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The Montreal Gazette? Me, I love it!
February 14, 2010 2:23 PM   Subscribe

Anglophone Montrealers open and close lights, fall pregnant, get a coffee, go to vernissages, eat on the terrasse, and get cash at the guichet. Francophone Montreals, if they are lucky, have un chum or une blonde who is not only smooth but also le fun. Basically English (and its three main 'ethnolects' here, British, Jewish, and Italian) and French get all interestingly mixed up.

The Montreal Gazette is the only daily English language newspaper in Montreal. It has a venerable history, only sometimes has typos and proofreading errors everywhere, and is arguably an important part of Montreal anglophone culture.

More exciting and serious news from Montreal today:

Old Montrealers fall in love and have super sweet stories and even older priests.

Montrealers remember the story of Harold Greasley, a Brit who escaped from his Nazi POW camp, and snuck back in, 200 times to rendezvous with his secretly Jewish German girlfriend.
posted by Salamandrous (55 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite

 
Oops, I meant "Francophone MontrealERS". Sorry! ([so:ri:])
posted by Salamandrous at 2:32 PM on February 14, 2010 [2 favorites]


"fall pregnant, get a coffee"

I don't think these are particularly French?
posted by Jahaza at 2:33 PM on February 14, 2010


"fall pregnant" isn't something that an English speaker in the UK would be likely to say, although it isn't entirely unknown, if a google fight between "fall pregnant" and "get pregnant" is to be believed.

"get a coffee" on the other hand sounds perfectly normal to me.

Thanks for the links Salamandrous! As the husband of a French speaker, I shall follow up with interest...
posted by pharm at 2:41 PM on February 14, 2010


I've often heard people say "open/close the lights" here in L'Ontario. I've even had to stop myself a few times from doing so because it made no sense.
posted by Throw away your common sense and get an afro! at 2:45 PM on February 14, 2010


Open / close the circuit.
posted by nathancaswell at 2:50 PM on February 14, 2010


Yes, but you close the circuit to turn the lights on, and open it to turn them off.
posted by Monday, stony Monday at 2:54 PM on February 14, 2010


Oh, yes, Charles Boberg. I don't know if he's changed his methodologies, but there were some clear issues with how he found Jewish anglos initially, and even among the west end Ashkenazi Jews (ignoring Sephardic Jews and Hasids), there have always been two groups who are easily differentiatable by accent. (They can be more or less separated into west end and west island, with Cote St Luc sort of a dividing point.)

For instance, any Jew in the city can hear me talk and know I'm Jewish, but I didn't have whatever things he was looking for in 2001 or so. (I haven't followed his research, and I'm not really that good at phonetics.)

A general page with all the articles (today was 2 in a series of 5), as well as a quiz and a map with people talking is also available.
posted by jeather at 2:54 PM on February 14, 2010 [2 favorites]


Well he didn't specify if open meant on or off, so I was giving them the (probably incorrect) benefit of the doubt.
posted by nathancaswell at 2:55 PM on February 14, 2010


Ah, it's in the article (which I didn't read).
posted by nathancaswell at 2:56 PM on February 14, 2010


I think Salamandrous means "take a coffee" ("Prendre un café"), though I'd assume anyone who said that was francophone until proven otherwise.
posted by ssg at 3:00 PM on February 14, 2010


What are the alternatives to "get a coffee?"
posted by Never teh Bride at 3:01 PM on February 14, 2010


go for (a) coffee. As in "Would you like to get a coffee?" or "Would you like to go for coffee?"
posted by arcticwoman at 3:28 PM on February 14, 2010


From the article:

"Instead of turning off the lights, you close the lights. You have a coffee instead of having coffee. You fall pregnant instead of getting pregnant," he says.


posted by arcticwoman at 3:29 PM on February 14, 2010


I don't know why I'm so obsessed by the coffee acquisition phrasing. I'd suggest getting a coffee. But thinking about it, I'm pretty sure most of the folks I know would suggest "getting coffee." I am not from Montreal, however. It's just suddenly terribly fascinating!
posted by Never teh Bride at 3:59 PM on February 14, 2010


