une vache à thé
Literally ‘a tea cow,’ this is an unfortunate bovine who gives so meager a volume of milk that it would only be sufficient to add milk to one cup of tea. It also refers to a human being who is not competent to complete a defined task.
There is a famous, rather bland, French cheese named The Laughing Cow. Were it une vache à thé it might have to undergo a change of name.
Some Direct Borrowings
from Canadian English
to Québec French
These anglicisms are heard currently in Québec.
to vomit, borrowed from English slang
to boss others around, to behave “as if you own the joint”
Une cédule is from schedule. Cédule is a Québec synonym for the more formal continental French noun, un horaire.
This derives from the English phrase ‘bad luck.’ It means to have missed the boat, to be a loser, or, in a French synonym, malchanceux.
To give something or one a kick, un coup de pied.
This direct borrowing of to watch means ‘to keep an eye on’ or garder à l'oeil.
From English ‘to punch’ this Québec slang verb means ‘to give someone the big five right in the kisser, donner un coup de poing.
From English 60s hippie slang, je trippe ‘I am tripping out, dude!’
Avoir énormément de plaisir might be a synonymous expression.
This term is heard at Québec hockey games to refer to the hockey puck, heard far more often than the more formal word : rondelle de hockey.
Des Autres Expressions Québécoises Modernes
To speak really bad English, parler anglais comme une vache espagnole, to garble English, to speak with a great deal of difficulty.
to go shopping, faire des achats, from magasin ‘store.’
The Québec term for ‘bullfrog’ begins with an Iroquois word for this amphibian, wah-wah, a word that imitates the vibrant, leathery basso of the bullfrog. Added as a suffix is a common French augmentative –on, so that ouaouaron literally means ‘big frog.’ The infixed /r/ is euphonic, that is, it makes the word easier for a French speaker to pronounce.
Québec Pillow Talk
One may utter these tender terms of affection in a throaty whisper to one’s lover, taking account of her or his sex —or not.
Mon pitou, ma pitoune, mon minou, ma minoune, mon b'bé, mon pitte, mon coco, ma cocotte, mon chou, mon chouchou, ma chouchoune, ma belle chouette, ma poupoune, ma poune, mon toutou, ma toutoune, mon pitchounet, ma pitchounette, ti-gars, fifille, mon beau bonhomme, mon homme, mon ti-nomme
un senteux de pet
Fart-sniffer is an abusive insulting term for a male ‘homosexual’ in Québec French. Fart-catcher in English usually refers to a cringing yes-man, a lickspittle toady following some politician like a panting lapdog.
ça sent le petit canard la patte cassée!
Literally: That smells like the little duck with the injured foot. In other words, that smells bad. The implication is, I think, that the wee duckling has been kept inside until its little webbed foot heals, and that it has been merrily dropping duck doodoo all over the woodshed floor.
Literally “a smells-like-shit.” This is a person, often a young worker, who is lazy, suspicious or a miserable son-of-a-bitch, and one in whom you, as employer or superior, ought to have no confidence whatsoever.
Sample sentence: Ne fais pas confiance à ce gars-là, c’est un sent-la-marde. ‘Don’t trust that guy. He’s a fuck-up.’
This is a nasty insult directed at a gay person in Québec.
A little boy, begging for a fist fight in a Montréal schoolyard might yell at his young opponent, “Mais t’es rien qu’un fif.” ‘You are nothing but a big fag!’ After such a grievous putdown, there is no choice except to belt that kid a good one and give him a raccoon eye.
Fif and its alternative form fifi entered continental French from a Swiss German verb pfeifer literally ‘to whistle, to play a pipe, to play a flute.’ Toodling on a tiny tin flute or pipe was not considered the macho job for a soldier, and so the piper’s masculinity was often called into doubt. There are various phallic puns lurking in this term also, all referring to fellatio. In older English, German, and French, several expressions meaning ‘to play the flute’ were vulgar synonyms for ‘to fellate.’
Copyright © 2012 William Gordon Casselman
French Canadian Translation Services
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