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Off topic: The grammar of Quebec profane speech. :-)
Thread poster: Michael Barnett

Michael Barnett
Local time: 18:00
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Feb 1, 2007

A recent Quebec made film, "Bon Cop, Bad Cop" takes the form of a "Lethal Weapon" style action film, but is really a hilarious cultural satire. Epithets in Joual, the dialect of Quebec, all refer to Catholic sacramental objects.
Here is an excerpt from the film:

An explanation follows:

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Local time: 18:00
Member (2002)
French to English
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Tabarnouche ! Feb 1, 2007

Tabarouette, tabarnique, tabaslac..

“Tabernacle” can become just “tabar” to avoid too much offense.

I've had this discussion many times, naturally with my English Canadian (adult) students as well as my distant cousins in France.

It's a source of never-ending wonder... The article mentions how these words are used to replace any part of speech, for emphasis. Very colourful! Back in the Stone Age, when I worked in a restaurant to pay my way through University, I had the chance to observe a temper trantrum thrown by a Gatineau Quebec cook towards his Ontario Anglo colleague (the restaurant was in Ottawa, across the river from Gatineau, where our hero lived). The day shift was Québécois, the night shift English Canadian. It seems the night shift had done something wrong the night before and left the mess to the day shift.

In any restaurant, there is tension between the two shifts regardless of their origin, and a restaurant kitchen is the scene of many a heated argument (If you can't stand the heat, stay out of the kitchen!) However this Québécois day cook vented his frustration against his uncooperative colleagues by attacking their ethnicity: "Hostie de tatas de colisse d'anglais de tabarnac ! Y font toute à l'envers c'monde-là! Y mangent du poisson pour déjeuner pis des oeufs au souper, crisse d'arriérés !" How colourful is that, I mean, considering the fact that this man was no linguist? Let me add that whatever the frustration was that day, it was resolved with some strong language but no knives or dishes were thrown.

Just to add to the mix, a cook from Grenoble, recently arrived to our snowy shores, taught everybody how to swear in français de France, as well, so customers seated near the kitchen were treated to some spicy interjections: "Pu-tain!"

The unfortunate aspect of this movie is that it suggests to viewers that the language depicted is our lingua franca. I've heard Europeans and Canadian English speakers alike comment to me that Québec French is slang and not "real" French. Not true! Enjoy the movie, sure. But that's not the language we use in our boardrooms and the Assemblée Nationale! To imply that we do is tantamount to saying that American English is "rap" language.

Thanks, Michael, for this bit of entertainment.


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ViktoriaG  Identity Verified
Local time: 18:00
English to French
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Mosusse Feb 2, 2007

As if I didn't already know (and use) enough religious swear words, I just learned that, unbeknownst to me, I was using one more of those. I have just learned about the etymology of the word mosusse (pronounced more or less: mose-iss). Many of the people here, in Quebec, believe it is a variant of the word maudit - meaning "cursed", another religious swear word. However, I just found a document that suggests this word evolved from the English pronunciation of the name of the prophet Moses! Here, we have an example of a religious word that was not only used to create a swear word, it was also based on an English word - that only francophones use now under its swear form! I bet this has to do with the period in the history of Quebec when the Refus global came along...

I am not the least religious, so it doesn't bother me personally that religious words are used as curse words. I love it, since to me, it is not nearly as vulgar as sex-related words. Little children don't need to know about how babies are made, and this helps to not overexpose them to subjects best acquainted when you are at a certain age. However, these religious swear words have at least as much effect as their anglophone counterparts, nonetheless.

All the best, câliboire!

Here is a link to a PDF (sorry, it's in French) explaining many different linguistic particularities of the way French is spoken in Quebec. Please, don't take the criticism too personal - the document was written by someone from France It is a very interesting read!

[Edited at 2007-02-02 01:46]

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The grammar of Quebec profane speech. :-)

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