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LANGUAGE AND CULTURE

French Expression of the Day: en masse

This is one of those expressions that has successfully made the journey into the anglophone world. But do you know what it really means?

French Expression of the Day: en masse
Photo: Depositphotos

Why do I need to know en masse?

This is one of those expressions used in both English and French.

You might have head it thrown around a lot — and you may have even adopted it yourself. Here's a look at this very common expression and its origins. 

So, what does en masse actually mean?

En masse is an adverb which has its origins in French literature, it literally means “in a mass”. 

So when it's used in both English and French it means 'all together', 'as a group', 'in a body', 'as one', 'as a whole', 'in a mass'.

Basically when you do something en masse everyone does it together.

For example: Les investisseurs étrangers se retireraient en masse. — 'Foreign investors would pull out en masse'. 

Or, Les membres des communautés tribales votent souvent en masse pour le même candidat, habituellement le fils d'un des chefs de tribu. — Members of tribal communities often voted en masse for the same candidate, usually the son of one of the tribal leaders.

How to pronounce it

Here's a handy YouTube video to make sure you're pronouncing correctly. 

 
 
 

 

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FRENCH WORD OF THE DAY

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. 

Alternatives

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).

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