When you’re just starting to learn French, you’ve gotta step up and memorize a lot of vocab.
Argot, or slang, can make all that memorizing way more fun.
It gives you a taste of real French, the authentic language of native speakers!
You can learn some of those French slang expressions right here. Memorize as many as you like, and be sure to drop them in front of your French-speaking friends!
- 1. Ça baigne ? Ça baigne !
- 2. Arrête de te la péter.
- 3. Je me casse.
- 4. Il capte rien.
- 5. Laisse tomber.
- 6. Sans déc.
- 7. Parler comme une vache espagnole.
- 8. J’ai la flemme.
- 9. J’ai un petit creux.
- 10. Quoi.
- 11. Partir en piste.
- 12. Être dans le coaltar.
- 13. Tirer les marrons du feu.
- 14. Finir sur la paille.
- 15. Demander une rallonge.
- 16. Poser une colle.
- 17. Vas-y mollo.
- 18. Zoner
- 19. Filer un mauvais coton.
- 20. En faire tout un fromage.
- 21. Être affublé(e).
- 22. Faire des siennes.
- 23. Flambant neuf.
- 24. BCBG
- 25. Habillé(e) comme la chienne à Jacques.
- Why Learning French Slang Is Important
- How to Learn French Slang
1. Ça baigne ? Ça baigne !
When you first started learning French, you probably picked up quite quickly on that very useful question/answer pair: “Ça va ? Ça va !“
The expression literally translates to “It goes?” “It goes!” but is used as a form of greeting, similar to, “How are you?” “Good.”
And yet, if you really want to sound in-the-know, this other question-answer pair is far more useful.
Ça baigne uses the verb baigner, meaning to bathe.
Baigner is used non-idiomatically to refer to something submerged in a liquid. For example: Ça baigne dans de l’huile (It is bathed in oil). In fact, that’s likely where the expression comes from.
Some etymologists believe that this mid-20th century French slang term comes from the idea of bathing in oil—something that’s quite fantastic for potatoes or pommes frites (French fries)—or even another kind of bathing altogether.
Ça baigne is often associated with the beach, where not only do people se baignent, go for a dip, but are often themselves baignés (bathed) in oil—tanning oil, that is!
Of course, today you don’t need to be swimming in anything in particular to use this expression that means ça va.
Je t’ai pas vu depuis longtemps. Ça baigne ? — Ouais, ça baigne ! (I haven’t seen you in a long time. Everything going okay? — Yeah, it’s going well.)
2. Arrête de te la péter.
This next expression is used to tell someone to stop being a show-off or stop bragging.
Before we delve into this expression, bear one thing in mind: you don’t want to use this one in front of anyone’s grandmother. Or really anyone’s mother. It’s not all that vulgar, but it’s definitely not for mixed company.
The reason has a lot to do with the real meaning of the last word: péter means to fart.
You may now be asking yourself why there’s an idiomatic expression in French telling people not to fart on themselves. It’s a bit more complicated than that.
The clue is in that la that has snuck its way into the expression. The la refers to a noun now forgotten in the general use of the phrase—originally it referred to bretelle or suspender.
In the 19th century, holding out one’s suspender and making it pète or snap against one’s chest was a way of punctuating a brag or show-offy comment. The expression is still used in its entirety in Québec.
If you want to use a similar expression in mixed company, try using Arrête de te vanter instead.
Arrête de te la péter. Je ne peux pas supporter ton comportement ! (Stop acting like you’re such a big deal. I can’t stand your behavior!)
J’aimerais qu’il arrête de te la péter. Il est hyper arrogant ! (I wish he’d stop showing off. He’s so arrogant!)
3. Je me casse.
This is a very familiar, bordering on rude way to say that you’re leaving somewhere. A bit like “I’m outta here!”
It can also be used as a suggestion: On se casse ? (Should we get out of here?)
This expression can also be used as a sort of insult. To say “Casse-toi !” to someone means, “Get out of here!” or even “Piss off!”
It’s definitely not an expression to be used around just anyone, but it can come in handy if you’re being harassed in the street. A well-placed “Casse-toi !” definitely gets the message across.
