I Tip My Hat.

A reader wrote to ask: “I said to a Quebecker, an army vet, in English ‘I tip my hat to you’ or ‘I lift my hat to you’… in respect he found this hilarious, as apparently it means something rude in French… do you know what that might be?” I didn’t, so I thought I’d put it out there. Anybody know?


  1. David Eddyshaw says

    Pending a definitive answer from a Francophone, this looks … suggestive:


    Mind you, I imagine practically anything could be taken as la nature de la femme if you are sufficiently determined.

  2. Man, you’d think I of all people would have known that about chapeau, but I only knew the ‘congratulations’ slang meaning.

  3. David Eddyshaw says

    L’as paga, lou capeo?


    (Under “Capeù”)

    Quite irrelevant. I just liked it.
    “Se dit à quelqu’un qui arbore un chapeau neuf qui le rend vaguement ridicule”, according to my extensive research.

  4. I’m a French speaker from Montreal, and I don’t get the joke.

    “Chapeau!” (just the word on its own) means “hats off!”, I don’t see a double entendre here. The idiom isn’t specifically Canadian, either, it’s used in France too.

    “Tip” and “lift” happen to be two English words that are used verbatim in Canadian French (as I speak it). “Tip” is used both as a verb and noun in the sense of “giving extra money to someone who provides a service” (e.g. “Oublie pas de tipper le chauffeur”, “Don’t forget to tip the driver”). “Lift” is used as a noun in the sense of “a car ride offered as a favour” (e.g. “Peux-tu me donner un lift j’ai manqué mon autobus”, “Could you give me a lift I missed my bus”).

    But I don’t see what’s rude or funny here.

  5. But “tirer son chapeau” is good French, as is just “chapeau!” for “nicely done!”
    Maybe Quebec is special, or does the verb “tip” add rudeness?

  6. David Eddyshaw says

    There are actual Quebeckers amongst us who will know. Perhaps they are too shocked to respond. Not all have the linguistic fortitude of army veterans.

  7. Is the “reader” a woman or a man? If the former I suppose some French speakers might perceive the double-entendre, (an immature example in English might be a woman offering to open her box, nudge nudge wink wink) but if a man said chapeau it is hard to see a context where even immature Quebec men find that suggestive.

  8. There are actual Quebeckers amongst us who will know.

    And indeed François had already responded, but I just now released it from moderation.

    Is the “reader” a woman or a man?

    A woman.

  9. David Eddyshaw says

    Perhaps it’s not so much québécois as a specimen of (French) Army Creole.


    (The Wiki article does not reflect quite what I remember from The Right Stuff.)

  10. The men lifting their hats (but with their backs to the camera) at the end of the film The Full Monty might be said to have been rude, as they stripped to “You Can Leave Your Hat On” (which they didn’t) sung by Tom Jones. But it was a consenting private crowd, I guess. Clip link is from the end of the movie, btw, so does show some bottoms and thus might be NSFW.

    Baby take off your coat, real slow
    Baby take off your shoes
    I’ll help you take off your shoes
    Baby, take off your dress, yes yes yes
    You can leave your hat on
    You can leave your hat on
    You can leave your hat on

  11. David Eddyshaw says

    There have, of course, been actual army creoles: KiNubi springs to mind, and (more or less) Police Motu.

    I believe there have been attempts to derive Atlantic English-lexifier creoles from a Royal Navy Creole*, though they don’t seem to have many fans nowadays.

    *It may account for some of my father’s more Delphic utterances, now I think of it.

  12. Another native speaker of French from Quebec here, and no, I am not in a state of shock: rather, like François, I am in a state of puzzlement: I cannot think of any expression in French (be it a Quebec-specific expression or not) which is both rude and similar in meaning to “tip my hat/lift my hat to you”.

    Still a mystery, in short… (INSERT “STRANGER THINGS” THEME MUSIC HERE).

