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Archive for the 'French Bazaar!!' Category

French Argot Lesson #2: Five Words To Say “L’Argent”

It is always useful to know the slang for “money” in a foreign language, if only not to get ripped off and to understand when people talk about what is in your wallet…

 So many different ways to say “money” in French! Those greedy French.

 Before we get to those words I would like to mention a French argot specialist. His name is Michel Audiard and even if you probably never heard this name before, you need to know that he is one of France’s pride.

Michel Audiard (Born in 1920, died in 1985) was a famous screenwriter who is known for his acid, humorous, and “argotique” writing. And, if you happened to watch movies written by Michel Audiard, you surely came across  a multitude of French money-related slang.

If you would like to check out one of his movies, I recommend Les tontons flingueurs (translated as ” Crooks in Clover” or “Monsieur Gangster” in English). This movie was made in 1963 and is a melange of gangster movie (yes, France has gangsters, too) and comedy. Probably 90% of the French have seen it at least once: it’s a classic. Now, the colloquial French in it might limit your comprehension at some parts, however with perseverance (and subtitles) you will enjoy it as much as any French person.

 And…one scene is ENTIRELY in English! There it is:

 Anyway…I got carried away. Now is the time for some serious slang.

 You probably know that the standard word for “money” in French is  L’argent. Here are our five alternate (and much cooler) words:

 - Le fric (the most commonly used one)

- L’oseille (feminine)

- L’artiche (masculine - rare but its sound is particularly typical of the argot)

- Le blé  (literally this means “wheat” )

- Le pognon (comes from the word poignée, “fistful” )

 Hope you enjoyed!



French Bazaar: Oh no! French Slang! Argot Lesson #1

Have you ever heard of the word l’argot?

You might have heard of it as being the French slang. Well, it is true to some extent. But there is more to l’argot than just being slang.

 Today we’ll introduce you to one argot French word. But before we do, let’s talk about what l’argot really is.

The initial meaning appeared in the XVIIth century in France to generally designate professional thieves, beggars and  bohemians.  This group of people was literally called l’argot.

The word evolved to later designate the language used by this group of people. Just like any social group, they would use a vocabulary that would only exist among themselves. Now, having their own language not only identified each other as a group, it also allowed thieves and assassins to plan their crimes without being understood.

 Overtime, the word l’argot ended up designating every language specific to a certain social group of people. Therefore, there is today l’argot parisien (”Parisian Slang”), l’argot de la Bourse (”Stock Market Slang”), l’argot du journalisme (”Journalism Slang”), etc.

Here in the French Bazaar, we will mostly introduce you to l’argot parisien, not because we are Paris centered, but because this specific slang is the most used among French people. The Parisian Slang is also the one that directly comes from the original thief and bohemian’s argot we mentioned above.

Enough with history! What is our first word? It is…

UNE ALOUF (noun, feminine) - A MATCH

(Standard French: Une allumette)
It is very easy to use, you can simply say :

Tu as une alouf?  “Do you have a match?”

Or, in the plural form: Tu as des aloufs?  “Do you have any matches?”
My Dad (I know I keep talking about my Dad, but that’s only because he speaks the most eccentric French), back when he was a smoker, used to ask for aloufs all the time.

Our next word will start with “B”! We will see you around the corner of the bazaar…

French Bazaar: A French Pirate Party? Arrr…

A l’abordage! Aboard! Or, as Captain Hook says : “To the ship!”
For the first time in France, the very young Parti pirate de France (Pirate Party of France) will present a candidate for a legislative election. On September 20th, Maxime Rouquet, 23 years old, will run for deputy in the Yvelines’ 10th circumscription’s election, in the hopes of being seated in the National Assembly among the experienced veterans of the political profession.
Now, what is the French Pirate Party? Should we be worried? Should we watch our river banks? Should we avoid the Mediterranean coast? No, no, no, there is no such thing as boat looting on the coasts of the country that established human rights.

As you might have guessed, the Parti pirate de France is more involved in Internet and copyright issues than in stealing goods or yelling “Arrr” at Peter Pan. In fact, their political program focuses on Internet users’ rights and on reforming the patent system in France. It was founded in 2006 and mostly counts computer programmers and music professionals among its members.

This party might first look like one of those shallow movements that die soon after they are born. However, after 3 years of existence, they seem to lean toward an actual political strategy and plan on meeting the other European parties in order to strengthen their relationship and grow their numbers.

The Parti pirate de France hopes to give an alternate political response to how “music distribution must evolve”. One of their main concerns is preventing laws like the HADOPI* law from being passed as “it is technically not well packaged and doesn’t respect the presumption of innocence” Maxime Rouquet says.

Maxime Rouquet will mainly be running against Jean-Frédéric Poisson, candidate for the Assembly under the colors of the UMP (Union pour un Mouvement Populaire - French conservative party) and favorite candidate for the Yvelines legislative elections.

While pirate parties in France had flourished only to disappear shortly after they started (there were six of them at some point!), the Parti pirate de France seems to be decided to stick around.

Something to keep an eye on…

*”Law favoring the diffusion and protection of creation on Internet”. It was adopted on May 12, 2009 by the French National Assembly.

French Bazaar: L’OuLiPo et la langue française - A Post for our Advanced Students

Here is a post for our advanced students. It is going to be in French only. If you feel like you need a translation, please leave a comment and we’ll fix that!

Voici un article pour nos étudiants avancés.

Ou plutôt…voici un jeu pour nos nos étudiants avancés!


Vous avez déjà certainement entendu parler du Logo Rallye. Non? Là, vous vous dites: mais qu’est-ce qu’elle raconte?