I suspect they also mount stairs and buses.
posted by Decimask at 4:12 PM on February 14, 2010


instead of turning off the lights, you close the lights

well, lots of old-skool anglophones in appalachia say "shut the lights off/shut off the lights" as a voluntary thing, and "the lights got cut off" when the power company does it for you. and then the converse emerges: shut/cut the lights off leads to shut/cut the lights on, which makes even less sense except that the usage wants to follow a prior pattern.

but here's what I want to know - why do some caribbean spanish speakers say (in english) "I took the baby a bath" instead of "gave the baby a bath"?

and where is iamkimiam when I need her? or does she only do sound and not sense?
posted by toodleydoodley at 4:13 PM on February 14, 2010


Tabernacle!

Get de poutine!
posted by bwg at 4:15 PM on February 14, 2010


Yes, but you close the circuit to turn the lights on, and open it to turn them off.

I once found myself saying, "could you please shut the lights back on?" Seemed to make sense at the time.
posted by StickyCarpet at 4:19 PM on February 14, 2010


Bright lights, big city, gone to ma chérie's tête.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 4:37 PM on February 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


Entirely anecdotally, my Ashkenazi grandmother (we're in Australia) uses "open/close the light" -- I wonder if it's a direct translation of the word she might have used in Polish or German? (She speaks both -- I know very little about either language.)
posted by prettypretty at 4:51 PM on February 14, 2010


"Montrealers call their athletic footwear running shoes, while people on the Prairies call them runners and Americans and Maritimers call them sneakers."

"Americans are like this..." Plenty of folks in the U.S. refer to running shoes when they mean athletic footwear generically.

We also use "exposition" to mean "exhibit", this is not a case of a word being used with its French meaning in English. See for instance the Centennial Exposition, Pan-American Exposition, or the 1984 Louisiana World Exposition.
posted by Jahaza at 4:51 PM on February 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


I believe the anglophones go down to the dépanneur (the "fix-it man" or convenience store) for a quart of milk, too.
posted by texorama at 5:33 PM on February 14, 2010


go for (a) coffee. As in "Would you like to get a coffee?" or "Would you like to go for coffee?"


wouldn't that just be the difference between a takeout cup and walking vs. sitting in the cafe?
posted by mannequito at 5:48 PM on February 14, 2010


Decimask no, we don't mount stairs or buses. In French we tend to débarquer from a bus, a word standard French tends to reserve for boats, but we're not directly talking about Quebec French vocabulary today.
posted by zadcat at 6:06 PM on February 14, 2010


texorama: a litre of milk, but yes.

mannequito: No. I would ask somebody if they wanted to get a coffee, meaning sit down and have a chat. It never occurred to me that was odd till I saw the Gazette piece. (Obviously I'd understand "go for coffee" too, but it's not what's tend to say.)
posted by zadcat at 6:09 PM on February 14, 2010


I'd like to add:

eat a brochette everywhere else it's a kabob
order a trio a combo in the rest of canada
order an entrée hey rest of the world, why on earth would an entrée be a main dish? It means opener!

Those are the three that I struggle the most with in Western Canada. On the other hand, it's quite fun ordering jugs of beer and pop.
posted by furtive at 6:57 PM on February 14, 2010


Tabernacle!

You mean tabarnac or the more work appropriate tabarslack.
posted by furtive at 7:01 PM on February 14, 2010


I don't think these are particularly French?

"Get a coffee" is completely unremarkable to me, as a native speaker of American English, but I don't think I've ever heard "fall pregnant." Where does it occur besides Quebec?
posted by magnificent frigatebird at 7:05 PM on February 14, 2010


take a coffee

A similar one that I hear almost every day: "take a decision." I didn't even realize that I'd absorbed it until an American I collaborate with called me out on it.
posted by bonehead at 7:24 PM on February 14, 2010


hey rest of the world, why on earth would an entrée be a main dish?

