Tabarnak! Tabarnak!
May 27, 2016 11:01 AM   Subscribe

 
catalan does pretty much the same thing, it is v satisfying. did i know i was not speaking regular everyday euro spanish when i realized how delightful it was to bellow OSTIA when stepping on a phone charger? no, no i did not.
posted by poffin boffin at 11:07 AM on May 27, 2016 [3 favorites]


Laurent Paquin has this topic covered.
posted by Killick at 11:26 AM on May 27, 2016 [4 favorites]


The sacres is the group of Catholic swears unique to Québec. There are many of them; the most popular are probably tabarnak (tabernacle), osti or hostie or estie (host, the bread used during communion), câlisse (chalice), ciboire (the container that holds the host), and sacrament (sacrament).

I remember getting involved in a discussion on this topic when Mad Men S7 Ep 1 & 2 "A Little Kiss" first aired. Megan Draper uses the swear word "câlisse." The character Megan is French-Canadian. Here is the video - Jessica Paré (Megan) lâche un «câlisse» bien senti dans Mad Men.

Here is a short Slate article from about the time that episode aired.
posted by cwest at 11:26 AM on May 27, 2016 [3 favorites]


This is so validating. I grew up in Lewiston Maine, with my mom's side of the family as French-Canadian Catholic as you can get, and this is totally how everyone swore. I've been able to replace my everyday American vulgarities with fake swears around my kid, but I have never been able to curb the religious swears that just live somewhere deep in my brain. I always thought tabarnak and crisse de tabarnak were like the pinnacle of the most swearing-est of swears, to be deployed on very special occasions.
posted by banjo_and_the_pork at 11:27 AM on May 27, 2016 [10 favorites]


Quebec swears were one of the neatest things about living there. Especially since English swears have practically none of the same baggage.
posted by Kitteh at 11:27 AM on May 27, 2016 [1 favorite]


Sacrebleu!

Does that actually mean anything?
posted by slogger at 11:30 AM on May 27, 2016 [1 favorite]


Megan Draper uses the swear word "câlisse."

It's especially satisfying, as you can drag out the 'a' at length, depending on your level of exasperation.
posted by Capt. Renault at 11:31 AM on May 27, 2016 [11 favorites]


Oh yay! I recall learning a lot of these when I was in junior high; my French teacher was Quebecois, as were most of the French-speakers in southern NH.
posted by Greg Nog at 11:34 AM on May 27, 2016 [2 favorites]




Correction. "A Little Kiss" is from S5, not S7. (For any Mad Men-ologists who might be reading this.)
posted by cwest at 11:40 AM on May 27, 2016


Yay! Learned mine in the Canadian Army, so much more fun than the standard English 4-letter word.
posted by Mogur at 11:41 AM on May 27, 2016


Sacrebleu!

It's roughly the same as "goshdarn" ---old-fashioned and really mild, and a goof on "harsher" language (sacre dieu). You sometimes hear the remains as a monosylabic "sac". I don't know that I've heard anyone actually use the full phrase in real speech.
posted by bonehead at 11:44 AM on May 27, 2016 [6 favorites]


When living in Montreal, I often heard the variant "tabarnouche"
posted by tingting at 11:44 AM on May 27, 2016 [4 favorites]


Has any first language speaker ever said Zut Alors? Because that's the only "swear" taught to Anglo students in Ontario French classes and I'm pretty sure it's not a thing.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 11:55 AM on May 27, 2016 [2 favorites]


Sorry, I would have typed this sooner, but my keyboard est fuckée.
posted by Think_Long at 11:56 AM on May 27, 2016 [9 favorites]


When Quebecois visit Mexico the French religious swearing genuinely frightens the earnest Catholic, and superstitious, Mexicans. In Mexico, Quebecois are known as El Tabernacos, which is adorable.
posted by little eiffel at 11:58 AM on May 27, 2016 [31 favorites]


Has any first language speaker ever said Zut Alors? Because that's the only "swear" taught to Anglo students in Ontario French classes and I'm pretty sure it's not a thing.

