Heading to Toulouse or anywhere else in the Southwest of France?
Well, then you don’t want sound like a Parigot—Southerners’ slang word for a Parisian.
Sure, they understand the “standard” dialect of French, but that doesn’t mean that they want to speak it with you.
There’s a classic, oft-repeated tale of the Parisian on vacation in the Southwest who goes into a bakery for a pain au chocolat (chocolate croissant) and gets invariably corrected—yes, corrected—with a curt, “Monsieur voulait une chocolatine ?”
It’s not just some cliché, however. I know Parisians who have experienced exactly that.
The accent is, of course, different, and many of the local slang words and expressions come from the Occitan language, which was dominant in the area prior to the linguistic crusade launch by French government and educational institutions long ago. Nowadays not too many young people speak fluent Occitan (although I’ve met some in my travels), but many Occitan-derived expressions are commonly used, and some of these have even crossed over into standard French.
This article focuses on the most useful, common and/or fun words and expressions you’ll hear in Toulouse and the rest of the Southwest. Some of them do also crop up in other parts of France. Where appropriate, the standard French version is also given, just in case you cross a Parigot and want to chat with him or her.
Learn these expressions before you arrive in the Southwest, and you’re likely to get very warm (albeit slightly surprised) welcomes from those you meet—and you’ll avoid receiving sour-faced vocabulary instruction in the bakery.
The 44 Top French Slang Expressions from Toulouse and the Southwest
To choke on something, étouffer in standard French
2. Férias (f.)
These are small town festivals that are very typical of the Southwest, with parades, music, corridas (bullfights) and traditional food and dance. If the idea appeals to you, check out the top five destinations for férias here.
3. Tu m’emboucanes !
This means “you’re getting on my nerves!” and comes from the verb emboucaner. This is more common in Marseilles than anywhere else.
4. Pitchoun/pitchoune (m./f.)
This is a very popular term for un enfant (child), as well as a general term of endearment for all ages.
Like the Italian ciao, this is used for both greeting people and saying goodbye. It’s from the Occitan adiu, and isn’t as common as some of the other expressions here, but it’s used in parts of the Southwest. An alternative is adiou.
This is a very light swear word. It’s from the Occitan bon diu, or “good God.”
It gets employed as a meaningless interjection, as in “Boudu que calou aujourd’hui !” (dear heavens, it’s hot today!). The under-75 set also employ the word but by coupling it with a much stronger swear word, which I’m pretty sure my dear, lovely editors will not let me write or literally translate.
This means amazed, surprised. It’s épaté or bluffé in standard French. You can say “ça m’espante” when something surprises you.
8. Mettre le ouaï
The last word is pronounced like the English “why,” which is probably related to its origin. This expression is a bit tough to explain, but basically it means to get things all crazy and mixed up, to screw around with stuff or to get the action going.
A rowdy group of of young Toulousans in a nightclub might say “on va mettre le ouaï !” when they’re about to go on a bender, hassle some girls or generally get crazy and mix things up a bit.
9. Parigot (m.)
As mentioned above, this is slang for a Parisian (parisien). It’s worth also noting that the implication is that the person in question is kind of a snob. If you consider yourself Parisian and you want to return the insult to someone extra-muros (beyond the walls of Paris), call him a Provincial (provincial).
10. Eh bèh
This is a meaningless interjection from the Occitan e ben (and, well). In standard French you hear et ben and et bien used as filler in the same way.
11. Déjeuner (m.)
If you learned that this means “lunch,” congrats on your standard French knowledge. But in the Southwest (as well as, interestingly, in Belgium, Switzerland and Canada), it means breakfast—which most French call le petit déjeuner.
This confusion probably came to pass because the verb “to eat breakfast” is dejunar in Occitan. My friends from the Southwest have recounted a bit of confusion in meal planning on their first contact with Parisians due to this.
12. Dîner (m.)
This is lunch in the Southwest (and Belgium, Switzerland and Canada), as is the verb manger.
