Montreal Slang

Montreal Slang

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Named after the triple peaked hill of Mont-Royal, Montreal is the second largest city in the province of Quebec. Of the nearly 4 million people who live in the metropolitan area, more than half (52.4%) speak French, with English the second most spoken local language. As such, in Montreal one finds a hugely cosmopolitan mix of cultures with a dominant French and English flavor. Luckily for those of us whose mother tongues are English, many Montreal locals are bilingual. This leads to a huge mash-up of French and English words, sayings and phrases, creating a Montreal slang that is as diverse as its residents. Here are some snippets of the local language spoken in Montreal:

1. Merci / Merci Beaucoup

Pronunciation: "Merhsee" / "Merh-see bo-coo"
Usage: "Your directions were so helpful. Merci."

"Merci" and "merci beaucoup" are French for "thank you" or "thank you very much." Using French in everyday conversation goes a long way with the residents of Montreal, because it shows an attempt to blend in with the local language and culture in this predominantly French-speaking city. Even the slightest usage of the Montreal local lingo is appreciated; but when you show appreciation for the French, in French, that is the best! Use "merci" when receiving help or good service and you will receive the same appreciation and courtesy in return.

2. Poutine

Pronunciation: "pooh tin"
Usage: "Mmmmmmmmm that poutine was delicious!"

Poutine is a greasy, fattening, yet oh-so-delicious snack or appetizer made of thick, crispy french fries smothered in light poultry gravy and topped with fresh cheese curd. Said to have been invented in Quebec during the late 1950s or early 1960s, poutine is now commonly served across Montreal at local eateries, fast food chains, pubs and even some school cafeterias. Since it's such a simple dish (just potatoes, gravy, and cheese), many varieties exist. There's even a website, Montreal Poutine dedicated to this quintessential dish.

3. Resto

Pronunciation: "rest-oh"
Usage: "That resto serves great poutine."

One of several Montreal slang terms that come straight from French, "resto" means "casual restaurant." If you ask for a recommendation on where to eat in Montreal, this is one of the slang terms that will commonly pop up in the conversation.

4. Guichet

Pronunciation: "gee-shet"
Usage: "I need to stop at the guichet before we get to the resto"

Although many Automated Teller Machines in Montreal have signs clearly defining them as an ATM, many locals prefer to use the French-derived Montreal slang word "guichet" when talking about these bank machines. It is rather odd that Montreal residents use slang terms like "guichet", which can be loosely translated as "ticket window/counter", since in France many ATM machines are actually referred to as GABs. This is short for guichet automatique bancaire.

5. Gallery

Pronunciation: "Gallery"
Usage: "It's a beautiful night to be out on the gallery."

In Montreal, when you want to enjoy the skyline from outside your suite, you step out onto the gallery - or the balcony, deck or patio, as it's known in English. Referring to your deck as the "gallery", however, makes it sound so much nicer.

6. The SAQ

Pronunciation: "The S.A.Q"
Usage: "Let's get a bottle of wine from the SAQ to enjoy out on the gallery."

An acronym for Societe des Alcools du Quebec (Quebec Alcohol Corporation), the SAQ is a government-owned entity which provides liquor sales to the public through various SAQ-branded storefronts, as well as an online store. As SAQ outlets are virtually the only place to purchase most types of liquor in the province of Quebec, with the exception of a few low alcohol content wines and beverages, "SAQ" is one of the slang terms that has become synonymous with liquor store in Montreal local language.

Tip: If you're looking for a great bottle of wine for a romantic night, check out the SAQ Signature store, for exclusive high end products not available at other SAQ outlets.

7. Arret

Pronunciation: "ar-re-tay"
Usage: "Why does that sign say Arret?"

A very important word to learn if you plan on driving in Montreal, "arret" literally means, "stop" in the local language of French. When you're in Montreal, make a special note that the standard bright red signs boldly proclaiming "Arret" in place of the word's English counterpart are not to be ignored.

8. Marche

Pronunciation: "mar-shay"
Usage: "We should stop by the marche to pick up some bottled water."

Everyone needs to stop by the marche at some time. "Marche" in Montreal local language is simply French for "market." If you need produce, paper goods, canned drinks or just about any other essential around Montreal, ask where the nearest marche is.

9. Close / Open

Pronunciation: "close / open"
Usage: "Please close the TV when the program is over."

In Montreal, the English verbs "close" and open" take on a broader role than they do in the United States. For instance, if someone asks you to close a door, but it is already shut, they are actually asking you to lock the door. Similarly, if you are asked to open a light, that is not a request to break a light bulb, but to simply turn on the light. However, if you are asked to open a door, then more than likely you are being asked to actually open the door.

As you can see, the usage for "open" and "close" varies depending upon the situation; however, after some experience with Montreal lingo, it should not take too long to catch on to the speakers' intention.

10. Loonie

Pronunciation: "loon-ee"
Usage: "That pack of gum is only a few of loonies."

While in the U.S. a "loonie" would be used to describe some local nut job, in Montreal slang, a loonie is an endearing nickname for a single Canadian dollar, in coin form. Why is it called a loonie? The name comes from the common Canadian loon, whose likeness is stamped on the loonies' back side. The nickname is so loved that the Canadian two dollar coin, introduced 9 years after the loonie, has itself been nicknamed the "toonie" in the local lingo.

While traveling through Montreal you will likely encounter many more unique and wonderful sayings during conversations with the equally unique and friendly people of this fantastic city. Familiarizing yourself with these Montreal slang phrases will give you a head start to understanding, and utilizing, the creative local language.
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