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Quebec Swear Words And Their Origins

God does not approve.
Drawing showing a religious chalice and a farmer screaming a swear word.

Drawing showing a religious chalice and a farmer screaming a swear word.

Quebec swear words, or in French sacres, are pretty much just words that go against the establishment; adjectives, verbs, and nouns deemed inappropriate by the general population. Or those who govern the general populace. Swear words are meant to stick it to the man, whether that be your parents, the government, or in the case of early Quebec, the Catholic church.

In Quebec's past, the church was running the show. The clergy controlled nearly every aspect of society in 19th century Quebec, which understandably pissed off the Quebec people. Taking words deemed sacred or holy by the Church, Quebecers recreated these untouchable sayings into harsh profanities. If you've ever wondered why Quebec swear words have a religious tinge, now you know it's basically because they wanted to give a linguistic fuck you to the Church.

Câlice

Translated as "chalice," a large cup or goblet, usually pimp'd out with gold or jewelled swag. Most often it's used in ceremonies involving the drinking of fluids, specifically in Catholicism to hold the holy wine/blood of Christ. Nowadays its just a term of DAMN!

Crisse

Much like in English, this term is used for "Christ," that guy from the New Testament who, like, founded Christianity or something. In use, it's nearly the equivalent to English, so just drop the 't' and make a double-e sound to get in the Quebec spirit of swearing.

Tabarnak

Even more of a mouthful in English, the "tabernacle" refers to the portable house of God/holiest of holy places carried out of Egypt by the Isrealites and used for worship during their many wanderings, in place of a temple. Basically an equivalent to FUCK, only it actually refers to a decked out porta-Church with its own sacrificial altar.

Esti

Yet another all-purpose Quebecer swear, used as a noun or adjective (much like 'you fuck' vs. 'you fucking little...'), esti directly derives from the holy host, or body of Christ. Arguably the most sacred foodstuff in Christianity, the host doesn't have the same reverence in Quebecer swearing.

Ciboire

Very much used in the same way as tabernac, essentially meaning FUCK, ciboire actually refers to the 'ciborium' a container for the host/Eucharist during Catholic communion. Ciboire can also refer to people, usually referring to them as bastards or the like. Kind of a weird stretch from wafer-container into FUCK and BASTARDS.

Maudit

A word used to vent frustration, maudit is basically a translation of DAMN, which is pretty much used in English the same way. Both words derive from the holy punishment of damnation, an idea used in many religions, including Christianity, where someone suffers in hell/afterlife for the bad shit they did while living on Earth. Damn, that's harsh.

Were these swear words a little too old school for you? Know the origins of some other Quebec favourites? Serve up 'dem swears in the comments below.

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