Do You Speak Montreal English?

Do you speak Montreal English?

Do You Speak Montreal English?

Are you a true Montrealer?
A true Montrealer cannot be defined by physical appearance or clothing. Actually, there is an exception to the latter. One can always tell when it’s hockey game day in Montreal by the inordinate number of people wearing Montreal Canadiens jerseys.

Otherwise, the clues that identify a true Montrealer are subtle. They are demonstrated by behaviors and cultural practices steeped in our collective conscience.  These include: instinctively lining up at a bus stop, being fashionably late for social engagements (but never by more than 20 minutes), jaywalking, and knowing how to tip in bars and restaurants. You can also spot natives of Montreal by their driving abilities. They can navigate streets laden with potholes and orange cones, and can find their way through endless, badly indicated detours with the same ease that birds hone in on magnetic north. But to be a true Montrealer, you need to speak Montreal English!

 

A bit of context

However, the focus of this article, is the way in which language is shared by Montreal’s French and English communities. And, especially, on the fact that this has led to a particular brand of Montreal English, which exists only here.

In 1945, Hugh MacLennan wrote a book entitled “Two Solitudes”. In this novel, he detailed the perceived lack of communication between the French and English speakers of Montreal.  The word “perceived” is used here because both the Anglophone and Francophone communities of Montreal not only do communicate with each other, but have actually created a unique language amalgam resulting from their intermingling.

A few examples of Montreal English

A Montreal anglophone is more apt to say serviette rather than napkin. Anglophones outside of Montreal sometimes say serviette, but usually when they are being pretentious. Here, in Montreal, it rolls off the tongue naturally. If an out-of-towner asks a Montrealer for directions to the nearest subway, they’ll find themselves at a Subway sandwich shop. Not on the nearest metro station!

Among the many other vocabulary items and expressions that are integral to the Montreal English lexicon are Dep (corner store), autoroute (highway), stage (work term), terrasse (patio), cinq à sept (happy hour), and steak frites (self-explanatory).

But the phenomenon goes beyond vocabulary however, even sentence structure is affected. The doubling of the first-person subject pronouns at the start of sentences; as in “Me, I love coffee” is really only heard in our fair city.  Another is “What day are we?” which comes directly from the French “Quel jour sommes-nous?”.  Any other English speaker would construct as “What day is it?”.

Another interesting example, which is actually the adoption by English speakers of a mistake made by Francophones speaking English. A sentence like “It’s the first time I eat poutine” rather than “It’s the first time I’ve eaten poutine”.

 

So then, does any of this resonate with you?

If it does, if you realize that these examples apply to you, then you are a true Montrealer who speaks real Montreal English.

 

 

Writer: David Paupelain

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