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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 Expression of the Day: À la one again

Half of it is in English, but this 'franglish' expression is not logical for native speakers of English.

French Expression of the Day: À la one again

Why do I need to know à la one again ?

Because if you finished your task in a rush, you may have done it like this.

What does it mean?

À la one again – roughly pronounced ah la wun eh-gehn –  means to do something carelessly, quickly, or nonsensically. It translates precisely to “in the manner of the one again.”

This slang expression first entered the French vocabulary in the 1990’s, and as you may have noticed it combines French and English words, in a way that does not make much sense to your average English-speaker. 

The phrase is popular amongst young people in France, but its origins are up for debate. Most people in France would recognise it as having been popularised again by the comedian Franck Duboscq in his sketches.

Use it like this

J’ai oublié que j’avais un projet à rendre aujourd’hui, alors j’ai fait un truc à la one again. – I forgot I had a project due today, so I threw something together carelessly.

J’ai fait la liste des invités à la one again donc ce sera un groupe de personnes au hasard. – I made the invitation list haphazardly so the group will be random.

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