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FRENCH WORD OF THE DAY

French Expression of the Day: De bonne heure

Surprisingly, this French phrase does not mean ‘on time’.

French Expression of the Day:  De bonne heure
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

Why do I need to know de bonne heure?

Because someone might tell you to arrive at this time, and you’ll want to know what they mean.

What does it mean?

De bonne heure – usually pronounced “duh bohn urr” – literally translates to “the good hour,” which you might think would mean “to be on time.” However, in practice, the phrase actually means to be early or to be in advance. The most common French synonym of this phrase would simply be “tôt” which means early.

It can also be used to describe something that happens early in the morning or early in the day more generally. 

Interestingly enough, when the phrase started being used in the 14th century, it did mean to be on time, but its meaning shifted over time, the reason for which remains unclear. 

Up for a pun? Say this phrase three times fast to feel happy (if you didn’t get the joke, it’s because bonne heure sounds like bonheur, French for happiness).

Use it like this

Nous avons commencé la réunion de bonne heure, vers 7h30, avant l’ouverture des marchés boursiers. – We started the meeting early, around 7:30am, before the markets opened.

Je n’avais même pas encore commencé à cuisiner quand il est arrivé de bonne heure. Je n’étais pas préparée à le recevoir. – I hadn’t even started cooking when he arrived early. I wasn’t ready to have him over.

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FRENCH WORD OF THE DAY

French phrase of the Day: Ne me prends pas pour un lapin de six semaines

Being patronised by a Frenchman? Roll out this phrase.

French phrase of the Day: Ne me prends pas pour un lapin de six semaines

Why do I need to know ne me prends pas pour un lapin de six semaines?

Because someone might be trying to take you for a fool.

What does it mean?

Ne me prends pas pour un lapin de six semaines – pronounced ne me pren pah pour un lapan de see sem-enn – translates as ‘don’t take me for a six-week-old rabbit’, and is a go-to phrase to warn people not to mistake you for a fool, someone who doesn’t understand what’s going on.

The podcast Hit West from French regional newspaper Ouest-France suggests that the ‘six weeks’ comes from the age a rabbit is weaned at, and must therefore be ready to survive on its own.

And why a rabbit at all? Well no-one really seems very sure. Rabbits don’t get a good rap in the French language though, to stand someone up is poser un lapin in French.

English-language metaphor equivalents may be, “I didn’t come down in the last shower”, “I wasn’t born yesterday”, or, as Line of Duty’s DCI Hastings might say, “I didn’t float up the Lagan in a bubble”.

Use it like this

Honestly, keep it simple. If someone’s speaking to you in a patronising manner, simply say: Ne me prends pas pour un lapin de six semaines.

Ouest France suggests that this is the ‘more elegant’ way to request that people don’t take you for a fool. It’s not offensive, but it might be a little old-fashioned. 

Alternatives

You can use the more basic version of this phrase – Ne me prends pas pour une idiote (don’t take me for a fool) or the slightly more punchy Ne me prends pas pour un con (don’t take me for a moron).

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