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  • Je ne suis pas dans cette ville depuis dix minutes que je rameute déjà les foules ! (à cause de ma popularité !)

I think it has the same meaning as "et" or "mais". I understand that words like "tellement" are followed by "que", but exactly which word ‘triggers’ the use of "que" in this sentence?

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If you have access to Le bon usage from a recent edition, I would suggest you look at §1121a.

It basically states that the French language is not satisfied to put two propositions side-by-side without any visible/audible separation between them. In many cases, as here, the separation is incarnated by the addition of que.

À peine avait-il son bonheur entre les mains qu’on voulait le lui reprendre. –Gustave Flaubert, L’éducation sentimentale

The negation in your example also seems to play some role, since the positive version would sound more natural with et or mais, while either of the three (que, et, mais) could be expected for the negative version:

Je suis dans cette ville depuis dix minutes et je rameute déjà les foules ! (à cause de ma popularité !)

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    Here's a similarly puzzling one that may be difficult to account for: "C'est un animal bizarre que le lion." Except that here we don't even have another proposition to link it; it's almost as if it replaced a comma. A French linguistics prof once told me it was probably just a quirk. :p – Luke Sawczak Mar 7 '17 at 17:58
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    Same book, §717c. This one is presented as a relic from older times, on whose details grammarians don’t fully agree. Le bon usage claims that this que would be an attribute introducing a proposition where the verb has been removed, though it would initially had been present in the auditor’s mind: “C’est un animal bizarre _qu_[’est] le lion” – ﺪﺪﺪ Mar 7 '17 at 18:50
  • Nice answer. Imagine the syntax that would create in the already highly redundant: "Qu'est-ce que c'est que le lion ?" :) – Luke Sawczak Mar 7 '17 at 19:03
  • Could "quand" also be used to separate two "present" propositions like those in the OP's example or at least in those two "past imperfect" ones in the Flaubert example? I ask because in English I think I might be tempted to translate the "que" in the Flaubert/imperfect example as "when," but using "when" in an English translation of the OP's example, where both propositions are stated in the present, would make it sound more like a weird and/or teenage narration of past events: "I'm like here for less than 10 minutes when, "Bam!" I'm already attracting crowds." Thanks and +1! – Papa Poule Mar 7 '17 at 23:34
  • I don’t think when would mean the exact same thing. Que implies some sort of linked simultaneity, while quand/when breaks the link and simply puts the simultaneity forward. Because he gets in town, people gather, and very quickly (que). He had barely made it in town before people, for whichever unknown reason, started gathering, but obviously, when they did gather, they did it around the crowd magnet that I am (quand). It’s only my feeling of it, though. Someone could prove me wrong. – ﺪﺪﺪ Mar 8 '17 at 10:56

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