J’en ai marre de cette situation. Je me casse. (I’ve had enough of this situation. I’m outta here!)
4. Il capte rien.
Astute French grammarians will see that the negator “ne” has been dropped from this phrase, as it is in most French slang expressions.
This one means “He doesn’t understand anything,” or “He’s super out of it.” You can use it to describe an airhead or someone a few crayons short of a full box.
If you want to put even more emphasis on this expression, you can say, “Il capte trois fois rien.” Though astute mathematicians will say that three times nothing is still nothing. French slang isn’t an exact science.
Il est vraiment sous le choc. Il capte rien aujourd’hui. (He’s really in a daze. He just isn’t understanding anything today.)
Je capte rien de ce que tu dis. (I’m not grasping what you’re saying.)
5. Laisse tomber.
Laisse tomber means “Let it go” or directly translated, “Let it fall.”
It’s vaguely similar to the English “Drop it,” though the English expression is a bit more aggressive in intent than the French version. “Never mind” would be a more apt translation.
Laisse tomber is a great expression to use when you realize that the person you’re talking to doesn’t understand what you’re saying and you’re tired of trying to explain… something that can happen frequently when you’re learning a language.
This expression has become so common in French that some prefer to use it in verlan, the French slang that consists of inverting syllables of certain words. (Verlan is verlan for l’envers, or “the opposite.”)
The verlan for laisse tomber is laisse béton, which becomes all the more amusing when you realize that béton also means concrete.
Laisse tomber—il ne vaut pas la peine de disputer. (Let it go. It’s not worth arguing about.)
Quand vous pardonnez quelqu’un, il faut laisser tomber son délit. (When you pardon someone, you have to let their offense go.)
6. Sans déc.
Those born before the early ’90s will remember when duh became the word of choice for teens across America. So is Sans déc for the French teen of today.
Sans déc is the abbreviated version of Sans déconner, something that directly translates to approximately “You’re not kidding”—though the word choice is far stronger than “kidding.”
This is a fairly vulgar expression that you’ll want to avoid in mixed company. If you wish to express the same meaning in front of people you don’t want to curse in front of, try Sans blague, or “No joke.”
Lire ce tome de Jules Verne, ça prend beaucoup de temps. – Sans déc ! Quand même, ça vaut la peine. (Reading this Jules Verne book takes a lot of time. – No kidding! Even so, it’s worth the effort.)
Tricoter un pullover, c’est un vrai effort ! – Sans déc. Il m’a fallu un mois pour finir. (Knitting a sweater is a real effort! – No joke. It took me a month to finish.)
7. Parler comme une vache espagnole.
This expression is usually used to describe someone’s foreign language skills… and it’s not a compliment. To compare someone’s speaking to a “Spanish cow” is a colorful way of saying that they don’t speak very well.
You’ll often hear French speakers complain that they speak English “comme une vache espagnole,” so it’s lucky your French will be good enough to make up for it!
And, if someone ever does compare your language skills to a Spanish cow, be sure you have a well-placed retort ready to prove them wrong.
C’est difficile de l’écouter parler en français. Elle le parle comme une vache espagnole ! (It’s hard to listen to her speak French. She speaks it like a Spanish cow!)
8. J’ai la flemme.
If you’re comparing this to the English cognate phlegm, you’re right on point! But before you think this is an expression you should be using when you have a cold, hang on; this phrase has nothing to do with mucus buildup.
French—like many other Romance languages—often continues to use terms that come from Greco-Roman medicine, particularly those having to do with the humors.
Sanguin, bilieux, flegmatique and mélancolique are all adjectives you’ll still hear today to describe people’s personalities.
Flemme comes from the same root as flegmatique, though while the latter describes someone of a relaxed, peaceful nature, flemme is more negative in nature and means laziness.
When someone says J’ai la flemme, they aren’t necessarily describing themselves as a lazy person. They’re saying that they aren’t in the mood to do a task set before them…or that they’re in a general state of laziness at that point in time.
This can also be compared of the French use of the word spleen in its Baudelairian sense—to have le spleen means to feel generally discouraged or to have ennui. It doesn’t mean a depressed or depressive person; it just describes a current mood.
