French Lesson #2: Sexy, Naughty …or Not

Condom: Back in the days when condoms were almost exclusively a means of contraception, neither linguistic group in Canada wanted to assume any responsibility for having invented the device. Therefore, francophones called them capottes anglaises (“English hoods”) while anglophones called them French safes. Ummmm… (Please note that condoms is now the common usage in Canadian French, where -om is pronounced like -on.)

French kiss(ing): The French don’t seem to disavow any responsibility for inventing this practice. But they seem to prefer doing it rather than coming up with a French word or phrase for it. Hence you are likely to hear french (lowercase letters, pronounced “frinntch”) as either a noun or a verb:

  • “Je lui ai donné un gros french.” (“I gave him/her a big french.”)
  • “Je l’ai frenché(e).” (“I frenched him,” or “I frenched her” if there are two Es at the end.)

Fucker: In Canadian French, this verb has no sexual connotation and can be uttered by children and grandparents alike without causing a scandal. Therefore, something, someone or a situation that is fucké(e) is merely screwed up, deranged or out of order. For example, “J’ai tout fucké!” simply means “I screwed everything up” and NOT “I fornicated with everything/everyone.”

Wank/Wanker: The equivalents in French are crosser (verb) and crosseur/crosseuse, respectively. However, due to assimilation, Acadians in Atlantic Canada tend to mix English and French words in a single sentence. This linguistic pollenation, which is more common the further one is from the Quebec border, can yield gems such as “J’ai crossé la rue” (“I crossed the street”), thereupon leaving cousins from Quebec who hear this sentence to wonder what exactly the speaker did with the street.

Cussing Within the Two Solitudes
Generally, French-speaking Canadians inject Church paraphernalia as expletives (e.g. hostie, câlisse etc.), while English-speaking Canadians seldom use the equivalent words in English. However, both groups are often heard referring to body parts or bodily functions or actions, and use those nomimals or verbs as interjections.

Some of the cutest or most ingenious workarounds I’ve heard among francophones to avoid using “Church words” include:

  • Crisco: “Mon maudit Crisco!” for “You damn sonavabitch!”
  • câline: to avoid câlisse
  • torbinouche: to avoid tabernacle / “tabarnaque”