Le Logo Rallye est un jeu littéraire inventé par le mouvement de l’OuLiPo – Ouvroir de Littérature Potentielle. Et là vous vous dites: L’Ouli-quoi??

Commençons donc par le commencement.

En 1960, Raymond Queneau, poète et écrivain français, fonde avec François Le Lyonnais, un mathématicien, français lui aussi, l’Ouvroir de Littérature Potentielle.

Ce groupe réunit des écrivains (comme Italo Calvino et Georges Perec, par exemple) mais aussi des mathématiciens qui proposent de construire une nouvelle littérature, une littérature expérimentale.

L’aspect le plus connu de cette “littérature potentielle” est l’écriture sous contrainte. Ecrire sous contrainte, cela signifie s’imposer des règles strictes pour écrire un texte, un poème, ou même un roman. Ces messieurs de l’OuLipo pensaient (et pensent toujours – L’OuLiPo existe encore aujourd’hui!) que les contraintes sont un moteur pour l’imagination. Les règles provoquent la créativité.

Un exemple? D’accord, un exemple.

 La méthode n+7 est un des exercices d’écriture sous contrainte les plus connus. En voici le principe:

- Prenez un texte déjà écrit, si possible célèbre, si possible un classique.

- Maintenant prenez un dictionnaire unilingue.

- La contrainte d’écriture (la règle, si vous préférez) est la suivante:

Vous allez changer tous les adjectifs de votre texte par d’autres adjectifs que vous trouverez dans le dictionnaire. Mais attention, pas au hasard!! Vous allez remplacer chaque adjectif par le septième adjectif qui suit dans le dictionnaire.

Imaginez que l’adjectif à remplacer est “vert”. Eh bien, prenez votre dictionnaire au mot “vert”, et allez jusqu’au septième adjectif placé après “vert”. Maintenant remplacez “vert” par le nouvel adjectif. Et renouvelez l’opération pour tous les adjectifs de votre texte.

Le résultat peut être extrêmement drôle, en particulier si le texte est très classique.

Est-ce que cela vous donne une idée de ce que l’OuLiPo* propose?

Bien sûr, leur travail est bien plus vaste et complexe. Mais ce serait trop long…

 Maintenant, voici le jeu que je vous propose aujourd’hui, appelé le Logo-Rallye:

Le Logo-Rallye, c’est facile. Je vais vous donner une liste de cinq mots, les cinq premiers mots qui me viennent à l’esprit. Et votre travail, c’est d’écrire, le plus vite possible et sans réfléchir, un texte de quelques lignes qui comprend ces cinq mots. Attention: gardez les mots dans l’ordre où je les donne!

Le principal ici est de NE PAS réfléchir, d’écrire très vite et de ne pas corriger ensuite. C’est ça qui rend le jeu drôle. Ne trichez pas!

Quand vous avez écrit votre texte, copiez-le dans la section “comments” de cet article, pour le partager avec nous. C’est parti!

- Voiture

- Enragé

- à genoux

- Gérard Depardieu

- Inutile.


* Un conseil: le livre de Raymond Queneau, Exercices de styles, est une bonne illustration de ce qu’il est possible de faire en écrivant sous contrainte.








First Item in the Bazaar: a French Idiom!

Our idiom today is:

Il n’y a pas le feu au lac”

“No need to rush”


Growing up in Southern France I would hear that idiom a lot.

Why Southern France? Because that’s where things go slowly. That’s where the turtle is considered one of the fastest animals…that’s where you take the time to enjoy every minute of your free time while doing pretty much nothing. That’s where impatient Parisians are driven crazy.


See? I am from Southern France and it takes me forever to get to the point here!


But wait…What does “Il n’y pas le feu au lac” mean exactly?


It literally means “The lake is not on fire”, which I find to be a very clever way to say “No need to rush”. Don’t you think it’s clever? I wonder who came up with that one. Someone clever. “The lake is not on fire” implies that there is no emergency, no reason to rush since the lake is not and will NEVER set on fire. You get the idea.


In which context should you use this idiom?


Well, you generally say “Il n’y a pas le feu au lac” when you feel rushed or pushed by someone. It’s a way to let this person know that he or she is being impatient without a good reason. You are telling this person “Slow down, slow down.”


The first time I heard this come out of my father’s mouth, I replied: “Which lake?”

I was not being clever or ironic. I was four.


French Bazaar!

French style, French idioms, French theatre, French fries, French politics, French chauvinism, French cinéma, French language, French strikes, French hair products, French news, French Antiques…

There will be French.

1 post a week on the blog is how we’ll start it.

1 post a week, donc. Some will deal with linguistic matters, some will discuss your future trip to France, some will let you  know about French events, some will share anecdotes à la française, some will fill up your bookshelf with new literature…

Oh, that’s right: who am I?

I am Virginie. And oh yes I am French. I am the one who says But of course! and Sacrebleu!. I am the French Ambassador to

But…who are you?

Well you are the curious one. The one who craves cheese updates, the one who wants to understand why French people are so French, the one who wants to know what is going on in Mirepoix, the one who lives in Vladivostok but still wants to learn French, the one who wants to impress his French in-laws with idioms, the one who wants to gossip about the French president’s wife.

Anyway…we’ll get to know each other.
Now… all these posts will need to find a breathe, to come to life. They will need attention. Like princesses. They will depend on you, on what you think, on what you’ve experienced, on what you want to hear about…in short they will need you to comment on them. They will need friends. Don’t we all?

So…welcome to the French Bazaar! We dusted it today for your first visit, and we certainly hope you’ll find that precious nugget of information that you’ve always wanted! Now is time to chiner!