French Word of the Day: Oh là là

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French Word of the Day: Oh là là
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If there are three words you need in France they are 'Oh là là' (nope not 'Ooh la la').


Why do I need to know Oh là là?

Any caricature of the French involves someone saying Oh là là and the best thing about this cliché is that it's actually true.

Living in France you hear it at least once a day, probably more, and after a while you find yourself saying it almost as much.

So, what does it mean?

There are several meanings for Oh là là and to work out which one you're hearing you'll need to rely on context. 

One important thing to note is that unlike in English (when we say 'Ooh la la') when the French use this expression it is never intended to express that someone is sexually attractive. 

Here's a look at the different ways it is used. 

There is the 'traditional' method, most known to foreigners and often (though not exclusively) used by women, which is the prim and proper Oh là là. This is used to express admiration, almost in the same way we anglophone girls of a certain age use the phrase 'Oh my god'.
For example, you show someone your new ring and they say Oh là là c'est trop jolie! (Oh my god it's so pretty!). It is high, light and happy. This is a good Oh là là.

Then there is the bad Oh là là.  Perhaps predictably, the French often employ the bad Oh là là, used more in the sense 'Oh my god that's freaking annoying'. . 

For example: a car burns through a pedestrian crossing nearly knocking you over or just doesn't stop to let you cross the road generally or the cashier at the supermarket tells you je ferme ma caisse, moi (I'm closing my till) even though the queues are huge.

This Oh là là (or even Ho là là) is low, baritone and disapproving, often muttered under your breath.
Then there is the pièce de la résistance (which, incidentally, is not something the French say. Go figure.) - the Oh là là là là là là. Yes, that's right. Six “là”s - no more, no less - in quick succession. This is bad. This is very bad.  Not to be bandied around lightly, this is reserved for those head-in-hands, all hope is lost kind of moments which, again perhaps unsurprisingly, happen in Paris more often than you think.
This is used when the French miss a crucial goal in the (soccer/rugby/other ball sport) or when you get halfway home from CDG and realize the cab driver doesn't take carte blue.
How do I use it?

Oh là là! Quel choc cela me fait! - Oh dear! What a shock it gave me.

Oh là là, ça me saoûle! - Oh my god that's freaking annoying.

Oh là là ! J'ai oublié mon livre! > Oh no, I forgot my book!


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Comments (1)

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Anonymous 2018/11/27 18:39
For a whlie it was Oh la la la la la. But also it was for a while Oh la! These are fashions like we have in English.

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