I know, I know, I just took a week off, but I’m going to do it again. I have some vacation time to use up, and the Republican convention seemed an excellent time to get out of town. So I’m going to Montreal tomorrow, spurred by Beth‘s mouth-watering reports on her visits there. I may visit an internet cafe, but don’t expect to hear from me until next weekend. Explore the blogroll and archives and talk amongst yourselves while I see whether my rusty Parisian French is up to the challenge of québécois. A bientôt!


  1. dungbeattle says

    Good Luck, Glad ye did not wait til January, the thermal long John weather.

  2. Aw, câlisse, I envy you. I’ve always wanted to see Montréal, tabarnak. 😉

  3. Estsi colis, perhaps?
    Have fun. I’d suggest good food places, but I can’t think of them offhand.
    Your Parisien French won’t have to be up to much, because most people will switch the moment you have trouble. It’s actually perverse, since this usually ends up with the anglophone speaking French and the francophone English.

  4. “d” and “t” before “i” and “u” become “dz” and “ts”. The French nasal vowel “un” – like in “lundi” has the “œn” sound. The language is almost atonal in comparison to Paris French, much like the way Bahasa is pronounced. Vowels in closed syllables are audibly shorter and tenser than in standard French: Listen for the differences in vowel quality in “vite” vs. “vie”, “voûte” vs. “vous”; “pute” vs. “pu”. “Eaton” is gone, but it’s legacy lives on in the native Quebecois ability to make vowel length distinctions in borrowed English words which they would not make in standard Canadian French.
    Food: There is one restaurant in Montreal per 100 people. The local specialties are poutine, tourtière and smoked meat. None of them are any good for you. Anglo bars are on Desmond and Crescent; French bars on Boul St-Denis. All bars close at 3am. You cna buy booze from the dépanneurs until 11. The SAQ is only for serious alcoholics.
    Chinatown is just up from the Convention centre. Mo Nan, if he’s still there, has the best Chinese.
    DO NOT EAT AT RUBY FOO’S. Don’t ask.
    Mike’s Pizza delivers to all parts of the city. Their phone number will be self-evident. The grilled sandwiches are better than the pizza. I used to take calls for Pizza Hut, they are 595-7474 in all parts of the city.
    Places to go, things to see for the linguistic tourist:
    – Boul St-Laurent (a.k.a. The Main) was the language line in the pre-Bill 101 days. Nowadays, the neighbourhoods along The Main are allophone, you’ll hear everything from Albanian to Yue there. Still, best smoked meat in the world at Schwartz’, except for Ben’s, which is a few blokcs away.
    – Outremont has one of North America’s largest extant Yiddish-speaking community in the Americas. The local Hassidic community speaks Yiddish and English but lives in what was traditionally a French professional class neighbourhood.
    – Listen closely for people with the distinct accent of the Saguenay area. The /zh/ sound is rendered like a Spanish “j”: Sain-Kherôme instead of “Saint-Jerôme”.
    – St-Leonard still has a large, active Italian-speaking community. The Montreal Italian community has some members who are French-integrated and others who are English-integrated. This causes little tension, but does produce interesting hyphenated labels: Anglo-Italian-Canadian vs. Franco-Italian-Canadian.
    – Le Faubourg near Concordia Metro on Ste-Catherine: Ethnic takeout and grocery of all sorts. A touch pricy, but I used to practice my Mandarin at the Chinese stands. There used to be a cute Vietnamese-Chinese girl who worked on the second floor… but I’m sure she’s gone now.
    – Atwater and the Westmount border, where you can watch the “Westmount Rhodesians” in their natural habitat. “Westmount Rhodesians” – elderly, white, rich unilingual anglos of Anglo-Scotish descent – are an endangered species. They won’t last another generation.
    – Notice that old Anglo buildings like the Sun-Life building – at the time of its construction the tallest building in the Empire – have anglo floor numbers, 1, 2, 3… New, post 101 buildings have French numbers: 0, 1, 2…
    – Place Desjardins: Is it a mall? A bank back-office? A government complex?
    Other places to go:
    – Go to Square St-Louis and try to figure out who the drug dealers are. At the south-west corner of the square is an appartment with beautiful French doors. I almost got that appartment.
    – If you can, tell me what they converted Eaton’s into after the bankrupcy.
    That’s all I can think of now, gotta catch a bus.