  13. The bellend or glans of the male member is also called, in the UK, a “helmet”. Maybe that is the sort of “chapeau” one should not lift willy-nilly, so to speak, towards people.

  14. David Eddyshaw says

    I’ve always understood it in the sense of “prepuce”; though I must say I’ve only ever encountered the expression in the wild in the context of that peculiar interlanguage that doctors use to patients (never among themselves) – like “back passage.”

  15. David Eddyshaw says

    Is the chapeau = pudendum muliebre argot sense still current at all, francophone co-hatters? The sources for it seem to be pretty ancient.

    If it is, I feel tourists should be warned.

  16. Or, should we be looking for a sound correspondence? Something like -« aille t’peux ma chatte tuer» ? (Nonsense but « chatte » does have a sexual meaning).

  17. I guess my comment got lost in moderation but my theory was the same as Vanya’s – it’s just impossible to believe someone could misunderstand that expression whose meaning is readily apparent, to say nothing of the fact that French has an identical expression with the more or less identical meaning. It seems more likely to me that he simply misheard or was reminded of a rude French phrase, esp if the reader spoke it quickly or in an unexpected context.

  18. Personally I’ve not heard “chapeau” being used for body parts of any kind, so that should be safe territory for tourists.

    Tourists from France however should be warned that the word “gosse”, a familiar term for “child” over there, means “testicle” out in the Colonies.

    The word “chatte”, which a standard dictionary will define as a female cat, is used as slang for a woman’s genitals in France, but not so much in Quebec as far as I’m aware.

    I’m not at all familiar with army slang(s), maybe that’s where the answer to the original question lies. Or maybe the army vet just misheard.

  19. Christian Weisgerber says

    “Chapeau!” (just the word on its own) means “hats off!”, I don’t see a double entendre here. The idiom isn’t specifically Canadian, either, it’s used in France too.

    In fact it has been borrowed from French into several neighboring languages: German, Dutch, Spanish (chapó), … I’m shocked that this sense is nowhere to be found in English dictionaries.

  20. Lars (the original one) says

    Chapeau! as an exclamation of approval was used in Danish as well, back when men of breeding wore them, so not just neighbours. (Whether it was mediated through German is probably hard to tell).

    More in the vein of strange coincidences, gosse is ‘young boy’ in Swedish. (One ‘hardly acceptable’ derivation is from French garçon, however).

  21. From Tom Wolfe’s description of Army Creole, it seems to lean more toward obscenity than euphemism.

  22. David Eddyshaw says


    His description put me in mind of Australian “mother-in-law” language, in which many distinct words of ordinary speech are represented by a single word in the avoidance register.

    As someone was recently explaining here, Russian army language is similarly … concise.

  23. After John Churton Collins, a scholar, had denounced an book by Edmund Gosse, a man of letters, in a review including the immortal line “Not the least mischievous characteristic of [From Shakespeare to Pope] is the skill with which its worthlessness is disguised’, Thomas Gray wrote:

    Gosse was in no sense crushed, but he was humbled. His letters give only a faint impression of the extent to which he suffered. His self-confidence was undermined, his personality reduced. Firm ground had turned into quicksand. At the rival University [Oxford, where Churton was} it became a stock saying for anyone who had made a ‘howler’, that ‘he had made a Gosse of himself’.

    Tennyson, however, restored Gosse to good humor (again according to Gray) by saying that Churton Collins was “a Louse on the Locks of Literature”.

  24. Hut ab ! is a stock phrase in common use. Also Respekt ! A little jocular, but in no way condescending or depreciative.

  25. English-speaking cyclists, who tend to pick up French expressions due to the importance of the Tour de France and French cycling generally, will sometimes say “Chapeau” to compliment an impressive performance. Ir’s not rude or humorous.


  26. David Marjanović says

    Hut ab ! is a stock phrase in common use.

    What, still?

  27. Yes, we older guys aren’t all dead, yet… 🙂


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