Can I Borrow Your Tuque if I Loan you My Toast?


Photo credits: Mark Rostrup

We all have a native language; a mother tongue introduced to us from birth. And while you may have grown up speaking, thinking and reading your first language, have you ever stopped to think how many of its words don’t actually belong to it? A quick Google search will tell you that a load word is ‘A word adopted from a foreign language with little or no modification’ but what it doesn’t say is how many of them exist in almost every language across the globe.

Montreal, where two official languages (one for the province and another for the country) live side by side,is no exception. Little wonder then, a little borrowing happens from time to time.  The result is a unique incorporation of words between the French and English languages. If you’re new to Montreal or even if you’re not, here are just a few terms you may have heard spoken in a wrong language (or is it the right language? I don’t know anymore. You decide!)

Metro:  Starting with the obvious. The underground train system of Montreal is known as the Metro both English and French.  Use the correct term subway and it’s a dead giveaway you’re not a local.

Dep: Short for the French term dépanneur which comes from the verb dépanner, meaning “to help out of difficulty”.  To the rest of English speaking Canada, it’s known as a corner or convenience store, selling everything from lottery tickets and cigarettes to alcohol and snacks.

Cegep: This is actually an acronym for ‘Collège d’enseignement général et professionnel’ and is basically Quebec’s version of post-secondary education or college.

Terasse: Said with a French pronunciation, Anglophones often use this word instead of terrace when looking for a bar to drink at with friends in the summer which has an outdoor space, tables and chairs.

Tuque: A Quebecois term for a knit or wool cap usually with a pom-pom on top. Much needed head protection from Canada’s wonderful winter weather.

Toast: Instead of using the French term ‘roties’, the Quebecois have decided to say toast. Either way, they taste the same.

Job: Quebecois will still say ‘travail’ but don’t be surprised to hear the word job slip into a French conversation.

Party:This one is pretty straight forward and obvious.

Tune: Pronounced as ‘toune’, it basically means song. Just make sure you play good ones at your party whether they’re in French or English.

Live: Not exactly a loanword according to the official definition since its usage in Quebecois slang is different than the original meaning.  However, its trendiness makes it noteworthy. It’s used by 20something and under to mean ‘now’ as in ‘on fait ça live’ let’s do it now.



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