J’ai la flemme aujourd’hui. Je reste simplement chez moi. Peut-être, je vais regarder tous les épisodes de cette nouvelle émission sur Netflix. (I’m feeling really lazy today. I’m just staying home. Maybe I’ll binge-watch this new show on Netflix.)
Je dois finir mes devoirs, mais j’ai la flemme—je vais plutôt faire la grasse matinée. (I should finish my homework, but I’m feeling lazy. I’m going to sleep in instead.)
9. J’ai un petit creux.
A creux is a hollow, related to the French verb creuser, to dig. In French, saying that you have a creux means that it’s in a very specific place…your stomach. Saying J’ai un petit creux means that you’re a bit hungry or peckish.
This expression can also be used when you’re very hungry…just remove the petit and replace it with a grand!
It’s not as common to express great hunger using this expression. Still, the phrase will come in handy when someone asks if you’d like to eat something—and you’d like to say something like, “I could eat”: “Ouais, j’ai un petit creux.“
Je veux pas bouffer maintenant; justement, j’ai un petit creux. (I don’t want to pig out; I’m just a little peckish.)
Il a un petit creux. Donc, je vais lui donner quelque chose à grignoter. (He’s a little hungry. So, I’m going to give him something to snack on.)
Those familiar with French slang probably don’t see how this counts as an expression, but hang on a second—in this case, quoi isn’t merely the translation of “what.”
French speakers in recent years have picked up the habit of using quoi as a general way to punctuate the ends of sentences. It has no real meaning, save one of slight emphasis or summary. For example:
Il n’avait pas de plan de la ville. Son téléphone n’avait plus de batterie. Il avait oublié le nom de la personne qu’il devait retrouver… Pas de chance, quoi.
(He didn’t have a map of the city. His phone was out of battery. He had forgotten the name of the person he was supposed to meet… Tough luck.)
The interesting thing about quoi for those learning French is that it’s hard to use it incorrectly. Start tacking it on to the end of your sentences for emphasis, and see how impressed your French friends are with your newly found French slang skills!
Je vais marcher au restaurant pour la grande bouffe. C’est une sorte d’exercice, quoi. (I’m going to walk to the restaurant for the big feast. It’s sort of exercising, whatever.)
Elle aime les sucreries, les bonbons, s’empiffrer de chocolat, quoi. (She likes sweets, candies, binging on chocolate, and so forth.)
11. Partir en piste.
Une piste usually means “a trail” or “a track”—and can also refer to a lead in a police investigation, or a trail on the ski slopes. So, you might not associate partir en piste with getting drunk.
Nonetheless, partir en piste is a way of saying, “to go out for a drink.” And it’s usually more than just a beer after work or a friendly glass of wine.
Partir en piste is used for planned debauchery in Bretagne (Brittany), in the west of France, as well as in some French-speaking parts of Switzerland.
Admittedly, the Swiss version seems milder; it can indicate a night of socializing that starts off fairly calm, then escalates to inebriation.
The implication en Bretagne (in Brittany) is that partir en piste means getting falling-down drunk. Possibly, with some time at a boîte de nuit (night club) thrown in for good measure. (It’s probably best to partake of the dancing portion of the evening while staying upright is still possible.)
If you’re more interested in dancing than drunkenness, you can also use partir en piste to mean “hit the dance floor.”
Nous sommes partis en piste hier soir et j’ai toujours la gueule de bois. (We went out drinking last night and I still have a hangover [literally, “wooden mouth.”])
Alice aime bien danser; donc, elle a demandé à Patrick de partir en piste. (Alice really likes to dance, so she asked Patrick to go out on the dance floor.)
12. Être dans le coaltar.
This one uses an English loanword, so the literal meaning is pretty straightforward: “To be in the coal tar.”
If you’re not familiar with it, coal tar is a thick, black liquid that’s a byproduct of coal processing. Although it has some purported medicinal purposes and has been used in toiletries like dandruff shampoo and psoriasis treatments, its primary use is in paving roads and waterproofing underneath roofing tiles.
If you’re in this icky stuff, it means that you’re not thinking very clearly. You’re in a daze, you’re half-asleep, you feel like you’re mired in something.
