it: “Come in, come in. Assis-toi sur ton steak. I’ll grab you a beer and some ketchup chips.” Or alternatively “Come in young lady. Assis-toi sur ton steak. We need to have a serious talk about your poutine addiction.”
Mange un char de marde
Literal translation: Eat a car full o crap
Meaning: In Québec, we don’t just tell people to eat shit, we tell them to eat a whole car full of it. We’re classy that way.
How to use it: Use as needed.
Je cogne des clous
Literal translation: I’m hammering nails
Meaning: I’m tired. The expression refers to when you fall asleep and your head starts knocking and how it resembles the action of a hammer hitting a nail.
How to use it: I have to pull over and grab a large double double at Timmy’s, je cogne des clous.
Tomber dans les pommes
Literal translation: Falling in the apples.
Meaning: Fainting/ losing consciousness.
How to use it: Can you believe the Montreal Canadians won the Stanley Cup? My God! Jai faillis tombé dans’ pommes.
J’ai les yeux dans’ graisse de binnes
Literal translation: My eyes are in the bean lard
Meaning: Expression of fatigue.
How to use it: What time did you get home from the hockey game last night? 2 heure du mat. J’ai les yeux dans’ graisse de binnes.
Péter de la broue / Péter plus haut que le trou
Literal translation: Farting foam, froth, bubbles or farting higher than the hole (I’ll leave you to infer that one)
Meaning: Being pretentious, a show off or the kind of person who loves to hear the sound of their own voice. In other words, people who think their shit don’t stink.
How to use it: For example, if someone goes on and on about their collection of vintage Hermès bags, you might say:“Non mais, c’est une vraie péteuse de broue celle-là avec ses maudits sacs Hermès”
Literal translation: Ayoye!
Meaning: Ouch! or Wow! Not so much a word as an exclamation.
How to use it: “You won the robot dance competition? Ayoye!” = Wow! “Ayoye! J’ai cogné mon pinky sur la boîte à bois.” = Ouch!
And my personal favourite:
Swing la bacaisse dans l’fond d’la boîte à bois
Literal translation: Swing the “back ease” at the bottom of the wood box
Meaning: The “back ease” is like a tarp used to transport wood logs in from outside. The expression is meant as an invitation for the person who just came in from the wood shed to drop their load and join the party. It’s like the do-si-do of square dancing except in the tradition of call and response songs (an old folk custom in Québec).
How to use it: Next time you sing a call and response song, just throw a little Swing la bacaisse dans l’fond d’la boîte à bois in there. The great thing about it is you can say it anywhere and it’ll sound good.
P.S. “Monday, y va falloir que t’ailles au dépanneur changer quat’ trente-sous pour une piasse,” means “I think you’re going to have to go to the corner store to change those four quarters for a dollar”. Why they say 30 cents for something that is worth 25 cents, I will never know.