• Langues & languages

    Languages of the First Nations

    Did you know? Cree, an Algonquian language, is spoken by more than 87,000 people in Canada, making it the country’s most spoken Aboriginal language.[1] According to the Statistics Canada 2006 Census, Inuktitut is the official language of Nunavut and the Northwest Territories, and it is spoken by more than 35,000 people.[2] Many of Canada’s place names have their roots in Aboriginal languages. Place names describe geographic realities in the eyes of Aboriginal peoples. In 1535, explorer Jacques Cartier was told in the Iroquoian or Huron language that the path to Stadacona (Quebec City) was Kanata, which is in fact the word for a village or a cluster of dwellings. Cartier…

  • Langues & languages

    A Tricky Expression: Tirer son Épingle du Jeu

    Agir afin que nos collectivités puissent tirer leur épingle du jeu dans une économie en dents de scie. Act to ensure that communities can seize the opportunities in a volatile economy. Recently, I’ve noticed that the expression “tirer son épingle du jeu” has become very popular. I looked it up to find out what it meant and what I discovered surprised me. Le Petit Robert, 2014, p.907 – Tirer son épingle du jeu : Se dégager adroitement d’une situation délicate, se retirer à temps d’une affaire qui devient mauvaise, sauver sa mise. The dictionary meaning of the expression doesn’t seem to match the way it is being used. I have…

  • Langues & languages

    White, Pink or Purple Pachyderms?

    White, Pink or Purple Pachyderms? The elephant has inspired some interesting idioms in English and French. Most English speakers know the expression a white elephant, meaning an undesirable possession that is “jumbo” size; for example, Montréal’s Olympic Stadium has often been called a white elephant. Here are some more examples of elephant idioms that are expressive, colourful … and sometimes confused! Un éléphant dans une boutique / dans un magasin de porcelaine In English, a clumsy person may be compared to a bull in a china shop; but in French, an elephant rather than a bull breaks things when loose in a china shop. The reference to a bull is not very…

  • Langues & languages

    Lady and Master Gender Neutral Language

    Lady and The Tramp With our apologies to Walt Disney lovers, lady is a tramp. Nowadays, it is best to avoid the word lady, which has a paternalistic connotation that gentleman does not have. Some women take offence at being referred to as ladies, depending on the context. Just picture the 1960s: the ladies gossip and wash the dishes in the kitchen and the gentlemen retire to the living room to smoke. On the other hand, very few people would object to “Welcome, ladies and gentlemen.”   Master Bedroom Another expression that is being phased out is “master bedroom” because “master” is considered offensive by some people (master versus slave).…

  • Langues & languages

    The Fountain of Youth?

    Lately, magazines have been claiming such things as “90 is the new 60!” In some cases, that might be true. You hear about 96-year-olds who do very well after surgery. The 88-year-old Queen is still fulfilling her official duties. Consequently, it’s time to review our use of the word elderly. Elderly is defined in several major English dictionaries as someone who is “rather old” or “past middle age”. Middle age means about 40 to 60 years old according to the Canadian Oxford Dictionary. Most people would be mortified to be described as an “elderly 65-year old”. It is perhaps time to change the definition of elderly to someone who is…

  • Langues & languages

    As Montréal as a Two-Cheeked Kiss

    We Love Québec English! All-Dressed Pizza (Instead of Deluxe Pizza) In Québec, a traditional “all-dressed pizza” is topped with cheese, green peppers, mushrooms and pepperoni. “All dressed” is usually understood by most Canadians, who also talk about all-dressed hotdogs, but not by Americans. Coordinates (Contact Information) Some Anglo-Quebecers use the word coordinates—a literal translation of coordonnées—to refer to their address and telephone number. It is logical because it refers to the points on a map. Anglo-Quebecers who leave the province continue to use the expression and thus are spreading its use in the rest of Canada. Dépanneur Anglo-Quebecers sometimes refer to a convenience store as the dépanneur or the dep.…