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FRENCH WORD OF THE DAY

French Expression of the Day: Tarte à la crème

This expression is more than just your last order at the boulangerie.

French Expression of the Day: Tarte à la crème
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

Why do I need to know tarte à la crème ?

Because if someone uses this phrase to describe you, you should probably be a bit offended.

What does it mean?

Tarte à la crème – pronounced tart ah lah krem – literally refers to a cream filled tart, or a custard tart, in English. However, this expression has more to do than just baking. It is another way of describing something that is boring, predictable or commonplace.

This expression comes straight from Moliere himself. In the 17th century, there was a popular rhyming game called “Corbillon.” The phrase “Je vous passe mon corbillon” (I pass you by corbillon) is said, and then it is followed by “Qu’y met-on?” (What does one put on it?) To keep the rhyme up, people must respond with something ending in an -ON sound.

In the play, “L’Ecole des Femmes” (The School of Wives), one character says the ideal woman would respond to the question with “tarte à la crème” which is obviously the wrong answer. The right answer would be tarte à la citron (lemon tart). Molière did this on purpose to poke fun at the fact that disgruntled fans would send poor actors cream tarts to express their frustration.

It was a way of ridiculing his critics and showing he was unimpressed by their method of showing discontentment at his plays. Over time, the phrase went on to describe things that are commonplace or boring. It is often used to describe entertainment related topics, such as books, movies, or plays.

A synonym for this phrase in French might be banal and in English you might say something is ‘vanilla’ to describe something that is fairly unexciting.

Use it like this

Le film était vraiment tarte à la crème. Je ne recommande pas d’aller le voir au cinéma, vous pouvez attendre de le voir une fois qu’il sera gratuit en ligne. – The movie was really boring. I don’t recommend going to see it at the movies, you can simply wait to see it once it is free online.

Je pense que l’album est tarte à la crème. Elle a pris tellement d’idées d’autres artistes que ce n’est vraiment pas original du tout. – I think the album is predictable. She really took plenty of ideas from other artists and it was not original at all.

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FRENCH WORD OF THE DAY

French Word of the Day: Rodéo

In France, this word has nothing to do with cowboys.

French Word of the Day: Rodéo

Why do I need to know rodéo ?

Because they are becoming more common in certain parts of France, so you’ll likely hear about them, but if you’re expecting cowboys the you’re likely to be disappointed. 

What does it mean?

Rodéo – roughly pronounced roe-day-oh – is a French word that is formally defined as the assembling or herding of a group of young animals. 

This is probably the definition you are most familiar with, or perhaps you associate the word with the American and Mexican sporting events that involve large arenas and activities like lassoing young cows, riding bulls or broncos, or attempting to restrain a steer.

However, in practice, the more common French usage of the word “rodéo” would be one that is more correctly defined as a “rodéo urbain.”

These are illegal street races that take place either between motorcycles or cars on public roads, sometimes also known as a rodéo sauvage – unlicenced race.

Les rodéos have become a focus of French law enforcement in recent years, due to the increasing popularity of these races in working-class neighbourhoods across the country. Punishable by one year’s imprisonment and a fine of up to 15,000, the French government instituted new laws to “reinforce the fight against rodéos” in 2018.

They are particularly controversial due to their loudness and for how dangerous they are, and they’re also the subject of an award-winning French film called simply Rodeo (using the English spelling), in which the director used real rodéo riders to perform the stunts.

Use it like this

Le jeune homme de 19 ans a été interpellé après un rodéo urbain. – The 19-year-old young man was arrested after an illegal street race. 

Il y a quelques semaines, le ministre de l’Intérieur a mobilisé les forces de l’ordre afin d’enrayer des rodéos en France. – A few weeks ago, the Minister of the Interior mobilised law enforcement forces to curb the rise of illegal street racing in France.

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