This means “less,” just as in standard French. The wrinkle is that the s is actually pronounced. People from the Southwest tend to pronounce some letters that are silent in standard French, particularly at the ends of words.
This verb means to quickly knock something over. It’s faire tomber in standard French. For example: “Il a déquillé la statue !” (He knocked over the statue!) It’s from the Occitan verb desquilhar.
15. Avoir le froid dessus
This expression describes being cold and unable to find a way to get warm. A standard French version would be avoir froid jusqu’aux os (to be chilled to the bones).
To scam, or arnaquer in standard French. The Occitan source verb is empapautar.
This word definitely comes in handy. For example, in my travels Southwest while writing this post, j’ai été empapaouté par la SNCF (I was scammed by the French train company), whose employees are an evil, conniving bunch who managed to sell me a ticket on a train car that didn’t exist, and then acted as though that was my fault.
In the Southwest, trop is used in place of très.
The “ungrammatical” use of trop (too, excessively) before an adjective instead of très (very) is especially popular in the South, though it’s now also being taken up by young people everywhere.
For example, il est trop mignon (he’s too cute) would be il est très mignon in standard (“correct”) French.
18. Faire monter l’aïoli
This means to get things heated up, make someone mad or liven things up. Literally, aïoli is a lovely garlic mayonnaise that’s common in the South.
The term comes from the Provençal alh (garlic) and oli (oil). In standard French you can faire monter la mayonnaise or mettre l’ambiance.
This is a pretty vulgar way to tell someone off, from the Occitan fas cagar, which suggests to someone that he should go defecate.
This extremely common shortening of s’il faut (if it must be) simply means “maybe” in the Southwest. Sifaut je vais au cinéma ce soir is “maybe I’m going to the movies tonight.” Standard French uses peut-être.
21. Il fait frisquet
This simply means, “it’s a bit chilly.”
22. Tcharer, tchatcher
These verbs are of course not from Occitan, but rather the English “to chat,” and that’s what they mean.
For example: J’ai tcharé pendant des heures avec cette meuf. (I chatted with this gal for hours.) The noun form is tchatche (f.).
23. Il me tarde
This expresses impatience or looking forward to something, like j’ai hâte in standard French or “I can’t wait” in English.
I definitely had heard this in Paris before I ever stepped foot in the Southwest, but an extended roundtable discussion with representatives from both lands confirmed that it’s more Southern than Northern.
24. Poche (f.)
This is a bag, a sack or un sac in standard French.
Like chocolatine, the use of this word is a classic badge of honor. If you use a term other than une poche at the supermarket, you’ll be reflexively corrected. A variant that you may hear is pochon.
25. Pétanque (f.)
This is a summer game popular throughout France but is particularly a classic of the Southwest. It involves throwing baseball-sized balls as close as possible to a smaller ball, and also drinking a lot of pastis (see below).
Here’s a guide to get you up to speed quickly. The name comes from the word petanca in Provençal (which is a version/dialect of Occitan).
26. Pastis (m.)
One more commonly orders this flagship Southwestern drink (an anise liquor, mixed with water) by the brand name, Ricard. It can accompany any sunny summer day activity, as well as those with pétanque involved.
27. Tu roumègues ?
Are you upset with me/complaining to me/grousing?
Roumèguer is similar to the standard French verb râler.
This is used like the standard French tiens in the same sense (well, senselessness) as an interjection.
Place it at the beginning of a sentence when you’re still thinking up what to say.
For example, “tè, je te dis ce que je pense de ça.” (here, let me tell you what I think about that.)
Tè comes from Occitan, and is not commonly used in place of the more meaningful tiens, as in “tiens ça pour moi“(hold onto this for me).
To throw a fit/have a tantrum/be angry.
30. Ça pègue
That works, that’s fine. Ça colle is what’s used for this in standard informal French
31. Cague-braille (m.)
Pants that are too big.
32. Se biturer
This verb is used in some other regions as well, and it means “to get drunk.” It’s se bourrer la gueule in standard French. For example, “on va se biturer la gueule !” (we’re going to get wasted!) Not that we’d recommend this as personal catchphrase or anything.