As far as I know, "entree" as small first course dish is true in UK English, Australia and New Zealand too. USA != rest of world.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 7:32 PM on February 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


Fall pregnant and get a coffee are each entirely normal Australian English.
posted by pompomtom at 7:33 PM on February 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


Incidentally, Montreal also has its own take on shish taouk.
posted by zadcat at 7:39 PM on February 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


"Fall pregnant" is certainly UK English, but hasn't been used much since the sixties.
posted by genghis at 8:36 PM on February 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


How are we going to drink the coffee if we don't get it first? "Go for coffee" just sounds like an awkward encouragement, or like we'd be doing the coffee a favour, or trying to win coffee in a race, which sounds cool and all but I really just wanted to get a coffee and talk about records.
posted by regicide is good for you at 10:55 PM on February 14, 2010


In Toronto I think I would most likely say "Let's (go) get coffee" or "Let's go for coffee".

But I haven't really thought about it much. Plus, the city has people of so many diverse origins that it would be difficult to get a conclusive phrase for the act.
posted by sid at 11:08 PM on February 14, 2010


As far as I know, "entree" as small first course dish is true in UK English, Australia and New Zealand too. USA != rest of world.

Actually, this seems puzzling and something that the poor, benighted Americans have got wrong, but that is not the case.

When French cooking was growing out of its common European roots and becoming the formalised sophisticated art it is today, there developed in France a certain standard sequence of courses for formal meals.

The entree was a light meat course that came after the soup but before the roast meat. In all anglophone and most Western European countries, the standard for a full meal is now 3 courses and obviously there are a number of ways that a 5-14 course programme can be folded into 3 courses.

In much of the world, including France an entrée is now what is called a starter in England and the USA, but this does not mean that the American usage of it is wrong. All this nomenclature comes from a common root, and neither the contemporary French nor the American usage of the word matches its traditional meaning.
posted by atrazine at 12:26 AM on February 15, 2010 [4 favorites]


toodleydoodley: but here's what I want to know - why do some caribbean spanish speakers say (in english) "I took the baby a bath" instead of "gave the baby a bath"?

A similar construct is used in French. "Je lui ai fait prendre son bain", "il a pris son bain" both mean, literally translated, "I had him take his bath" and "he took his bath". Their meaning is actually "I gave him his bath" and "he had a bath", since, being a baby, native English speakers probably wouldn't say he actively "took a bath".

"Prendre une décision" is one that's wormed its way into my English head too... apparently "take a decision" is used in UK English, though. I also caught myself calling something "hyper big" once. Yikes. (Common colloquial French says "grand, super grand, hyper grand", roughly equivalent to "big, very big, and huge". This is also why you can find "hypermarkets" in France, which are larger than "supermarkets".) I've still been able to stop myself from calling anything "cow-ly", thank goodness. ("Vachement", "vache" meaning "cow". "C'était vachement bien !" would be "It was really great!")
posted by fraula at 2:32 AM on February 15, 2010 [2 favorites]


Crap. Vernissage isn't universal?

My wife and I have a long-standing argument over which phrases of mine are universal north american gruel and which are montreal specific rediculisms. This thread is costing me several rounds of this argument.
posted by ~ at 4:35 AM on February 15, 2010


Can we talk for a second about how -ghetti is not an acceptible suffix for for your favorite foodgroup? Are Cesar-ghetti and pizza-ghetti (spaghetti and with salad or pizza, respectively) Montreal-specific or is that a trans-Canadian culinary weirdness? And don't get me started about how they put the pizza toppings under the cheese...
posted by fermezporte at 7:32 AM on February 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


Let's go to the dep and get a two-four.
posted by Vindaloo at 7:34 AM on February 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


Very surprised to hear that pizza with "the works" is a Maritime thing. Huh.
posted by Space Coyote at 7:43 AM on February 15, 2010


I had a friend from Quebec who referred to my "short sleeve pants". Classic.
posted by crazylegs at 8:18 AM on February 15, 2010 [3 favorites]


The way to spot an Anglo who didn't grow up here is the street-names: the "Renee-Leveck" people are newer than the Dorchester people... The "Sane-Lowren" people newer than the St.Lawrence people, etc...
posted by ServSci at 9:01 AM on February 15, 2010


C'était vachement bien.

vachement FTW
posted by toodleydoodley at 9:40 AM on February 15, 2010


I close the lights all the time. My roommate, who learned British English in Pakistan, thought it was weird. But we was always looking for the basin.

