French Word of the Day: Dingue

If you want to sound French, some words really hit the spot when sprinkled into a conversation. 'Dingue' is a great example, and it's a very useful word to have up your sleeve as it can be used in several different ways.

French Word of the Day: Dingue
Why do you need to know dingue?
'Dingue' has several different meanings, so once you get a good grasp of it, the word can come in very handy to express a number of things and feelings. It also has a great ring to it!
So, what does it mean?
Dingue literally means 'crazy' or 'mad'. As a noun, it is used in that sense: un dingue is a crazy person. 
When used as an adjective, it also means 'mad' or 'crazy', but it can also be used in many other ways to express surprise, disbelief, amazement, astonishment or wonder.
So dingue can mean 'incredible', 'amazing', 'unbelievable' or even 'over the top'. 
You can also use it to say you're crazy about something or someone: Il est dingue de son fils (he's crazy about his son) as seen in the headline below.
The French Larousse dictionary defines dingue as “a familiar word that describes something that is striking because of its excessive character. It means bizarre, strange, mad”.
So, as you seen, dingue can really be used in a whole host of ways: why use lots of different superlatives when you can use just one?

There are some suggestions that dingue comes from the word 'dengue', a word we also use in English for the disease dengue fever, and presumably the meaning of dingue derived from the fact people went a bit mad when they caught it.
1. Quand je ne range pas ma chambre, ma mère devient dingue !
When I don't tidy up my room, it drives my mother crazy!
2. Ils voyagent tous le temps, ils ont une vie de dingue !
They travel all the time, they have an amazing life.
3. Quelle coincidence, c'est dingue !
What a coincidence, it's incredible!
4. Sa femme l'a quitté et ça l'a rendu un peu dingue.
His wife left him, and he's gone a bit mad.

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French Expression of the Day: À poil

Some people prefer to sleep like this during the summer.

French Expression of the Day: À poil

Why do I need to know à poil ?

Because if someone invites you to come to a beach like this and you don’t know the meaning of this expression, then you might be in for a bit of a surprise.

What does it mean?

À poil – roughly pronounced ah pwahl – is an expression that makes use of the French word for an animal’s fur or its coat. A synonym might be fourrure. However, the expression as it has come to be used does not have to do with animals’ coats – it actually means to be naked. 

How a phrase referring to animal’s fur came to signify nakedness goes all the way back to the 17th century and the world of horseback-riding. At the time, one could either ride a horse with a saddle or cover (blanket), or you could ride bareback. The phrase for doing so was monter l’animal à cru (“à cru” meaning ‘bare’ or ‘raw’) which became monter un cheval à poil – to ride the horse with only its fur.

In this case, the horse was seen as naked (lacking its saddle or blanket), and over time the idea of the naked horse transferred over to naked people. 

The phrase is slightly crude – you wouldn’t use it to describe nude artworks – but not offensive, it’s roughly similar to describing someone as “butt naked” or “bollock naked” in English. The more polite way to say this might be “tout nu” (totally naked).

If you are looking for another way to say ‘birthday suit’ in French you could use “en costume d’Adam” (in Adam’s suit – a Biblical reference to the naked inhabitants of the Garden of Eden). 

Use it like this

Je me suis mise pas mal à poil dernièrement, mais ce n’est pas un délire exhibo et, dans la vie, c’est plus compliqué – I’ve been getting naked quite a bit lately, but it’s not an exhibitionist thing, life is more complicated than that. – From an interview about nude scenes with the French actress Virgine Efira.

Je préfère dormir à poil en été. Il fait vraiment trop chaud ! – I prefer sleeping totally naked in the summer. It is really too hot!