According to a National Post story by Paul Brent:

General Motor’s plans to rechristen the Canadian-built Buick Regal passenger car as the Buick LaCrosse have hit a snag: In Québécois youth culture, the word is slang for masturbation, among other things.
U.S. focus groups said the name lends the car a sophisticated European air, but the world’s largest automaker discovered in focus groups in Quebec that it generated giggles among young participants.
“I speak French as taught in Switzerland and as taught in France, I spent three years in Paris functioning in the French system, and I thought I knew every expression existing in the French language for self-gratification, including the crudest ones known to man,” said a GM vice-chairman…

Stew Low, a GM Canada spokesman, said in Quebec youth culture the word is a slang term “that means a couple of things, either to masturbate or ‘I just got screwed,’ or ‘I just got taken.'”

Sure enough, Le Dictionnaire québécois says:
(Se) crosser se branler (le “branler” de France, je vous fais pas un dessin).
(Thanks to Bonnie for the story.)


  1. As a newspaper copy editor, I am frequently told that having a dirty mind makes for a clean paper. Editors revel in such stuff, but after a while one begins to realize that every word for human interaction, forward movement or an oblong shape can be made to refer to sex, especially among young men, who, as I vaguely recall, think of little else. After I was told that “trim” was a sexual reference, too, I decided to stop worrying about it. If they can’t take a f—, joke ’em. A

  2. So what do nice Quebequois call the game lacrosse?

  3. Le jeu d’Onan.

  4. dungbeattle says

    See Onan google god and Onan. What a game ? never win
    STERILIZATION AND THE USE OF BIRTH CONTROL ARE SERIOUS SINS. “Juda therefore said to Onan his son: Go in to your brother’s wife and marry her, that you may raise offspring for your brother. He knowing that the children should not be his, when he went in to his brother’s wife, spilled his seed upon the ground, lest children should be born in his brother’s name. And therefore the Lord slew him, because he did a detestable thing” (Genesis 38:8-10).

  5. That GM chairman would/will be branded as an “ignorant American” if his remark about the French language ever reaches Québec… If his French is that good, let him watch “Léolo”, and see how much he gets from the movie. I had to trust the Korean subtitles when I saw it… Couldn’t get a word of what hem guys said! And I’m French…

  6. I guess I should have asked, what do Quebequois cheerleaders yell at lacrosse games? The mind boggles. The Quebequois have a gift for bad taste (God bless ’em) — a friend of mine used to send me copies of Croc magazine, like the National Lampoon but more so.
    Mark Twain was pretty good both on onanism and old-time religion. A patriotical revival of some of his lesser works is overdue, maybe on prime-time TV.

  7. The real joke is that GM thought that LaCrosse would give their car a sophisticated European air. Most English-speaking North Americans are going to think of the rough and tumble North American sport when they hear the name. Lacrosse is sophisticated in its way, but principally it’s damn violent, especially in the version played in Canada (which I won’t name to avoid creating further hilarity).

  8. Aw, come on, what’s it called? We need hilarity here in NYC, where the sun’s down by the time you leave work these days.

  9. Anders Carlsson says

    Regarding avoiding dubious words: there is a famous Swedish sketch by comedians Magnus and Brasse (1976) where they act like manus censors for radio/TV and try to replace or remove every occurence which has a double entendre. Unfortunately 99% of the jokes would be lost if I tried to translate it, but the sketch ends with the two guys read through what is left in the manus after censoring: “and, maybe, however, no”.
    Of course I understand why GM rebadges the car, just like Honda found out that Fitta is not a good model name in Sweden (where it means c*nt) and therefore called it Jazz. But the question is where to draw the limit – if the car turns out to be a poor one, it might come into use as an abusive word and then the car maker would find a good reason to rename it into something else etc.

  10. “A Bit of Fry & Laurie” (possibly the best sketch comedy series ever) once did a game show called Don’t Be Dirty: the one detail I remember is that a contestant lost points for using the word rase, an anagram of arse.

  11. Now you’ve done it: I have to see that show. I loved their Bertie-and-Jeeves act, and Fry’s The Liar is one of the funniest books I ever read; having visited the Bit website, my appetite is whetted even further.

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