Although it is perhaps a rather delicate subject, one thing I think that visitors to Québec need to be warned about is Québécois profanity. In my first month or so I noticed that people’s speech was full of what appeared to be religious words, and my first thought was, “What devout people they are!” but then it dawned on me that these were swearwords.
Unlike in Standard French, where swearwords tend to centre on sex and excrement (such as merde – shit), Québécois profanities (known as sacres from the verb sacrer to consecrate) are words and expressions related to Catholicism and its liturgy. They originated in the early 1800s when people became frustrated by the tight social control exerted by the Catholic clergy. Continue reading