A related expression would be être dans le cirage (to be in polish, such as wood polish or shoe polish).
Aside from the stickiness of both coal tar and polish, another characteristic they share is strong fumes—which might make one dizzy and disoriented, especially after extensive exposure.
A more modern variation, which plays on the viscosity of coal tar, is être dans le pâté (to be in the pâté, a finely ground mixture of meat and fat).
J’ai travaillé jour et nuit, sans cesse. Je me sens vraiment être dans le coaltar ! (I worked night and day, without a break. I really feel like I’m in a daze!)
Il a bu toute la nuit. Il est tellement bourré—complètement dans le coaltar. (He drank all night. He’s so drunk—completely in a fog.)
13. Tirer les marrons du feu.
An expression that dates back to 1640 and became well-known through Jean de la Fontaine’s poetic adaptation of “Le Singe et le Chat” (“The Monkey and the Cat”) in 1679, tirer les marrons du feu literally means “to pull the chestnuts out of the fire.”
Figuratively, it’s a way of saying that someone is doing something dangerous or risky in order to get a reward. Originally, as is indicated in “Le Singe et le Chat,” it would’ve been something that was done on the behalf of someone else.
Over time, this French slang expression got shortened from tirer les marrons du feu avec la patte du chat (to pull the chestnuts out of the fire with the cat’s paw) to simply tirer les marrons du feu.
Once the ending of the expression fell away, its meaning changed slightly. Nowadays, it can still mean doing something dangerous for someone else’s benefit—but it can also mean that you will reap the reward from the risk.
This expression is also used in English, and has basically the same meaning. A variation to the English version of the expression would be when someone “saves your bacon.”
Je ne savais pas comment résoudre ce problème informatique. Albert a réécrit le code pour moi—en effet, il a tiré les marrons du feu, pour que mon projet puisse réussir. (I didn’t know how to solve this computer problem. Albert rewrote the code for me—in essence, he did the hard work, so that this project could succeed.)
Si je risque mon propre argent en cet investissement, je pourrais tirer les marrons du feu et gagner beaucoup. (If I risk my own money on this investment, I could profit it from it and gain a lot of money.)
14. Finir sur la paille.
No matter where you started, finir sur la paille (“To finish on the straw,” literally) means that you end up poor.
This expression may hearken back to the story of Jesus’ nativity, in which the newborn Christ child was laid within a manger. Traditionally, the bedding placed inside that manger has been portrayed as straw, which is used as bedding for farm animals.
In the nativity story, the manger was a humble place for an infant to find rest.
If someone were to end up “on the straw,” it would mean that they were without any sort of resources at all, that they have no money or means whatsoever.
Bien qu’il ait gagné beaucoup d’argent par ses investissements, il a tout perdu et a fini sur la paille. (Even though he won a lot of money through his investments, he lost everything and would up skint.)
Si tu fais confiance en un financier louche, tu peux finir sur la paille ! (If you put your faith in a shady financial advisor, you can end up broke!)
15. Demander une rallonge.
As a physical object, une rallonge can be an extra leaf for your dining-room table or an extension cord to help you reach une prise (an electrical socket).
When it comes to money and credit, une rallonge is also a type of extension. Demander une rallonge can mean to ask for an advance on your salary—in case an unexpected expense has come up and you can’t quite wait for payday.
It can also mean asking for some extra money.
In addition to petitioning someone for extra money or advance payment, demander une rallonge can be used when you need some extra time, like an extension on a deadline.
Finally, in the context of a courtroom, it can be a way to ask for a continuance in a trial, in case more time were needed to prepare a case.
Après avoir rendu compte qu’elle n’a pas assez de temps pour finir sa dissertation, Anne a demandé une rallonge à son prof. (After having realized that she wouldn’t have enough time to finish her term paper, Anne asked her professor for an extension.)
La voiture de Tanguy est soudainement en panne. Il va demander une rallonge à son patron, pour qu’il puisse payer les réparations. (Tanguy’s car suddenly broke down. He’s going to ask his boss for an advance on his salary, so he can pay for repairs.)
16. Poser une colle.
Have you ever had to ask a difficult or “sticky” question? In French slang, you’d call this poser une colle. Colle is a word for “glue” or “paste” in French.