Funny that Americans never know what a washroom is.
posted by paulschreiber at 10:36 AM on February 15, 2010


Funny that Americans never know what a washroom is.

try asking for the lavatory
posted by toodleydoodley at 10:41 AM on February 15, 2010


Is this the thread where I can share a few of my favourite quebecois phrases? I think it must be.

I like the phrase "check ça", meaning look at (verify?) that. Another nice one is "je catch pas" for "I don't understand".

When one of my students found out I spoke French, he said "OK, on va se watcher". He might have been taking the piss or having a linguistic crosswire moment, however.
posted by the cat's pyjamas at 12:44 PM on February 15, 2010 [2 favorites]


The "Sane-Lowren" people newer than the St.Lawrence people, etc...

I don't think it was ever called St. Lawrence. You can call it "the Main" if you want to be old school, but I've never heard anyone but clueless anglos pronounce it Lawrence.

In 1792, the British officially recognized Saint-Laurent Road as the division between the east and west halves of the city.
posted by ssg at 1:08 PM on February 15, 2010 [3 favorites]


clueless anglos

Well, I wasn't aware we ever let historical facts get in the way of internecine linguistic squabbling.
posted by ServSci at 3:53 PM on February 15, 2010


FWIW, se watcher is indeed used in the sense your student used: "Fallait que j'me watche, le boss était là"; "Son père est dans police; j'me watchais en hostie quand j'allais là".
posted by Monday, stony Monday at 4:17 PM on February 15, 2010


I was tickled by this article for me personally too. I grew up with a mix of languages and accents so it's always a bit of a relief when I realize that certain things I say are actually standard somewhere.

don't think it was ever called St. Lawrence. You can call it "the Main" if you want to be old school, but I've never heard anyone but clueless anglos pronounce it Lawrence.

My dad grew up in that neighborhood and he alternates between the Main and St. Lawrence depending on context. He would never say, 'oh yeah, the address is 3737 the Main'.

This language article was my favorite, which was why I led with it. But the Harold Greasley story is very cool too and definitely worth reading!
posted by Salamandrous at 6:29 PM on February 15, 2010


la Métafilter: vachement bien !
posted by Cogito at 5:06 PM on February 16, 2010


This being MetaFilter, I have to point out that I've very rarely encoutered vachement in my years of living in Montreal as a native French speaker. And most of the time I heard it, it was used with a mock French accent.
posted by Monday, stony Monday at 10:24 PM on February 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


"Close the lights" is normal Brooklyn-Italian, along with cutting with "a scissor" (instead of a pair of scissors), and "Bring that upstairs" (instead of "take it upstairs").
posted by Goofyy at 6:29 AM on February 17, 2010


Thanks for the clarification, Monday, stony Monday.

The Harold Greasly story is quite a read, Salamandrous; I guess it got a little bit lost in the lovin' for Montreal's linguistic salad. And the Valentine's series of stories were terribly sweet.

Noël says he's so happy in life right now that he sometimes doesn't want to go to sleep. He and Marie-Rose rarely go to bed before midnight.

Marie-Rose says, "He goes to bed wearing nothing, and he wakes up wearing nothing."

Noël says, "I tell her, 'How about we take some time in the morning, and stay in each other's arms.' "

It's called the power of suggestion; it's also called foreplay.

"Hey, it works," says Noël. "But you both have to be open to it. Listen, Marie-Rose had 57 years of experience with her first husband. And I had 55 years of experience with my first wife. So we know what it is all about."

posted by the cat's pyjamas at 2:13 PM on February 17, 2010


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