TV5 on Canadian French expressions

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Readers might find this page to be interesting, a list of 15 Canadian French expressions. I can't vouch for their actual usefulness or lack thereof, but the possible etymologies explained there are quite interesting. I'll mention the history of a few but there's more information on the page itself in French. Some of these seem like folk or uncertain etymologies.


Se prendre pour le boss des bécosses - to act like one is the boss, but an expression insulting the person acting this way as bécosse comes from back house, or an outhouse. Big fish in a small pond perhaps?

C'est quétaine - it's ugly, boring, etc. Apparently something to do with a family with a surname similar to this but seems a bit uncertain.

Se tirer une bûche - to pull up a chair, literally a log. This one is quite easy - logs serve well as makeshift chairs during colonial times and the word bûche kept this meaning, just like plume (feather) for pen.

Avoir des bidous - to have money. Apparently comes from a type of money used in northern France until the 17th century.

Être un pissou - be afraid of everything.

Pogner les nerfs - have a temper tantrum.

Être habillé comme la chienne à Jaques - to have weird style. The page says this comes from a man who dressed his dog in any clothing he could find to help it survive the cold winter.

Avoir la falle basse - to look depressed, dejected.

Être aux oiseaux - to be extremely happy, ecstatic. Être aux anges is the way to say this in standard French, and angels was changed to birds in Quebec.

Passer la nuit sur la corde à linge - to have a sleepless night. Corde à ligne is a clothesline, so this signifies a person that looks like clothes that have spent the night on the line being blown to and fro until the morning. In standard French this is passer une nuit blanche.

Avoir l'air magané - to be in poor condition, either people or objects. Mahaignier in ancient French meant injured or crippled.

Courir la galipote - go on romantic adventures. Used to refer to witchery and galipote was a shapeshifter or werewolf.

Attache ta tuque avec de la broche - kind of like "hold on to your toque, it's going to get rough."

Parler à travers son chapeau - talking through your hat. Same as in English, to talk about something you don't know much about as if you were an expert.

Se lâcher lousse - lousse here is from English loose, and means to let yourself go and enjoy, to do whatever you want. Let yourself loose.

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