By Briana Seftel
Known in French as argot, slang in France is a multi-varied tapestry of emotions, ranging from ecstatic to disgusted. Everyone uses slang, so on your trip it may be helpful to decode what exactly they're saying. Here are a handful of French words and expressions you won’t find in a textbook.
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See you later
No, this isn’t a score you hope to get on a French test - it’s French text speak for à plus tard or see you later. What started among teens, it has become a common abbreviation across the country.
Ex: “La fête est ce soir. A+” "The party is tonight. See you later!"
Literally meaning brothel, bordel has evolved to mean mess or a more derogatory term, depending on the situation. Generally speaking, un bordel is not a good thing.
Ex: "C’est le bordel ici! Il faut vraiment que tu ranges ta chambre." It’s a mess in here! You need to clean your room.
3. La bouffe
No trip to France is complete without feasting on carb-heavy delicacies like croissants and baguettes. If you’re hungry and ready to eat, it may be helpful to learn the slang term for food, which is la bouffe. It can also be used as a verb, bouffer, which means to eat.
Ex: "C'est l'heure de la bouffe." "It's time to eat."
4. Un boulot
If you find yourself on le metro at 9am, you will probably encounter many people on their way to their boulot, or job. Boulot comes from the French word boulotter, which means to work with secrecy. Un petit boulot is used when describing a part-time or odd job.
Ex: "Metro, Boulot, Dodo." "Metro, work, sleep."
You may be introduced to someone's mec or meuf in France. Translating to "guy," mec is a more casual way of describing a man, but is also commonly used to describe a boyfriend. The same goes with meuf - think of it as the French version of "chick."
Ex: "Camille a un nouveau mec. Tu l'as rencontré?" "Camille has a new boyfriend. Have you met him?"
In French slang, there is a thing called verlan, which is the inversion of syllables to make a new word. (The word verlan is in itself an inversion of l'envers, or backwards) Confusing? It can be. To make this clearer, one of the most common verlan words is ouf, which is the inversion of fou or crazy.
Ex: "C'est un truc d'ouf à faire." "It's a crazy thing to do."
The United States might have hipsters, but France has bobos. Short for bourgeois-bohemian, a bobo is generally a middle or upper-class Parisian who eats organically, dresses in sustainable clothes, and lives by his or her iPhone. Not necessarily a compliment, le bobo can be found in areas like Canal St. Martin, Belleville and Le Marais.
Ex: "Mon amie, il est un bobo. Il a payé 100 euros pour un t-shirt blanc!" My friend, he is a bobo. He paid 100 dollars for a white t-shirt!
8. Laisse tomber
Literally translating to "let it fall," laisse tomber can also mean forget it or nevermind. You may hear this phrase if you're talking to a native speaker and they aren't understanding you. But don't take offense, this is quite a common expression and isn't meant to be rude. In verlan, it becomes laisse beton.
Ex: "Laisse tomber, tu vas te faire mal si tu continue." "Forget it, you're going to be sick if you continue."
9. Le fric
Like in English, the French have several slang words to mean money (formally known as l'argent) including le fric, le pognon, and la thune. Le fric is by far the most popular.
Ex: "Je besoins de prendre le fric pour le dîner." "I need to take out money for dinner."
10. J’me casse
I’m out of here
The verb casser literally means to break, but in French slang it means to leave. It can be super casual or bordering on rude depending on the situation, so be careful when using it. If you find yourself in an uncomfortable interaction with a stranger, a simple "casse-toi!" will do the trick.
Ex: "J'ai une rendez-vous chez le médecin. Bon, j'me casse." "I have a doctor's appointment. I gotta go."
11. Les fringues
Parisians are famous for their effortless style, so if you really want to look the part, you'll need to know the slang word for clothes. Les fringues, slang for vêtements, comes from the verb fringuer, which means to dress.
Ex: "Tu as des fringues pour le weekend à Chamonix?" "Do you have clothes for the weekend in Chamonix?"
12. Tomber dans les pommes
Literally translating to “falling in the apples,” tomber dans les pommes is an expression used to mean passing out, fainting, or losing consciousness. The origin of this quirky phrase probably comes from George Sand's être dans les pommes cuites, a play on être cuit (to be exhausted). Still, the addition of apples remains a mystery.
Ex: “Robert était tellement bourré qu'il est tombée dans les pommes. “Robert was so drunk that he passed out.”
Everyone knows oui means yes in French, but if you really want to impress the locals, drop a casual ouais in there. Pronounced like "way," ouais is a more informal way to say yes. Think of it as the french equivalent of yeah or yep!