  5. If you get a chance do try the beer called “Fin de siecle” at L’Amere de Boire, on Saint-Denis between Ontario and Maisonneuve. Quite tasty and high in alcohol. And the Insectarium (in the Botanical Gardens) is fun too.

  6. Eatons (no apostrophe anymore — are you mad? Apostrophes are illegal) became Les Ailes de la Mode, which is about to go bankrupt as well.
    Ignore poutine, tourtiere & smoked meat: go for sugar pie. (I like it at Brulerie St-Denis or Kilo, which is on St Laurent around Laurier.) It’s a Quebec specialty. If you’re people-watching Hasids in Outremont, you could do worse than La Grandmere Poule, on Bernard and Hutchison (or Querbes or something near there). Don’t bother ordering pizza. You can do better.
    Vowels are short & lax in closed syllables (not tense) and long & tense in open syllables: peti[m] vs. petIt[f]. (Or any of the pairs above, with laxing.)
    Montreal English is noticeably segregated (with some exceptions) — west island jews (not west end), vs greeks vs (anglo) italians vs westmount . . . native Montrealers can tell them apart: test your skill!
    Note the unusual Montreal English tensing in front of voiced dorsals (l[e]ngthwise) and the extra syllable in bilingual.
    Also, please remember that the first vowel in the city name is a schwa and that there is no [w] in the pronunciation of the province.

  7. I was in Montreal for the Jazz Festival in 1999, and had an interesting language experience. Having spent almost all of my life in the fiercely monolingual American midwest, all my attempts to learn languages have run afoul of having no one to talk to. In Montreal, I was determined to say the basic niceties (bon jour, merci, etc.) and to ask for English politely. Other than that, however, I’ve never studied nor been exposed to French. At the end of the week, I was going to see a show and handed the usher my ticket. She told me to go up the stairs and turn left to get to the balcony. Except that she said it in French. I still have no idea what she said, but I knew what to do without having to translate. I believe this is what second-language comprehension must feel like.
    If you see a T-shirt that says “Je’aime mon biere froid et mon femmes chaud,” (excuse my spelling) please pick me up an extra-large. I’ve always regretting not buying that shirt.

  8. And I’ve always regretted not buying the big beautiful yellow “Merde, il pleut” umbrella that I once saw in a shop there.
    But I shall not burden you with it. Just bring back stories.

  9. Hors-sujet (mais c’est pas grave, hein ?) :
    Any thoughts about the posthumous article by Edward W. Said entitled “Eloquent, elegant Arabic” (“the Language of the People or of the Scholars?”) that was published in the August issue of Le Monde diplomatique?
    I first read it in French in the print edition, but the original text is in English (it is available to subscribers only at the Diplo’s English site, but it has been integrally reproduced here at
    Favorite paragraph:
    Sixty years ago orators were listened to and commented on for the correctness and felicity of their language as much as for what they had to say. When I gave my first speech in Arabic in Cairo two decades ago, after years of speaking publicly in English and French but never in my native language, a young relative came up after I had finished to tell me how disappointed he was that I hadn’t been more eloquent. “But you understood what I said?” I asked him plaintively, since being understood on sensitive political and philosophical points was my main concern. “Oh yes, of course,” he replied dismissively, “no problem: but you weren’t rhetorical or eloquent enough.”

  10. No one in Montreal says “Merde, il pleut.” That’s Belgium. They would say “Crisse, ça pleut en tabarnac.” The “il” in “il faut” is routinely dropped, and all other false subjects can be replaced by “ça”.
    Also, “je” often merges with a following “s”, especially in high frequency subject-verb combinations. “chus” = “je suis”; “chais” = “je sais”. “Tu” can become “T'” before verbs that begin with vowels. “T’es saoûl”. “Il” is generally rendered as “y”, “lui” is also often “y”, and “elle” is often a short “a”. “On” generally means “nous.” “Vous-autres” is often used instead of “vous” as the second person plural; and Canadian dialects of French all make the inclusive “we” vs. exclusive “we” distinction. “Nous-autres” means “us but not you”.
    And, the most unique and ubiquitous feature of Canadian French: Questions can be formed by placing “-tu” after the verb. “Vous voulez-tu manger quelque chose?” “On va-tu au theâtre?” This is syntactically much simpler than inversion, so it is very widely used. “ai” is in some cases replaced by a very open “a”. “Y fa chaud” = “Il fait chaud”. Some words that end in “oit/oid” in standard French end in “ette” in Canada. “Tout drette” means “tout droit”; “Fa frette” = “Il fait froid.”
    Quebec joke: “Il ne fait pas froid au Québec, y fa frette en hostie!”
    And I forgot, the true sign of the native “gens du pays” is “moé” and “toé” for “moi” and “toi”. Better educated French Canadians eschew it, but you still hear it on the streets often enough. “oi” can become “oé” in other contexts as well, “Tu veux-tu quelque chose à boére?”
    Correct in Canada, gets you laughs in Paris: “On y va, nous-autres. Vous-autres, vous venez-tu avec? Ton chum, Y es-tu venu avec son char? Chais pas comment qu’on va transporter tout ta gang. Ils peuvent-tu se poigner un lift avec toé?”
    Man, I miss the language. Belgian French is just not the same. I was watching some Radio Canada show on TV5 the other day – “Catherine” actually – and it was subtitled in French, with the Quebecisms all translated – “mon ami” for “mon chum”; “le mec” for “le bloke”; “la voiture” for “le char”.
    I envy you the chance to go. I haven’t been back in five years.