We learned "ça craint," but I don't think anything else.
posted by Navelgazer at 12:02 PM on May 27, 2016


«L'ordinateur ne fonctionne plus.»
«Hein?»
«Le computer est fucké, hostie.»
«Ah.»
posted by ODiV at 12:12 PM on May 27, 2016 [24 favorites]


The film Bon Cop, Bad Cop, which is basically Canadian Lethal Weapon, covers this exquisitely.
posted by bl1nk at 12:18 PM on May 27, 2016 [8 favorites]


My husband is French Canadian; French is his first language. I'm American but speak passable Parisian French. We can usually understand one another but have had some amusing (in hindsight) disagreements about language. Like, for example, what the proper French word for 'sock' is (I say chaussette, he says bas.)

He rarely busts out the cursing except in the event of a catastrophic fuckup. One afternoon we were working in our motorcycle shop; Francois was in the back working on a bike and I was at the front counter with a customer. We heard a loud clunk from the workshop, immediately followed by a string of vivid French Canadian cursing. The customer said, "you speak French, right? What's he saying?"

"He's cursing a blue streak."

"Really? Like what words is he saying?"

"You wouldn't believe me if I told you."
posted by workerant at 12:19 PM on May 27, 2016 [20 favorites]


Sacrebleu
Does that actually mean anything?


I think the literal reference is to the blue robes Mary is often depicted wearing, thus sacred blue clothes worn by the mother of god.
posted by chapps at 12:20 PM on May 27, 2016


I had an anglo Montreal friend who could say these long french swears in a way that sounded like a bland english phrase. It was "spectacle" (my other fave Quebec expression) !/em>
posted by chapps at 12:22 PM on May 27, 2016 [1 favorite]


Atlas Obscura covered things quite nicely, but I'll add a few points (previously - yes, I repeat myself).

1 - "Merde" is more commonly pronounced "marde". I learned this specific word not from my quick-tempered francophone Dad, but from my gentle anglophone Mom. She never swore in English -- if she dropped something on the floor, she said "sugar", not "shit" -- but she would tell her small children to "Mange la marde!" when we finally got on her last nerve (otherwise known as 11 AM). This page rings the changes on the uses of "marde". (The entire site is awesome.)

2 - The Archdiocese of Montréal had to put up billboards a few years ago to teach locals the literal meaning of words like "tabernacle". I marde you not.

3 - The next level after "fucké" is "C'est ben fucké, ça"
posted by maudlin at 12:23 PM on May 27, 2016 [14 favorites]


Yes French swears are way more fun. I think there are allowances made for this in many workplaces. In a lot of public service office jobs I held while living in Ottawa, it seemed like my French Canadian coworkers peppered nearly every sentence with these swear words and no one made anything of it. It just seemed normal. I don't think it's really taken as the equivalent of dropping f-bombs all day, in Ottawa at least.
posted by Hoopo at 12:41 PM on May 27, 2016


I was at the Canadian wedding of ethnic Italians who had been settled in Montréal for a couple of generations. I was amused to hear a spate of angry Italian from a female member of the family followed by an explosive, "Sacramenti!" (I've no idea what prompted it). I wondered then if this was strictly Italian swearing, knowing that Romance language swearing leans heavily on religion, or whether it was Italian via Québécois?
posted by angiep at 12:48 PM on May 27, 2016 [1 favorite]


Newly arrived French person: "Qu'est-ce que ca veut dire câlisser?" (What does "calisser" means?, and I seriously doubt the ^ was pronounced)
Me: Ca veut dire crisser avec force. (It means "crisser" strongly)

In retrospect not the clearest explanation, this was in the 90s before YouTube could teach you this :)

I like the fact that you can basically string them together endlessly until you're not mad anymore.

And f-bombs don't mean much the french speakers here and are used very liberally, so I always seems like an very rude person when I'm with anglophones since I use them all the time.
posted by coust at 1:09 PM on May 27, 2016 [2 favorites]


Qu'est-ce que ca veut dire câlisser?

