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FRENCH LANGUAGE

Why do the French love to say ‘f**k’ so much?

The French curse word of choice is frequently an English one. The Local tries to get to the bottom of why the French are so fond of f**k - often in situations that would make an Anglophone blush. (Contains a lot of strong language).

Why do the French love to say 'f**k' so much?
Screengrab from 20 Minutes and Canal Plus (blurring by The Local) .

“Fuck” is a common word in France and it’s not just because of the hordes of Brits and Americans living here.

The locals appear to use it in conversation as much as English-speakers do and often even more.

The young and trendy French people aren’t afraid to say it, the English-language TV shows (when they’re not dubbed) aren’t censored, and you can hear expletive-laden rap songs played virtually everywhere and one French juice company even included it on the bottle of a drink marketed at schoolchildren.

French media are also keen on it – TV station Canal Plus had a weekly programme called “What The Fuck France!” while a regular section of the 20 Minutes web site – showing funny and unusual pictures from around the world – was also called “What the fuck” and you can regularly see the word in newspaper headlines.

 

One of the reasons why the French seem to use the word so much is that they just don’t get the weight of ‘fuck’ in English.

While ‘fuck’ has undoubtedly become more widely used in English speaking countries in recent years, there are still plenty of situations where you wouldn’t use it, especially in anything concerning children.

‘Fuck’ is most commonly translated into French as putain, yet there is a world of difference between the two. It wouldn’t be particularly out of order to use putain in front of the elderly, nuns or even children in certain contexts – it’s really all in how you say it.

Camille Chevalier-Karfis, founder of FrenchToday.com, said the use of the word has left her scratching her head too.  

“I am surprised at the use of the word ‘fuck’ in the French language, especially since it seems to me that the French don’t use it right,” she told The Local. 

“Recently a friend sent me an email about her elderly mother that said: ‘je ne supporte plus cette fucking mother méthode’ (I can no longer stand this despicable method my mother uses). Why did she write this part in English? Probably to show her anger, because it sounded good to her this way.

“I would never associate the word ‘fuck’ with my own mother. It just sounds wrong. But the French don’t have enough of a feeling for the word, or rather they have the wrong feeling for it.” 

Perhaps it’s all about being cool?

For the more travelled, more connected younger generation of French people it’s trendy to work all kinds of English words into their everyday conversations, so perhaps it’s no surprise that the f-word is one of them.

Perhaps it’s from watching all those Hollywood films over the years, where the f-word has been given a softer translation when it’s subtitled or dubbed into French.

But the nonchalance towards swearing in English can perhaps be better explained by the fact that the French adore swearing in general. 

Sometimes the French throw out long strings of expletives when they’re irritated, as famously highlighted in the Matrix Reloaded film (see below).

For those interested, the actor, Frenchman Lambert Wilson, says: “Nom de dieu de putain de bordel de merde de saloperie de connard d’enculer ta mère”. 

A rough translation would be: “Godforsaken whore from a piece-of-shit arse brothel – go and bugger yer mother”.

Indeed. 

The French are just a bit more liberal with cursing than the Brits or the Americans, similarly to how they’re more liberal with their sex and nudity on TV.

Yes, the French are a liberal bunch and don’t mind a good bout of coarse language, so you may as well get used to it too. 

But lastly, if you’re thinking about getting into swearing in French, one language expert advises that “know it, don’t show it” is the best approach. 

Member comments

  1. Sort of like Germans adopting the word “shitstorm.” Angela Merkel even used it in a speech! I suppose it *is* a very useful word lol.

  2. The article does not mention the origin of the word, which was not as a cuss word–it is an anagram that was widely used during a certain period in English history.
    Centuries ago, when small hamlets and villages, that could not afford to to maintain a jail and instead relied on stocks and pillories where those persons in breach of the law had their legs or head and wrists locked in the stocks or pillories for passers by to throw object at them.
    The crime committed by the person was written on the stocks / pillories , with a common crime being reduced to an anagram ie
    FUCK meaning “For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge”. Viewed in those terms, not so offensive .

  3. As an american the only word that really disturbs me is when the British use the “C” word, and they use it for all sorts of situations. Stops me dead in my tracks all the time. I can not get over it. And its usage is all over the place from a friend to much worse. And when they combine it with cheeky, I am at a loss for words. How are threy using it!

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PROPERTY

Plumbing Emergencies in France: Who to call and what to say

Plumbing ermergencies are common in France, so here's our guide to what to do, who to call and the phrases you will need if water starts gushing in unexpected areas.

Plumbing Emergencies in France: Who to call and what to say

How do I find a reliable plumber and avoid getting scammed?

First, try to stick with word-of-mouth if you can. Contact trusted individuals or resources, like your neighbours and friends, or foreigner-oriented Facebook groups for your area (ex. “American Expats in Paris”). This will help you find a more reliable plumber. If this is not an option for you, try “Pages Jaunes” (France’s ‘Yellow Pages’) to see reviews and plumbers (plomberie) in your area. 