  11. Eve Léonard says

    LH, if you want to know what it’s REALLY like to be a native French-speaking Canadian living in Montreal, look me up! The Festival des films du monde is on now, so try and catch a few local movies if you can. Downtown is not necessarily the highest concentration of French speakers, but you should still be able to sample several varieties 😉
    BTW, c’est pas tout le monde qui sacre!!! 😉

  12. c’est pas tout le monde qui sacre!!!
    Very true. I actually haven’t heard a single “tabernac” so far, though my ear is still getting attuned to the local French — in fact, I’m afraid I won’t have much in the way of interesting linguistic reportage; our stay is just too short and we’re focusing on seeing stuff. But thanks, everyone, for all your suggestions and descriptions; I can feel my mental map of the place growing by the minute!
    (And I’ve already bought a book I’ve wanted for a long time, Lord and Peasant in Russia, at Le Mot — thanks, Beth!)

  13. I was kidding about the shirt, of course. I should die of shame otherwise. If you get a chance, though, try to hear L’Orkestre de Pas Perdu (more mangled, misremembered French spelling).
    Sort of New Orleans Brass Band plus AG jazz plus caberet music plus acoustic techno plus ….

  14. Eve,
    It’s to my great pity that I was in Montreal in July, earlier than film festival started, but I saw some marvelous fireworks last year (week overlap between Jazz and International Fireworks festivals).
    And there was Stella D’Artois festivities in July (I don’t like beer though…)
    I know somebody at videotron, could it possibly be you know her too? Lise Arsenault.
    Delicious city, Montreal…

  15. Eve Léonard says

    I guess I should play tourist in my own city… since I work downtown I’m able to catch a few concerts during the summer, but that’s pretty much it.
    I unfortunately don’t know anyone at Vidétron. They simply are my Internet Service Provider…

  16. How I would love to be in Montreal or better yet, Quebec City now! All I know of Montreal is the underground mall and train station beneath the Queen Elizabeth II. If you’re in central or downtown Quebec, I would suppose it’s worth a visit say, to have lunch or buy fresh bread. Of course, if you wanted to take a train.
    I’m fighting spam still, and lately fighting scans of my computer. I filed a complaint with the feds on one. You may wish to file one on these casino advertisers.

  17. This has nothing to do with blackjack, but it’s a terrible story:
    The destruction of libraries and museums does not seem like a big deal to everyone. Just to elitist snobs, I guess. This was given about 8 square inches on page 16 of my local paper.

  18. Terrible. Here‘s the direct link; the story begins:
    “Hundreds of thousands of priceless antique books were feared destroyed or badly damaged yesterday by a fire that swept through a 16th century German palace.
    “The Duchess Anna Amalia Library in Weimar, central Germany, home to some of the country’s most precious volumes including the world’s largest collection of Faust by the national playwright, Goethe, was engulfed by flames which destroyed large parts of the building including the roof.
    “Cultural experts were surveying the extent of the disaster last night after it emerged that some literary treasures had been rescued due largely to the bravery and quick-wittedness of library staff…”

  19. It was quite big news in Germany – the U-Bahn news-update TV screens had it somewhere between the Russian hostagedrama and Britneygossip.

  20. mountain dew sperm count says

    [I’ve deleted the links from this comment, but I couldn’t resist keeping it for the sake of “mountain dew sperm count.” Yee-haw! Count them sperm!]

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