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Parc national des Monts-Valin © J.-F. Hamelin

Québecois vernacular

Québec has a rich repertoire of expressions that reflect its history and combine regionalisms, archaisms and Québecisms. Below are some that are inspired by our winters.

See if you can decode the following expressions

Attache ta tuque, or Attache ta tuque avec de la broche
Literally, "secure your hat on your head” or  “secure your hat with a pin,” this is a colourful way of saying “get ready for what’s coming” or “hold on tight.” There is an anticipation of emotional excitement. The version with "avec de la broche” (with a pin) emphasizes the idea that your tuque needs to be on tight, as anything could happen.

Avoir la “fale” (or “phalle”) à l'air
An expression used when your neck or upper chest (fale, phalle) is exposed to the cold, because you're not wearing the proper clothing like a scarf, coat or sweater.

Avoir la guédille au nez (or Les érables coulent)
An expression meaning you have a cold or a runny nose. Guédille au nez refers to the drip at the end of your nose, and érables coulent refers to the sap running from maple trees in early spring.

Enfiler des pelures (or S’habiller comme un oignon)
Literally, to add layers of clothing, or dress like an onion. If you want to play outside here in winter, you need to wear several layers of clothing to both keep warm and be able to remove something if you get too hot.

Parc national de la Gaspésie © TQ/R. Ouellet
Parc national du Mont-Mégantic © TQ/J.-F. Hamelin


Faire à la mitaine
This expression means to do something by hand, without machinery or technological equipment, and is a nod to winter, as mitaine is the French word for mitten. Bear in mind it does not literally mean you’re performing a task with your mittens on! 

Se calmer le pompon
This means to take a deep breath and calm down. You can use this expression in any season, but the pompon refers to the pompom that sits on top of a tuque or winter hat.

Faire chauffer son char
Literally, this means to warm up your car in winter. However, this expression is used to say "drive your car," and not actually to warm it up.

Se tirer une bûche
To pull up a chair and have a seat. While representing a chair in this expression, a bûche is actually a log used as firewood, as well as a dessert served at Christmas (bûche de Noël).