33. Être mal fagoté
This means to be badly dressed. It’s être mal habille in standard French. There’s also the verb se fagoter, which means to dress yourself badly or strangely.
34. Malle (f.)
In the Southwest, this is the trunk of the car (the boot for you Brits). In the North it’s called a coffre. Malle in standard French is used to refer to a travel trunk or case.
In standard French this adjective is used for someone who is courageous (as in English) or good and honest. In the Southwest, thanks to Occitan’s influence in the use of the same word, it can describe someone who’s too servile, a doormat.
36. Rocade (f.)
A beltway (UK: ring road) or périphérique in standard French
37. Les drôles (m.)
As a noun in the Southwest this can refer to children (les enfants in standard French). You’ve more likely heard drôle employed as an adjective meaning funny.
In standard French, drôles can also mean weird stories, and drôles de gets employed as an intensifier, as in faire des drôles d’efforts (to make a huge effort).
This verb means to move, stir or mix, like remuer in standard French. The Southwest’s version comes from the Occitan bolegar. Used as a reflexive verb (se bouléguer), this means to get a move on or get going, just like the standard reflexive se remuer.
Boulègue-toi le cul is thus a common way to tell someone to get his rear in gear.
39. Trou gascon
Literally this translates as the “Gascon hole,” but that doesn’t tell us much, except that we’re indeed situating ourselves in the Southwestern region of Gascony.
The tradition takes some explaining, but it could very well change your life, so bear with me. The trou gascon is a play on the more popularly known trou normand, or the Norman tradition of taking a break in a multiple course meal to have a glass of calvados (apple brandy), which is thought to bore a hole through your stomach contents, paving the way for more gluttony.
The Gascons have taken up the tradition, but with their region’s own celebrated aged brandy, armagnac. There’s even a bit more to it than that, but in essence, you now have a very Southwestern French cultural excuse to drink and pig out. Enjoy.
Crazy, or fou in standard French
This is another word for crazy and can also mean strange or stupid. An alternate spelling is barjot.
42. Aller péter
This means to go a great distance, generally too far. For example: Il faut aller péter à l’autre bout de la ville. (It’s necessary to go all the way over to the other side of the city.)
43. Avoir la cagne
If you say j’ai la cagne you’re feeling lazy, or not really up to doing something. It’s just like standard French’s avoir la flemme.
44. Un pec, une pegue
An idiot, taken from the Occitan pec/pèga.
Southwestern French Pop Quiz
The French newspaper Libération has proposed this example to demonstrate the impenetrability of Southern French for those who are visiting from the North. Before you scroll down, see if, using what you now know, you can translate it into standard French. And just a hint: It’s talking about children who aren’t so well behaved.
Le pitchoun qui roumègue parce que la petite l’a fait bisquer, avant de s’escaner avec un noyau d’olive. Et l’autre avec son cague-braille qui ne sait ni tirer, ni pointer (à la pétanque) alors que si’faut, il le fait exprès…
Ready? Here’s how a Parisian translated that into her standard French for me:
Le gamin qui râle parce que la petite l’a fait enrager, avant de s’étouffer avec un noyau d’olive. Et l’autre avec son pantalon trop grand qui ne sait ni tirer ni pointer (techniques du jeu de pétanque) alors que peut-être, il le fait exprès…
And here’s a translation into English:
The kid throws a fit because the girl got him upset, and then chokes on an olive pit. And the other, with his over-sized pants, is playing pétanque quite badly, and perhaps doing so on purpose…
If it seems scandalously difficult, just remember that those two sentences were written for the purpose of demonstrating the dialect.
As much as they may proudly hang on to certain regionalisms, people from all over France do communicate without much difficulty. You can go to the South with your standard textbook French and be absolutely fine.
But if you offer a chocolatine to a pitchoun, or you romègues après les Parigots autour d’un verre de Ricard, you’re likely to have more fun with your new Southwestern friends.
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