French Word of the Day: bosser

Whether you have a job, attend class, or both, there’s a good chance that you do this almost every day.

French Word of the Day: bosser
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Why do I need to know bosser?
This French phrase is rarely taught in schools, but it’s frequently used, probably because just about everybody has to do it – including you.
What does it mean?
To bosser is ‘to work’. Originally (see below), to use the term bosser implied a strongly negative connotation, and could be translated as ‘to slog/slave away’, but nowadays, it’s often used to just say ‘to work’, period. 
However it can depend on the context and the tone of the speaker.
For example, Elle bosse dans un café (‘She works in a café’) carries no negative connotation; it’s just a colloquial way of saying where somebody works.
On the other hand, Je bosse toute la journée et tu ne fais rien (‘I work/break my back all day and you do nothing’) implies that the work being done is particularly arduous.
The use of bosser is not limited to physical labor, and it’s common to hear students say it, particularly using the construction bosser un examen, meaning ‘to cram for a test’.
Another common construction is bosser sur quelque chose (‘work on something’), as in J’ai bossé sur ce dossier toute la nuit – ‘I worked on that paper all night’.
By extension, you can probably guess that un bosseur/une bosseuse is someone who works hard, as in, Ma fille est une bosseuse, elle va réussir dans la vie (‘My daughter is a hard worker, she’s going to succeed in life’).
While common, bosser is quite informal, so it’s not the type of word you’d use with your, you know, boss.
The use of the verb bosser to communicate the idea of ‘to work hard’ goes back to the late 19th century. Before that, bosser generally meant ‘to present a bosse’, or ‘bump/hump’, and the two meanings are probably linked – the idea being that excessive hard work would cause physical deformation, like that of a hunchback, or bossu.
The dictionary French alternative would be travailler, or trimer if you want emphasize the grueling nature of the work.
Another colloquial alternative is taffer, which comes from the noun taf (‘work’/’job’), derived from the acronym travaille à faire (‘work to do’).

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French phrase of the Day: Ne me prends pas pour un lapin de six semaines

Being patronised by a Frenchman? Roll out this phrase.

French phrase of the Day: Ne me prends pas pour un lapin de six semaines

Why do I need to know ne me prends pas pour un lapin de six semaines?

Because someone might be trying to take you for a fool.

What does it mean?

Ne me prends pas pour un lapin de six semaines – pronounced ne me pren pah pour un lapan de see sem-enn – translates as ‘don’t take me for a six-week-old rabbit’, and is a go-to phrase to warn people not to mistake you for a fool, someone who doesn’t understand what’s going on.

The podcast Hit West from French regional newspaper Ouest-France suggests that the ‘six weeks’ comes from the age a rabbit is weaned at, and must therefore be ready to survive on its own.

And why a rabbit at all? Well no-one really seems very sure. Rabbits don’t get a good rap in the French language though, to stand someone up is poser un lapin in French.

English-language metaphor equivalents may be, “I didn’t come down in the last shower”, “I wasn’t born yesterday”, or, as Line of Duty’s DCI Hastings might say, “I didn’t float up the Lagan in a bubble”.

Use it like this

Honestly, keep it simple. If someone’s speaking to you in a patronising manner, simply say: Ne me prends pas pour un lapin de six semaines.

Ouest France suggests that this is the ‘more elegant’ way to request that people don’t take you for a fool. It’s not offensive, but it might be a little old-fashioned. 


You can use the more basic version of this phrase – Ne me prends pas pour une idiote (don’t take me for a fool) or the slightly more punchy Ne me prends pas pour un con (don’t take me for a moron).