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FRENCH WORD OF THE DAY

French Expression of the Day: Gros poisson

This expression has long been associated with policing but has many other uses too, although you won't see it on a menu.

French Expression of the Day: Gros poisson
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

Why do I need to know gros poisson? 

Because while we assume that readers of The Local are not involved in organised crime, you never know. 

What does it mean?

Gros poisson, pronounced “groh pwah-sonn” means big fish.

But when used as an expression, it means an important or influential person. 

It is slang which comes from the world of policing and is often used to talk about crime bosses, kingpins and gang leaders. 

In this context you can use gros poisson like this: 

On a arrêté plusieurs gros poissons – We have arrested several crime bosses

Vito Corleone est le gros poisson du milieu italien – Vito Corleone is the head of the Italian mafia 

It can also be used in a more general sense, not necessarily in relation to crime, to refer to anyone who is a big figure, important or influential.

Emmanuel Macron est le gros poisson de l’état français – Emmanuel Macron is the big dog of the French state”

Si tu fais beaucoup d’effort, tu pourrais devenir le gros poisson – If you put in lots of work, you can become the big boss

In French, gros poisson dans un petite mare (big fish in a small sea) is the equivalent idiom to “big fish in a small pond” – ie someone who is important but only within their own small group. 

It is used by the rapper, Orelsan, in one of his songs. 

The chorus contains the lyrics: 

Un gros poisson dans une petite mare // Le roi des fourmis, le prince des sous-fifres// Un gros poisson dans une petite mare// J’te parle de bluff, d’excès d’orgueil, d’abus de pouvoir// Un gros poisson dans une petite mare// Le roi des fourmis, le prince des sous-fifres// Un gros poisson dans une petite mare// On trouve toujours plus fort que soi, c’est ça la morale de l’histoire

A big fish in a small pond// The king of the ants, the prince of the underlings// A big fish in a small pond// I am talking to you about bluffing, an excess of pride and an abuse of power// A big fish in a small pond// The king of the ants, the prince of the underlings// A big fish in a small pond// There is always someone stronger than you, that is the moral of the story

Synonyms 

In French people do not say le grand fromage to mean the “big cheese” or big boss. 

A better way to convey that someone is a big player, whether involved in crime or not, is grand manitou

Elle est un grand manitou de l’industrie – She is a big figure in the industry 

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FRENCH WORD OF THE DAY

French Word of the Day: T’inquiète

This is a good example of something you won't find in your French textbook, but will nonetheless hear all the time in France.

French Word of the Day: T’inquiète

Why do I need to know t’inquiète?

Because you might be wondering why people keep telling you to worry all the time.

What does it mean?

T’inquiète – usually pronounced tan-kee-ett – literally means ‘you worry’ but in actuality it means ‘don’t worry.’

It’s a good example of the difference between spoken and written French.

It is the ‘tu’ conjugation of the verb ‘S’inquieter’ which means to worry.

The command “don’t worry,” which is reflexive in French, should actually be written as “ne t’inquiète pas” (do not worry yourself).

But in colloquial speech this is often shortened it to t’inquiète pas or simply t’inquiète.

It’s one of many examples where the ne of the ne . . pas negative form disappears in spoken French. 

This is in the ‘tu’ form, meaning it is informal, it’s not rude but you might not want to tell your boss to t’inquiete.

Use it like this

Vous vous en sortirez bien à l’examen de langue, votre français est excellent. T’inquiète. – You will do fine on the language exam, your French is great. Don’t worry.

Non, non, t’inquiète ! Tout le monde a adoré ton idée. – No, no don’t worry! Everyone loved your idea.

Alternatives

If you want the more formal version of telling someone not to worry it’s Ne vous inquiétez pas

If you want a ‘no problem/don’t worry about it’ type response, especially if someone has apologised for something, you could say Ce n’est pas grave (it’s not serious)

While you can also use Pas de soucis to say ‘no worries’, although that is slightly controversial and more often used by younger people.

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