Poser une colle also means to “pose a riddle,” or to ask a trick question. It can also mean to make someone guess about something. (In this sense, it can be used reflexively, as in il m’a posé une colle meaning “he stumped me.”)
You can use se poser une colle to mean that someone has put you on the spot or forced you into an awkward position.
Colle can also be slang for after-school detention—the kind you get for accruing too many demerits in school—or a classroom test.
Hélène est une fille pleine de curiosité. Chaque jour, elle pose une colle à ses parents et ils ont du mal à y répondre. (Hélène is very curious girl. Every day, she asks her parents a tricky question and they have a hard time answering it.)
Il m’a posé une colle et moi, je dois deviner la réponse. (He stumped me with a riddle and I have to guess the answer.)
17. Vas-y mollo.
This is an informal way of telling someone to chill or to take it easy.
In addition, it can mean to approach something carefully, to slow down or to take it slow.
If there’s some contention, and tempers are flaring, you might tell an agitated person vas-y mollo as a way to tone down their anger.
Mollo is a hip, slang way of saying mollement—an adverb meaning “softly,” “sluggishly,” “lazily,” “limply,” “half-heartedly” or “feebly.”
Nearby words in French include molleton (felt fabric) and molletonné (fleece-lined)—both types of soft textiles that embody qualities of mollo.
Je peux pas croire ce qu’il a fait ! – Vas-y mollo. Ce n’est pas aussi mal que tout ça. (I can’t believe what he did! – Take it easy. It’s not as bad as all that.)
Vas-y mollo ici. Ce travail est délicat. (Go lightly here. This is delicate work.)
Zoner is much like “zoning out” in English, although it has some additional meanings.
Zoner is a regular -ER verb meaning “to hang around,” “to loiter,” “to bum around” or “to slum it.”
French hip-hop pair Djadja & Dinaz use the expression Je zone extensively in their song by that title.
Artist RK has two songs that use this expression: “Zone” and “J’ai trop zoné.”
Moi, je suis trop épuisé pour travailler. Je vais simplement zoner avec mes potes aujourd’hui. (I’m too wiped out to work. I’m just going to chill out with my friends today.)
Nous faisions rien que zoner dans la banlieue, et quelqu’un a appelé les flics ! (We weren’t doing anything but bumming around in the ‘burbs, and someone called the police!)
19. Filer un mauvais coton.
Filer un mauvais coton is to be in a bad way. It means that you’ve got a bad attitude.
You’re headed down the wrong path.
You’ve picked up some nasty habits.
You’ve fallen on hard times.
You’re in a funk.
You’re just plain cranky and moody!
The literal meaning is “to spin a bad cotton,” which sounds a bit odd. (Interestingly enough, coton itself—aside from referring to the textile material—can also be used as an adjective, meaning “tricky” or “problematic.”)
Filer un mauvais coton can also be used to mean that someone’s health is in decline. You might say it when you feel a cold coming on or use it to describe a period of illness in someone’s life.
J’ai mal à la gorge. Il se peut que je file un mauvais coton ! (I have a sore throat. I might be getting sick!)
Ces ados-ci filent un mauvais coton. Ils zonent avec des voyous dans les banlieues de Paris. (These teenagers are on a bad path. They hang out with hooligans in the Parisian suburbs.)
Pourquoi fais-tu cette tête ? – J’sais pas, moi. Je file un mauvais coton. (Why are you so glum? – I don’t know. I’m in a funk.)
Mais, j’ai cru que Claude était riche ! – Plus maintenant. Il a filé un mauvais coton. (But, I thought that Claude was rich! – Not anymore. He’s fallen on hard times.)
20. En faire tout un fromage.
If one of your French-speaking companions is really laying on the drama, blowing something all out of proportion or getting all worked up over nothing, you can use the expression en faire tout un fromage.
This literally means to make “a whole cheese” out of a situation. Not just a sliver, not just a slice, not even a wedge—a whole cheese.
Because, in France, cheese is a big deal. A really big deal.
In English, we might say, “to make a mountain out of a molehill” or “to make a federal case out of it.”
