Thursday, January 31, 2008

Un bouquet

un bouquet = a bouquet (duh!)

Also worth noting:
un bouquet garni (literally garnished bouquet) is a bundle of aromatic herbs used in stews and soups
le bouquet final (literally final bouquet) is either
  • in construction, the "topping out", ie addition of a branch/ribbon/bouquet on top of a new construction to celebrate its completion
  • the last few shots of a fireworks display


Monday, January 28, 2008


un vacarme = noise, racket

Other synonyms:
le bruit (literally noise) (silent 't')
le tapage
le chahut (silent 't')
le boucan

C'est pas bientôt fini ce vacarme? = Can you stop this racket?


Friday, January 25, 2008


une camisole = a camisole (pronounced kah - mee - zol). Mental note: do not google-image-search a translation for camisole from the office next time.

More interestingly:
une camisole de force = a straightjacket


Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Idée fixe

une idée (pronouced ee-day) = an idea

= well... fixed

une idée fixe = an obsession, an idea that dominate's one mind

Idéfix is the name of Astérix's pet dog in the comic Astérix et Obélix, where most character names are puns

It's also the title of a song on Nadj's debut self-titled album, for those of you who enjoy French rock.


Monday, January 21, 2008


un poil (pronounced pwal) = a hair. An expression to know:
à poil = naked (i.e. down to wearing nothing but hair)

poilu / poilu(e) = hairy

Poilu was the nickname of WWI infantrymen, who often wore mustache or beard. In related news, we mourn the death of the penultimate (avant-dernier in French) and oldest surviving poilu, Louis de Cazenave, who passed away at 110 last week-end.


Saturday, January 19, 2008


Today, a few homonyms... all are pronounced so:
un seau = a bucket
un saut = a jump
un sceau = a seal
sot (feminine sotte) = silly, stupid

un seau d'eau (pronounced so - doh) = a bucket of water
le saut en longueur = long jump
le sceau royal = the royal seal
il n'y a pas de sot métier (saying) = there's no such thing as a stupid job


Thursday, January 17, 2008

La voix

une voix (pronounced voo-ah) = a voice. It also means (very appropriately) a vote or ballot.

For example:
  • ça m'a laissé sans voix = it left me speechless
  • il a gagné avec 60% des voix = he won with 60% of the votes
  • casser la voix = to break/lose one's voice, as in Patrick Bruel's famous song from the late 80's. If you're not familiar with the carreer of this actor/singer and (yes) World Champion of Poker in 1998, start here.

Thursday, January 10, 2008


un canular (ka - nuh - lahr) = a hoax, a prank

I couldn't resist this one, after catching up on the fascinating story of the Frenchman who became a superstar in France for being elected President of Facebook. Of course, it took the media a little while, but they finally realized it was indeed a canular, although maybe an involuntary one...


Wednesday, January 09, 2008


biscornu = oddly shaped, twisted, and by extension weird (it's pronounced bee-ss-corn-uh)

bis means twice, and cornu "with horns" or that resembles a horn.

un raisonnement biscornu = twisted logic

Tuesday, January 08, 2008


advenir = to happen. It conjugates like "venir" (to come), but is only used in 3rd person, and most of the time singular, as in:
  • quoi qu'il advienne,... = whatever happens,...
  • advienne que pourra = do what there is to do

Now, let's take a look back at venir:
  • je viens ('s' is silent)
  • tu viens ('s' is silent)
  • il vient ('t' is silent)
  • nous venons ('s' is silent)
  • vous venez ('z' is silent)
  • ils viennent (pronounced "vienne")

There are many more verbs that consist of a prefix + venir, such as:
  • circonvenir = to circumvent
  • contrevenir = to contravene
  • convenir = to agree
  • devenir = to become
  • intervenir = to intervene
  • parvenir = to reach
  • revenir = to return
  • (se) souvenir = to remember
  • subvenir = to support (someone's needs)
  • survenir = to occur, to happen

and they all conjugate the same way.


Monday, January 07, 2008

Carte blanche

une carte = a card, but also a map
blanc (the 'c' is silent) / blanche = white

so carte blanche literally means "white card" or "blank paper", and has the same meaning of giving someone full discretionary power to do whatever is necessary:
tu as carte blanche = I give you carte blanche


Friday, January 04, 2008

Saperlipopette bis

Saperlipopette, j'ai oublié la prononciation! (oh my, I forgot the pronunciation). If you really want to use yesterday's word, it's pronounced sah-pair-lee-poh-pet

And also, don't forget this Sunday is l'Epiphanie, if you can get your hands on one, have a Galette des Rois


Thursday, January 03, 2008


A mild interjection ("oh my") that has apparently slowly derived from variations of sacrelote / sacrebleu / sacredieu, all blasphemous at some point (sacré = sacred, Dieu = God)

Today it is a pretty insignificant, almost antiquated thing to say though, but you can always try it.


Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Bonne année!

The French word of the Day has been dormant for a while, but it is my humble New year resolution to start it again. In the meanwhile, as it is the custom:

Bonne année, et bonne santé! (Happy new year and may you be healthy)