C’est pas tes oignons!

C’est pas tes oignons!

say pah tay zuh-NYAW! Click below to hear this.

None of your business!

I will tell you right off, this phrase will not endear you to anyone you want to remain friendly with, unless you make it clear that you are joking around. And unless it is your teacher or your boss.

That said, it’s certainly a lot of fun to say. None of your business turns into It’s not your onions! Who would have thought it? How did onions get into the picture?

We’ll never know. Note that this phrase is very slangy, and not just because of the meaning conveyed. The ne is missing from the normal two-part negative, which tells us that it is written as people really speak, not in “book” grammar.

Also, take note of the pronunciation of those oignons. The usual spelling for the /nyuh/ sound is gn, as in montagne (mountain), for example. The spelling of the English word reflects that rule: onion reproduces the /nyuh/ sound by means of the ni.

But sometimes, in French, the spelling reflects a mistaken impression of a word’s origins. That’s probably what happened here. The oi in this word does not represent the sound /wah/, as it usually does. Instead, the o is independent and represents the sound /uh/, and the whole ign group is the /nyuh/ sound. Then the final on is the nasal /aw/ sound.

So when your teacher asks you where your homework is, you can use this to prove that you know how to pronounce oignons, but then you’d better also produce the homework. Don’t say I wasn’t looking out for you!


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