A variation of this French slang expression is faire tout un fromage de quelque chose (to make a big deal out of something); you can substitute in the drama-provoking topic for quelque chose.
Il faut vous calmer ! Vous faîtes tout un fromage d’une observation faite à la légère. (You need to calm down! You’re making a huge deal out of an offhand remark.)
C’est toujours du drame avec Lucie. Quoi qu’il arrive, elle en fait tout un fromage. (It’s always drama with Lucie. No matter what happens, she blows it all out of proportion.)
21. Être affublé(e).
This is a rather versatile expression. It comes from the verb affubler, and it can mean to be decked out in (as in clothing); to be rigged up with (like a bomb or something mechanical); to be saddled or stuck with something, like a nickname.
Être affublé(e) can have either a positive or a negative connotation, depending on the context in which it’s used. And the contexts can vary wildly.
Je vais à une fête anniversaire ce soir, où je serai affublé d’un chapeau pointu et pailleté. (I’m going to a birthday party this evening, where I’ll be decked out in a glittery, pointed hat.)
Il m’a donné une rose dorée, qui était affublée des cristaux. (He gave me a golden rose, which had been adorned with crystals.)
À cause de sa chevelure extraordinairement longue, elle était affublée du sobriquet “Rapunzel.” (Due to her extraordinarily long hair, she was saddled with the nickname “Rapunzel.”)
Cet ordinateur est affublé d’une carte réseau très puissante. (This computer is equipped with a very powerful network card.)
Son portable est affublé d’une perche à selfie. (Her smartphone has a selfie stick attached.)
22. Faire des siennes.
This French slang expression is a bit odd, at least to the ears of an English speaker.
Faire, of course, is (relatively) easy. It’s that indispensable French verb that means “to make” or “to do,” and is essential to so many useful French expressions.
Des is just the plural article. It can mean “some” or “of the.”
Siennes gets a little tricky, though. It’s the feminine plural form of “his” or “hers.”
Put together, faire des siennes is usually taken to mean something like, “to be acting up” or “to be out of commission.” However, it can also be translated as “to be up to his or her usual tricks.”
Le bambin faisait ses siennes, comme toujours, et ses parents ont dû lui mettre en retrait dans sa chambre. (The toddler was getting into mischief, as always, and his parents had to put him in a time-out in his bedroom.)
Le vent soufflant en tempête va faire des siennes avec ce vieux toit ! (The gale-force winds will wreak havoc with this old roof!)
Même après des années en prison, l’escroc continue à faire des siennes. (Even after years in prison, the con artist is still up to his old tricks.)
Le magnétoscope numérique fait des siennes encore une fois; donc, j’ai raté mon émission préférée. (The DVR is acting up yet again, so I missed my favorite show.)
23. Flambant neuf.
For something that’s brand new, shiny new, sparkling new or brand-spankin’ new, you can describe it in French slang as flambant neuf (“flaming” new).
When you use neuf in this way, it’s not the French number “nine.”
Outside of a counting context, neuf refers to something that is newly-made. This is in contrast to nouveau, which refers to something that’s new to the speaker—and not necessarily something newly produced or created.
Like many adjectives in French, neuf changes to match the word it modifies. However, flambant—which modifies neuf—doesn’t change.
|If the noun you’re modifying is…||then use…|
|masculine singular||flambant neuf|
|feminine singular||flambant neuve|
|masculine plural||flambant neufs|
|feminine plural||flambant neuves|
Il me semble que tout le monde veut un portable flambant neuf, equipé de toutes les dernières fonctionnalités. (It seems to me that everyone wants a shiny new smartphone, equipped with all the latest features.)
Après avoir toujours acheté des bagnoles d’occasion, je voudrais finalement avoir une voiture flambant neuve. (After having always bought used cars, I would like to finally have a brand-new car.)
Les appartements dans cet immeuble sont flambant neufs. Personne n’a jamais vécu là-dedans. (The apartments in that building are brand new. No one has ever lived in that building.)
Ces fringues sont flambant neuves—elles gardent encore ses étiquettes ! (These clothes are brand-spankin’ new—they still have their price tags on!)
In polite circles, this French slang acronym is usually short for bon chic, bon genre. Chic refers to “style” and genre in this context has to do with social standing.
