Saturday, May 26, 2007

Favourite French Phrases

This post was prompted by Jamon on SansGod.
Favourite French Phrases - does that mean the phrases that the French like to use or my favorite French Phrases?
I've noticed a few phrases the french use a lot:
"en principe"; "normalment"; "a priori"; "si tous va bien" and they all mean the same thing "normally", "in principle", "all else being equal". If ever you ask a frenchman for an estimate of time or cost he'll hedge it with one of those phrases.
English people often pepper their sentences with "right?" as in "I was walkin down the road, right? And I saw Dennis, right?" Well the french do the same thing, but with the phrase "tu vois" - "you see?" "tu prend le pain, tu vois, et tu le tartine tu vois" And the "tu vois" gets contracted down so it sounds like "tu as"
French equivalents of "err" or "um" are "beh" or "eh beh". Makes them sound like a flock of sheep. a combination like "eh beh, dis donc, quand meme" would be the same as "yes, well, no, fine". or "yeah but, no but"

Of my personal favourite phrases are the ones said when swearing or frustrated. "C'est pas possible" is the french equivalent of Victor Meldrew's "I don't believe it!" "putain de merde! Ca me fait schier" is about as strong as you can get. When translated literally - "Whore of shit! That makes me shit!" it doesn't seem too harsh. But I uppose if you've been brought up with old ladies fainting at the sound of you saying something gives you the shits, then it probably seems ruder.

My wife's favorite french phrase is "n'importe quoi" which literally means "anything". It's difficult to translate but makes sense when you hear it in context. It can translate as the sulky teenager saying "whatever". but if someone says "ne lisez pas n'importe quoi" it would mean "don't read just any old thing"
If someone has done something really stupid, you can shake your head and say "n'importe quoi". If a shift at the tile factory makes shoddy tiles I could say "ils fabriquent n'importe quoi" They'll make any old crap.

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At 4:02 pm, Blogger jamon said...

I love French. So much more pretty than f**k ;)

At 4:21 pm, Blogger King Aardvark said...

Prettty, sure, but it's so much longer.

As a Canadian, I don't get such colour phrases to say; however, I do get to use "eh?" to pretty much replace end punctuation in everyday conversation. Anything - period, question mark, exclamation mark - becomes an "eh?" when spoken.

At 11:28 am, Blogger MichaelBains said...

I love this kind o' schier, eh.

Seriously, I always dig when you do the cultural & language break-downs, Stew. It's cool to see how similar such different cultures are in the ways we live out our everyday existence. Nez pas?


Really though, I like them so much cuz I love sprinkling my daily verbiage with words and phrases from other languages. This helps me understand better when to use such stuff accurately & appropriately. Merci beau coup!


At 2:13 pm, Blogger azzythehillbilly said...

Excuse me Sir, but you need to learn some French before you go commenting about this prettiest of the languages.
The word is chier NOT schier as you have written up there.

At 10:52 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The word, "beh," which sounds more like they were saying, "bain," is actually a verbal abbreviation of "et bien," and as such is almost exactly like an American saying, "well" (one translation of "bien"), as they're about to say something. So their use of it as a conversation filler indicating they haven't finished talking is exactly the same as for us.

At 10:56 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

And did you wife also love how some French, usually women, say "oui" not just as "ouais," which is pretty common, but say it while drawing IN their breath in an almost whisper?

From what I noticed, it was more they were agreeing to something that was a sort of fact of life you couldn't do anything about, so you better just accept it.


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