The Word on the Street Is . . . Cinq à Sept

Word on the StreetAnglos in Quebec sometimes adopt French words and expressions for want of a good translation. Cinq à sept, literally five to seven, is a perfect example.

Whenever a friend from out of town asks me what cinq à sept means, I tend to suggest happy hour as an easy, off-the-cuff translation. It’s not terrible, but it’s not an exact match either.

Happy hour is really just a marketing ploy. After a day of slugging it out at the office, workers trudge to the nearest watering hole and down 2-for-1 glasses of wine, watered-down G&Ts, and half-price Buffalo wings. Happy hour lets you get bombed before going home for under $20.

A cinq à sept (pronounced sankaset), on the other hand, is more sophisticated—and perhaps less about getting the most booze for your buck. Co‑workers fête the close of the workday with canapés, bouchées, and chardonnays. The merrymaking can take place at a bar or at the office; either way the focus is on celebration, not desperation. Workers are happy to hang out and raise a glass with their boss, rather than indulge in a drunken rant behind their back.

The difference is subtle, but substantial.

Cinq à sept or happy hour, which are you?

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