French word of the day: Bof

It's a French classic you need to know.

French word of the day: Bof
Photo: Depositphotos

Why do I need to know bof?

If you’re feeling demotivated, indifferent, or want to engage in the traditional French pastime of avoiding being positive (being honest) about things, this is a need to know word.

Plus it’s a French classic, right up there with pfff, exaggerated shrugging and oh la la.

What does it mean?

Historically it’s thought that this word might be linked to the acronym of Boeuf, Oeuf, Fromage. All three foods were rationed during the German war-time occupation in France and black marketeers became known as BOFs. Overtime bof  has lost this unscrupulous association and come to mean something quite different. 

Bof is a spoken interjection that translates more as a feeling of disinterest or mild unhappiness than an actual word.  

It’s nearly always used as an indifferent or slightly negative response to a question, for example, – Que penses-tu de ce film? – Bof. Pas terrible. (What did you think of the film? – Whatever. It wasn’t terrible.) 

Similarly bof could also be the response to ‘Don’t you think the film is great?’ (Tu trouves pas que ce film est génial?) or ‘Do you want to go to the cinema? (Ca te dit d’aller au cinéma?), meaning an apathetic ‘not really’ in both cases.

It could also be a slightly depressing reply to ça va? meaning ‘not great’, ‘ok’, or ‘meh’.

Considering that a normal reply would be ‘fine’ or ‘good thanks’ (bien, merci) saying you are just ‘alright’, ‘ok’ or bof actually implies that you feeling a bit miserable. 

Finally, if you’re going to use this classic French sound you might as well go the whole hog and Frenchify your gestures too; bof is often said with an indifferent expression and dismissive shrug of the shoulders. 

Check out bof’s pronunciation at 2m27 in this video.

How can I use bof?

– Est-ce que tu as faim? – Bof… 

– Are you hungry? – Not really…

– Tu t-amuses bien? – Bof.

– Are you having a good time? – Meh.

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French Word of the Day: Doper

This French word does not have anything to do with one of Snow White’s seven dwarves, even if it might look like it.

French Word of the Day: Doper

Why do I need to know doper?

Because you may not have realised you can use this word in several different contexts.

What does it mean?

Doper roughly pronounced doe-pay – shares the same meaning as the English word “to dope” – in the sense that it means taking or giving a stimulant before a sporting event or competition. 

It doesn’t carry the English sense of ‘to sedate’, however, nor is it used as a nickname for marijuana. 

In French this word is not only used when describing an athlete who has resorted to unfair methods to win. In fact, you will see this word in many other contexts as well because doper also means to stimulate or boost something in a generic sense. 

If you open a business newspaper in France, you might see an article using doper in the headline – perhaps one that discusses how the government plans to stimulate a dying sector of the economy.

If you want a synonym for doper, you can still use the verb stimuler (to stimulate) or dynamiser (to rejuvenate).

And Snow White? In France she is Blanche Comme Neige and the dwarfs are Prof (Doc), Timide (Bashful) Atchoum (Sneezy), Joyeux (Happy), Dormeur (Sleepy), Grincheux (Grumpy) and Simplet (Dopey).

Use it like this

La France dispose d’un plan national pour doper une énergie renouvelable prometteuse : la géothermie. – France has a national plan to boost a promising renewable energy: geothermal.

Les récentes réductions d’impôts et certaines autres mesures prévues sont destinées à doper l’emploi. – The recent tax cuts and other measures planned are intended to boost employment.