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The words you need to know if you have children in France

There are some French words that only parents in France use and you'll need to know them. Expat mums Sarah Donnelly and Amber Minogue, the two comedians behind the Paris stand-up show "Becoming Maman" present their list of essential French bébé slang.

The words you need to know if you have children in France
Photo: Temper TanrumDepositphotos
Sarah Donnelly and Amber Minogue aren’t French, but their children are.  They perform a new comedy show in Paris about raising French children “one tantrum at a time”.  Here are some French words you'll need to know if you are a parent in France.
Maman/Papa: ​
French for Mommy/Mummy and Daddy. With these titles, suddenly you’ve been upgraded to a chic French person – well done! Just accept your new name in stride, especially if you have French in-laws or beaux-parents. Because if your little one calls out for Mummy, Mamie (Granny en français) will believe that she’s the one to come and save the day. And it is quite a challenge to tell a French grandmother, or any Grandmother really, otherwise.
Dodo: ​
Dodo comes from the verb ‘dormir’ which means to sleep. You may have already heard of the Parisian rat race “metro – boulot- dodo” but like the bird, when you become a parent, dodo will be something you will never see again.
Not to be confused with ‘bobo’ aka Parisian hipster, this is an incredibly useful word that covers all sorts of minor injuries, from a scraped knee to a bloody nose. You might also find yourself saying ‘Mummy has a little bobo’ after a night of too much wine.
If you live in France you know they take medicine seriously. Children see their own specialist, a pediatrician, for all ails, but bobos are for the Pharmacy only. Grab a ‘pansement’ and rub on some magic cream, which surely will be arnica, they love arnica and those pointless homeopathic balls. For a nation that loves medicine, the French also love placebos, but only for bobos.
For French adults this is a lightweight word implying a fleeting desire or fancy. However, for French children a caprice is a tantrum, which should never, ever be indulged or else you'll end up with 'l'enfant roi' aka a spoiled brat – quelle horreur! Usually a caprice is accompanied by the phrase 'fait son cinema' because children mid-tantrum due tend to put on Oscar worthy, or in this case, César worthy performances.
​Pacifier, paci, binky, dummy – using a tétine or toto, as it’s called by the littles, is almost a requirement for starting at the crèche, French daycare. On the first day the staff will ask if you’ve brought your child’s toto and doudou. Which brings us onto….
​Coming from the word doux, or soft, the doudou is the most important member of your family in it’s role as your child’s comfort animal or blanket. God forbid anything happen to the doudou. You may have heard of SOS Medicin, well there is also SOS Doudou, where desperate parents can place ads looking for long lost doudous.
Goûter: ​
Essentially the most important meal of the day for French children. From 4 o’clock onwards, or whenever the school doors open up, children make the mad dash to claim their after-school snacks. Who wouldn’t love to eat a chocolate sandwich as one of their “meals.” It’s true, the French don’t snack, but when they do, they do it right. Goûter is essentially what an apéro is for adults – the excuse to unwind at the end of a long day, indulging in something delicious.
The French baby word for private parts, male and female. Now there is a school of thought that says you should use the real words, but personally I don’t agree and when it comes to alternatives names I really think the French have nailed it. Finding the right word for these parts can be tough and so many get it so wrong; take ‘Willy’ or ‘Fanny’ – two names ruined by the English language. They also don’t have that icky descriptive feel of ‘front bottom’ or just the
plain wrong that is ‘winkle, weiner or wee-wee. (How horrible did that make you feel even reading it?) Also how often do you get to use a word beginning with z? Great for Scrabble.
​Well any parent has to deal with a lot of both pipi and caca, that’s a given. But for children, and many adults, toilet humor rules supreme. Nothing makes a toddler laugh more than caca – extra points for ‘caca boudin’ the essential playground curse-word for the 6 and under set. For this reason I may even add ‘prout’ or fart to the list. Since you’re covered in it most of the time you may as well laugh.
In French schools ‘une bêtise’ or naughtiness is not tolerated. Bêtise include almost anything that involves children not doing exactly what the teacher says from talking in class, walking when they should be sitting, or refusing to eat their cheese course. Doing a bêtise results in children being ‘puni’ – punished another word you will soon be familiar with. The ‘roi de bêtise’ is perhaps Le Petit Nicolas, a storybook character who gets up to all sorts of mischief. French parents delight in reading this bedtime story to their children. Perhaps that’s why Nicolas remains a top choice for boy names since the 1970s. The French love rules, but like Nicolas, they love to break them.


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