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Guide to French Patois!


So, you’ve spent all that money on French lessons and phrase books, you move to the North of France and guess what, the neighbours speak another language!

You might not have heard of Ch’ti but if you visit Northern France, even if you just drive through, it’s highly likely you’ll come across this term in shops, on car stickers or in restaurants. It’s a slang term that describes a native of northern France – it is a contraction of the term Ch’timi, and was a term invented during WWI by French soldiers to label their peers from northern France, because, in the local dialect of Northern France, the pronouns “toi” and “moi” would become “ti” and “mi”.

With the release of Dany Boon’s blockbuster (in France at least – where it is the biggest grossing French film ever) movie Bienvenue chez les Ch’tis in 2008, for some people here it became trendy to be from northern France and to be able to understand and speak the ch’ti dialect!  Really, that’s what we’ve been told anyway!  The title of the film translated into English means “welcome to the sticks” and basically exploits the French feeling that the north of France is a little unsophisticated but really it is beautiful and the film wonderfully portrays the proverb of the ch’tis  “A visitor cries twice up north: once on his arrival and once at his departure”.

Bienvenue Chez Les Ch’tis!

Here are some commonly used words that you may come across when visiting the north of France – although “real” French is what everyone speaks – most of the time! You might even want to throw a few words into conversation with your neighbours if you’re in the the lovely Nord-Pas de Calais region – don’t try it in the South though they’ll think you’re bonkers!

English French Ch’ti
Horse Cheval Bidet
Chair Chaise Cayelle
Eyes Yeux Yux
Cow Vache Vaque
Late Plus tard Tourate
To fall Tomber Querre
Turkey Dinde Pourdaine
Pea Pois Pos
Urine Urine Pichate
Malicious woman Méchant Femme Piche-vinaigre
Egg Oeuf Oeu
Bad head mauvaise tête Mulet
Moon Lune Leune
Dandelion Pissenlit Lach’ron or Lanch’ron
Young Jeune Jonne
Together Ensemble Insonne
Infant Enfant Infant
Grumpy Grincheux Huignard
Greedy Gourmand Goulaf
Hen Poule Glaine
Spoiled child Enfant gâté Gaga
Manure Fumier Fien
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