French Expression of the Day: C’est le bordel!

Don't be shocked by today's French expression of the day. It's one you'll often hear spoken (or shouted) by most people in France and nowadays it has nothing to do with brothels...

French Expression of the Day: C'est le bordel!
Why do I need to know C'est le bordel?
You'll hear it in the street, at home, everywhere, grumbled, shouted, or uttered emphatically with a shaking of the head. Once you know how to use it, you'll really sound like a local.
So, what exactly does it mean?
Literally, c'est le bordel means 'it's a brothel', but this expression is commonly used in spoken French to express annoyance against something or a situation that's untidy, messy or chaotic, both literally and figuratively as in  'what a bloody mess!' or 'it's mayhem!' or 'what a disaster!'.
When it's not used in its literal sense to describe a brothel, bordel is used in French as a swear word on its own (bordel!) or in combination with other swear words as in bordel de merde!
C'est le bordel can be used for a range of negative situations. For example, a chaotic situation as in: Depuis que le patron est parti, c'est le bordel (since the boss left, work is a disaster!').
It can also describe any kind of disorderly situation, as in a traffic jam: C'est le bordel sur l'autoroute avec toute la circulation! (It's chaos on the motorway with all the traffic!).
Where does it come from?
Some sources say the expression dates back from the late 19th century, after the Franco-Prussian war when brothels lined the streets of Paris and other French towns to describe the lively and chaotic atmosphere in and around those establishments at the time.
During the Second World War, it became more widely used to describe a chaotic situation and this is how it continues to be used today.
Ta chambre, c'est le bordel !
Your room is a tip!
Quand le prof n'est pas là, c'est le bordel !
When the teacher's not there, it's mayhem!
Le feux rouge est en panne, c'est le bordel !
The traffic light's broken, it's chaos!

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French Expression of the Day: Robin des bois

He's the legendary Englishman who is surprisingly relevant to French political discourse.

French Expression of the Day: Robin des bois

Why do I need to know Robin des bois?

Because you might be wondering why the French reference this English outlaw during protest movements 

What does it mean?

Robin des bois roughly pronounced roe-bahn day bwah – is the French version of “Robin Hood” – the legendary outlaw who stole from the rich and gave to the poor. 

Robin Hood is part of English folklore, with the first references to him occurring sometime during the 13th or 14th century. He did not become Robin des bois for some time – as the legend did not spread to the majority of French people until at least the 18th or 19th century. 

Robin des bois most likely made his big entrance on the French stage in the 19th century when the novel Ivanhoe (1819), which tells tales of medieval England, was translated into French. 

The fabled outlaw was welcomed by the French, particularly romantic writers and thinkers of the time who saw him as a symbol of the fight against the aristocracy. 

But the French had their own versions of Robin Hood before the English legend made its way to l’Hexagone – like the “Louis Mandrin” who supposedly rebelled against corrupt tax collectors during the Ancien Regime. 

Over the years, the French – particularly those on the political left – have evoked “Robin des bois” during strikes and protests, and it’s relatively common to see protest movements or direct action groups name themselves after Robin Hood.

The English outlaw also had his own French television series between 1963 and 1966 – though this time he was called “Thierry La Fronde” and he lived in France during the Hundred Years’ War.

Use it like this

Nous devons nous attaquer aux actions de Robin des Bois afin d’aider la classe ouvrière à payer leurs factures d’énergie, a déclaré le syndicat dans un communiqué de presse. – We must take action like Robin Hood to help the working class pay for their energy bills, the union said in a flyer. 

Le restaurateur était un véritable Robin des Bois – il avait tendance à surfacturer les tables des riches et à sous-facturer celles de la classe populaire. – The restaurant owner was a real Robin Hood – he had a tendency of overcharging tables of rich people and under-charging those of poor folks.