Why have we chosen it?
Faire gaffe (in the infinitive form) is something you never come across when you're learning the language at home but this slang phrase is hard to escape once you're in France.
And even for those who have studied a considerable amount of French, faire gaffe or fais gaffe as you more likely to hear it, can easily trip you up.
So, what does it mean?
It means “be careful” or “watch out” which is why it's certainly a handy one to know just in case there are any moments when a French person shouts it at you.
It is actually the slang or informal version for faire attention.
The confusing part, however, is that faire une gaffe literally means “to make a mistake” — so the opposite of what the slang version means without the word “une”.
If you're addressing one person you would say, fais gaffe! and if you're using the plural form you would say, faites gaffe!.
You can also say fais gaffe à toi to mean “watch yourself.”
Faire gaffe first appeared early in the 20th century in a maritime context. Still today on fishing boats, the gaff is a long pole with a hook, which allows sailors to catch a mooring buoy, hold on to another boat or push back an obstacle. The expression gradually progressed out of the marine world to mean to be cautious.
Some say that the reason for the confusion over the very different meanings of the word gaffe as in “mistake” or “blunder” and the slang meaning is that they come from different places. It is thought that the slang version of “gaffe” could come from the German verb “gaffen” which means “to watch with your eyes wide open”.
1. Fais gaffe! C'est fragile.
Watch out! It's delicate.
2. Fais gaffe à la marche !
Watch out for the step!
(The above two examples are from wordreference.com)
3. Fais gaffe à qui tu fais rentrer chez toi
Be careful who you let in your house
- French Word of the Day: 'pagaille' – a word that's been making headlines
- French Word of the Day: 'verbaliser' (a verb you think you already know)
- French Expression of the Day: Ne pas arriver à la cheville de quelqu'un