N'est ce pas la femme du khal?
posted by ODiV at 1:12 PM on May 27, 2016 [11 favorites]


In 1988, in rural France, a stout little man said "Zut alors!" out of real frustration...and we fell about the place as he hurried away on some paperwork errand.
posted by wenestvedt at 1:26 PM on May 27, 2016 [1 favorite]


@banjo_and_the_pork -- I grew up across the river in Auburn, and even though there weren't as many Francophones, we all knew exactly how to get away with yelling "Tabarnak!" in school so you wouldn't get in trouble with the teachers.
posted by briank at 1:36 PM on May 27, 2016 [1 favorite]


"La doorbell est fuckée" is just delightful. Three cheers for linguistic hybridity!

And this piece is great--I recently learned about sacres thanks to a fanfic story I happened across, and have been wanted to know more about them ever since.

(also this information may retroactively explain some confusing exchanges with two Québécois anti-war activists I knew back in 2002-3....)
posted by karayel at 1:41 PM on May 27, 2016


Shout Calvaire! if you really want to turn it up a notch. That's a monument to the cross of Jesus and the two thieves and although casual swearing in Quebec is pretty well accepted I've even had people in the army scold me for the casual use of calvaire.
posted by furtive at 1:44 PM on May 27, 2016 [2 favorites]


I'm stunned to learn that "swears" is a noun.
posted by storybored at 1:48 PM on May 27, 2016 [6 favorites]


According to my eight-year old -- who nearly whispers it -- it sure is.
posted by wenestvedt at 1:59 PM on May 27, 2016 [1 favorite]


my favourite is hearing francophones combine anglo and franco swears, tabernacmotherfucker or cocksuckingchalice
posted by PinkMoose at 2:05 PM on May 27, 2016 [4 favorites]


Graffiti in Québec which roughly translates to "We don't give a fuck about the special law (Bill 78)".
This appears beneath a photo of graffiti reading On s'en calisse la loi speciale. Back in Grade 9 French, M. Leman taught me that on constructions are generally equivalent to the passive voice in in English (On parle francais ici = "French spoken here") so I reckon this more like a, "a fuck is not given about the special law." I like this.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 2:56 PM on May 27, 2016


M. Leman is right for Parisian French or cultured Canadian French, but in popular contexts, "on" is really used as a substitute for "we" (and "nous" [first person plural] is almost never used).

"Bleu", as in sacrebleu, morbleu, etc. is really a corruption of "Dieu" (god); I've never heard it said by a French Canadian, except maybe ironically.
posted by Monday, stony Monday at 3:17 PM on May 27, 2016 [5 favorites]


On dit "on".
posted by sneebler at 4:24 PM on May 27, 2016 [2 favorites]


My understanding has been that "On" is etymologically very similar to "One" in the English use (e.g. "One does not simply walk into Mordor") but that the two languages, particularly in Quebec French, went in opposite directions in terms of which one is normally used and which one is less common and feels more stilted and formal.
posted by Navelgazer at 4:49 PM on May 27, 2016


When Quebecois visit Mexico the French religious swearing genuinely frightens the earnest Catholic, and superstitious, Mexicans. In Mexico, Quebecois are known as El Tabernacos, which is adorable

If you learned this in Playa del Carmen, someone was lying to you, sorry. The term was made up there as a joke. 'Nacos' is a despective term for rude and ignorant people. Like the ones that think that Mexican Catholics are so earnest and superstitious that a little Québécois swearing frightens them.

A friend's grandpa would scream while watching futbol on TV 'Me cago en la Ostia'. Grandma would answer 'Mientras no te cagues en el sillón, cagate donde quieras.'
posted by Doroteo Arango II at 5:16 PM on May 27, 2016 [6 favorites]


Sorry, my Spanish is poor, but "when He's not fucking you in that easy chair, He's fucking you wherever He wants"?
posted by TheNewWazoo at 7:45 PM on May 27, 2016


my favourite is hearing francophones combine anglo and franco swears, tabernacmotherfucker or cocksuckingchalice

I've heard bilingual kids in Ottawa say, "tabar-fucking-nac".
posted by Multicellular Exothermic at 9:53 PM on May 27, 2016 [6 favorites]


In France, a car would be referred to as a voiture, maybe an auto. In Québec, it's a char, an ancient word coming from the same root as the word "chariot."