Next, educate yourself on standard rates. If the situation is not an emergency, try to compare multiple plumbers to make sure the prices are in the correct range. 

Finally, always Google the name of the plumber you’ll be working with – this will help inform you as to whether anyone else has had a particularly positive (or negative) experience with them – and check that the company has a SIRET number.

This number should be on the work estimate (devis). You can also check them out online at societe.com. If you want to be extra careful you can also ask to see their carte artisan BTP (craftsman card). 

READ MORE: What is a SIRET number and why is it crucial when hiring French tradesmen?

Who is responsible for paying for work?

If you own the property, you are typically the one who is responsible for financing the plumbing expenses.

However if you’re in a shared building, you must determine the cause and location of the leak. If you cannot find the origin of the leak, you may need a plumber to come and locate it and provide you with an estimate. You can use this estimate when communicating with insurance, should the necessity arise. 

If you are a renter, the situation is a bit more complicated. Most of the time, water damage should be the landlord’s responsibility, but there are exceptions.

The landlord is obliged to carry out major repairs (ex. Natural disaster, serious plumbing issues) that are necessary for the maintenance and normal upkeep of the rented premises (as per, Article 6C of the law of July 6, 1989). The tenant, however, is expected to carry out routine maintenance, and minor repairs are also to be paid by the tenant. If the problem is the result of the tenant failing to maintain the property, then it will be the tenant’s responsibility to cover the cost of the repair.

Legally speaking, it is also the tenant’s responsibility to get the boiler serviced once a year, as well as to maintain the faucets and joints, and to avoid clogging the pipes.

READ MORE: Assurance habitation: How to get home insurance in France

If you end up in dispute with your landlord over costs, you can always reach out to ADIL, the national Housing Association which offers free legal advice for housing issues in France. 

What happens if the leak is coming from my neighbour’s property?

Both you and your neighbour should contact your respective housing insurance companies and file the ‘sinistre’ (damage) with them.

If you both agree on the facts you can file an amiable (in a friendly fashion), then matters are much more simple and you will not have to go through the back-and-forth of determining fault.

If having a friendly process is not possible, be sure to get an expert to assert where the leak is coming from and file this with your insurance company.

As always, keep evidence (lists and photographs) of the damage. Keep in mind that many insurance providers have a limited number of days after the start of the damage that you can file. Better to do it sooner than later, partially because, as with most administrative processes in France, it might take a bit of time.

Vocab

Plumbing has its own technical vocabulary so here are some words and phrases that you’re likely to need;

Hello, I have a leak in my home. I would like to request that a plumber come to give me an estimate of the damage and cost for repairs – Bonjour, j’ai une fuite chez moi. Je voudrais demander qu’un plombier vienne me donner une estimation des dégâts et du coût de la réparation. 

It is an emergency: C’est une urgence

I have no hot water: Je n’ai pas d’eau chaude

The boiler has stopped working: La chaudière ne fonctionne plus.

I cannot turn my tap off: Je ne peux pas arrêter le robinet.

The toilet is leaking: Mes toilettes fuient.

The toilet won’t flush/ is clogged: Mes toilettes sont bouchées

There is a bad smell coming from my septic tank: Il y a un mauvaise odeur provenant de ma fosse septique

I would like to get my electricity / boiler safety checked: Je souhaiterais une vérification de la sécurité de mon installation électrique / de ma chaudière

I can smell gas: Ca sent le gaz

My washing machine has broken: Ma machine a laver est cassée

Can you come immediately? Est-ce que vous pouvez venir tout de suite?

When can you come? Quand est-ce que vous pouvez venir?

How long will it take? Combien de temps cela prendra-t-il ?

How much do you charge? Quels sont vos prix? / Comment cela va-t-il coûter?

How can I pay you? Comment je peux vous payer ? 

Here are the key French vocabulary words for all things plumbing-related:

Dishwasher – Lave vaisselle

Bath – Baignoire

Shower – Douche

Kitchen Sink – Évier

Cupboard – Placard

Water meter – Compteur d’eau

The Septic Tank – La fosse septique

A leak – Une fuite

Bathroom sink – Le lavabo

The toilet – La toilette

Clogged – Bouché

To overflow – Déborder

A bad smell – Une mauvaise odeur

The flexible rotating tool used to unclog a pipe (and also the word for ferret in French) – Furet 

Water damage – Dégât des eaux

The damage – Le sinistre

And finally, do you know the French phrase Sourire du plombier? No, it’s not a cheerful plumber, it’s the phrase used in French for when a man bends down and his trouser waistband falls down, revealing either his underwear or the top of his buttocks. In English it’s builder’s bum, in French ‘plumber’s smile’.

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