Why do I need to know machin?
French people use this word all the time because it's so handy and once you know what it means — and how to use it — no doubt you will too.
What does it mean?
Machin literally means 'thing' and it's used as a familiar catchall word used to describe anything you don't remember the name of.
When it's used in this situation it translates as 'thingy', 'thingummy' or 'thingamajig'.
But machin can also be used to belittle something or someone, and is often used with irony. The idea is that if an object or person is described as a 'thing', they can't be very important.
For example, someone you don't like may be described as Monsieur machin chose which means 'Mister so and so'.
But machin can also slightly change its meaning when it's used with certain other words.
This is when it gets really confusing, so hold on .
There are a few other words in French that mean 'thing' and that are regularly used: 'truc', 'bidule' or 'chose'. They're not negative when they're used on their own but can be when combined with machin.
For example, je ne m'en sors pas au travail avec tous ces bidules machins choses! meaning 'I am struggling at work with all this stuff to do!'
Machin comes from the French word machine which has the same meaning as the English word 'machine'.
But its origin as a deprecating term is often traced back to a speech made by the General de Gaulle in 1960, in which he described the UN as ce vieux machin. At the time, France was pondering whether or not it should join the international organisation as it struggled to cling on to its colonies.
Some other examples
Here are some examples of how to use machin in everyday life.
1. Il faut ranger ton bureaux, tous ces machins là ne servent à rien! – You must tidy up your desk, all these things are useless!
2. C'est quoi ce machin? – What on earth is that?
3. Il faut parler honnêtement aux gens et ne pas leur dire horizon machin chose – 'You have to be honest with people, and not tell them that things will be done at such and such a date'