Haha! Imagine calling a car after a word that comes from the same root as "chariot"!

You know, like the English word "car" does.
posted by Joe in Australia at 3:48 AM on May 28, 2016 [2 favorites]


I swear in Québécois because my kids don't pick that up and repeat it. Also after a childhood of being upbraided regularly for letting one fly, it feels hilariously good.
(I've heard plenty of 'French' people say 'zut alors' but when I've replied, 'ouais, c'est b'en proprent dans'l'câlisse la.' Then I get the funny looks. You have to try it out to really appreciate how far Québécois is grammatically from 'French' Also how remarkably snotty some French are when they realize you aren't speaking according to l' académie...)
posted by From Bklyn at 8:05 AM on May 28, 2016 [3 favorites]


Sorry, my Spanish is poor, but "when He's not fucking you in that easy chair, He's fucking you wherever He wants"?

"IM POOPIN ON THE HOST"

"as long as you're not poopin in that chair you can poop wherever you want bro"
posted by poffin boffin at 8:52 AM on May 28, 2016


When merde / poutain just doesn't suffice, there is absolutely no substitute for a guttural "caw-lissss."

Only when I'm supremely mad does the French Canadian come out. That's your sign shits gettin real.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 12:15 PM on May 28, 2016 [2 favorites]


One of my earliest recollections of hearing "tabernak!" Appears in this amazingly insulting video, which I guess is an ad (spoofing the Molson 'I am Canadian' campaign) for an Anglo radio station in Montreal.

I am floored every time I see it. What's the story on this?
posted by nothing.especially.clever at 4:00 PM on May 28, 2016 [1 favorite]


"IM POOPIN ON THE HOST"

"as long as you're not poopin in that chair you can poop wherever you want bro"
posted by poffin boffin
oh my god, guys

:-O

this entire time

my panamanian friend

hasn't been FUCKING [your] mother

he's been POOPING on her!

¡me cago en tu madre!
posted by TheNewWazoo at 7:36 PM on May 28, 2016


What's the story on this?

Looks like there's a story in the description of the video you linked, not sure if you're looking for more, but you could email the guy.
posted by ODiV at 8:39 PM on May 28, 2016 [2 favorites]


When we shoot francophone Québecois kids for educational TV shows, we have to edit out all the F-words. To them, the F-word is barely a curse word, and no one has scolded them for using it. They'd never dream of saying "tabarnak!" on TV, though.
posted by HighLowKitty at 9:15 AM on May 29, 2016 [1 favorite]


My understanding has been that "On" is etymologically very similar to "One" in the English use...

I think that was my understanding too, but after a (long) while I learned that it's the "ons" part of "nous verbons". So, nous parlons --> on parle. On vas, etc.

My wife says, "colinne" instead of "calisse".
posted by sneebler at 5:11 PM on May 29, 2016


According to the TLF, "on" came from the use of "homo" as an indefinite pronoun in Latin.
posted by Monday, stony Monday at 6:58 PM on May 29, 2016 [1 favorite]


2 - The Archdiocese of Montréal had to put up billboards a few years ago to teach locals the literal meaning of words like "tabernacle". I marde you not.

A Montreal teacher relative of mine recalls taking highschoolers on a field trip to some church or cathedral, and the students could not suppress their laughter at the seemingly vile filth that spewed from the priest's mouth as he calmly described the various religious objects around them.
posted by Kabanos at 10:51 AM on May 30, 2016 [2 favorites]


my favourite is hearing francophones combine anglo and franco swears, tabernacmotherfucker or cocksuckingchalice.

My father, who grew up among Franco-Ontarians up north, was fond of 'Tabarnak on toast!' as a mild curse. But I don't know if that was a mashup coined by anglos or french.
posted by Kabanos at 11:05 AM on May 30, 2016 [1 favorite]


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