Mind your French


With all those Brexit woes, you might like this article from The Connexion about how to swear in French without actually swearing.

The acceptable way to ‘Mind your French’ in polite society…

In French like in English, more polite ways of swearing have developed over the years. Here, we have picked a few more publicly acceptable expressions to swear in French.

Instead of saying the commonly-used and not-for-polite-company putain (which literally means prostitute and covers an impressive range of reactions from surprise, shock and disappointment to awe and joy), you could say punaise (literally drawing pin or thumbtack), purée (mash), or pétard (a firecracker).

Children but also adults love to replace another common and well-known swear-word – merde – with mercredi (Wednesday), or mince. Zut can be used, but it’s a little old-fashioned now.

Instead of saying bordel (lit: brothel), you may hear bazar – which means much the same but is less vulgar. Be careful you can say ‘quel bazar!’ but you cannot use bazar alone as an exclamation. You may also say ‘c’est le bazar’.

To insult someone, children may use ‘face de pet’ (fartface) but you can also say ‘pourriture’ – which means rotten, and is less offensive.

If you want to replace ‘con’ (dumb), perhaps consider saying idiot, andouille, or benêt which refers to someone a bit naive and stupid.

Instead of describing a sycophant as a lèche-cul (google it), you could say lèche-bottes (someone who licks boots).

Meanwhile, ferme ta bouche (literally close your mouth) is more polite than ferme ta gueule if someone annoys you. ‘Gueule’ refers the mouth of an animal, and is exceptionally rude. The most neutral thing to say is ‘tais-toi’.

‘Va au Diable’ (go to hell) is self-explanatory as a way to tell someone to go away. Va-t’en is more polite than ‘casse-toi’, ‘barre-toi’, or ‘dégage’.

If you do not believe in someone’s story you can say ‘mon oeil!’ (my eye) instead of ‘mon cul!’. Children tend to use ‘mon oeil!’ a lot.

When someone is annoying you, you can say ‘il me casse les pieds’ or ‘il me casse les bonbons’ instead of the well-known expression casser les couilles (yep, google it).

Speaking of couilles, you can avoid saying je m’en bats les couilles (meaning I don’t care) by using several expressions such as ‘j’en ai rien à cirer’ (literally I have nothing to polish). This expression comes from the 15th century when sailors had to polish the ship deck. They used to say that they had nothing to polish when they finished.

‘Je m’en tamponne le coquillard’ is another way to say ‘I don’t care’ – coquillard refers to coquille (shell), and also has female sexual undertones. Sometimes coquillard is not used and you may only hear ‘je m’en tamponne’.

In the same way, if you are not interested in something someone is telling you, you can say ‘ça me fait une belle jambe’ (literally meaning it makes my leg look good). This expression comes from the 17th century when men used to wear tights but the tradition became unpopular two centuries later and men used to say ‘this will not make my leg look better’. It has now changed to the ironical expression ‘ça me fait une belle jambe’.

[Did that help?  Ed.]