BCBG can describe someone who is well-groomed, affluent and genteel—what might be thought of someone with a “preppy” (college prep) fashion sense and lifestyle. It’s a person who dresses conservatively, went to all the right schools and doesn’t lack for money.
Using BCBG isn’t exactly calling someone a snob. On the other hand, it wouldn’t necessarily be thought of as a compliment. It’s the kind of expression that’s used to talk about people, rather than the type of remark you might make right to their faces.
In addition to describing people, you can use BCBG to talk about something that’s posh, swanky or fashionable, such as a trendy night club.
The expression has taken on a life of its own. It’s part of the name of a major American fashion brand and was used as an album title by a British band from the ‘90s. When the animated series “Beverly Hills Teens” was released for French speakers, it was renamed “BCBG.”
Like many acronyms, BCBG has other meanings.
It can also stand for beau cadre, bon goût (good class, good taste), along with a less family-friendly variation. Suffice it to say that context matters when you use these four letters to describe someone or something.
Cette boîte de nuit est trop BCBG pour moi ! Je la trouve un peu snob et je déteste la musique là. (This nightclub is too ritzy for me. I find it a bit snobbish and I hate the music there.)
Ma sœur et moi, nous sommes tout à fait différentes. Moi, je porte des vêtements chic minables; elle habille en style BCBG. (My sister and I, we’re completely different. Me, I wear shabby-chic clothes; she dresses like a preppy.)
25. Habillé(e) comme la chienne à Jacques.
At the other end of the spectrum from the impeccable BCBG fashion sense is habillé(e) comme la chienne à Jacques.
This colorful expression comes from Québécois French slang.
As legend has it, there was a 19th-century man named Jacques Aubert, who lived in Bas-du-Fleuve (also called Bas-Saint-Laurent, on the south side of the Saint Lawrence River’s lower shores). Jacques had a female dog, whose fur had fallen out due to illness.
To keep his hairless canine warm, Jacques outfitted her with some of his old, ratty sweaters. As a result, habillé(e) comme la chienne à Jacques came to mean “to be dressed shabbily.”
Another theory has it that the Jacques in this expression is actually a corruption of jaque, an antiquated word referring to the ludicrous-looking jackets in which some hunting dogs were dressed.
In any case, if someone tells you this when they see your outfit, they’re not a fan of your fashion sense.
Avec cet ancien pull, plein de trous, je suis habillée comme la chienne à Jacques ! (With this old sweater, full of holes, I look a mess!)
Il n’est pas du tout BCBG. Il est toujours habillé comme la chienne à Jacques. (He’s not posh at all. He always dresses like a slob.)
Why Learning French Slang Is Important
If you really want to learn to speak French like a native, you can’t neglect learning French slang words and phrases.
- French slang is essential to conversation. No one talks like a textbook. In any language, slang is one of those things people use all the time without even realizing it.
- French slang requires some explanation. Even if you understand the individual words, they can be used in contexts that often won’t make literal sense. That’s why it’s important to learn French slang phrases, just as you would other fundamental vocabulary.
- French slang words give you cultural insights. As you learn slang, you get glimpses into French history, literature and culture. When you understand the origin of French slang words and phrases, you can connect better with the people who speak the language.
- French slang provides nuance. Learning French slang allows you to express your feelings and emotions in a more vivid way, so you can convey confidence, doubts, joy and hundreds of other shades of meaning, along with your words.
- French slang keeps you on the cutting edge. Keeping up with French slang connects you to current events in the French-speaking world, since many of these expressions evolve in response to trends and happenings in Francophone society.
How to Learn French Slang
There are many resources you can use for finding French slang. Some are resources specifically designed for learners; others are sources for French slang “in the wild.”
IE Languages also has an e-book on the subject. It comes with audio files, so you can hear examples of slang and more casual French before you inevitably encounter it out in the real world.
Here are some more great ways to pick up French slang:
- Learn from YouTube channels that teach casual French
- Get a French language partner
- Use an immersion language learning program like FluentU, where authentic videos with accurate subtitles make it possible to pick up slang from natural French speech
Slang is essential to your continuing French-language education. Make the most of your learning experience!