French Word of the Day: boulot (and other words to describe the daily grind)

After enjoying our second bank holiday in the space of a week, it's time to get back to 'boulot'. Here's a look at what this extremely common slang word means and some other useful alternatives.

French Word of the Day: boulot (and other words to describe the daily grind)
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Why do I need to know boulot?

'Métro, boulot, dodo' is a phrase that's hard to escape in France – especially with the current trend for putting twists of the original onto bags, T-shirts and other knickknacks.

It's a great expression for describing the Parisian rat race but 'boulot' is an extremely useful word in its own right. 

Here's a look at where it comes from and how to use it, as well as some tips on other French words you can use to describe the daily grind so that you can fit in with your French colleagues. 

So, what exactly does it mean?

Boulot is slang for 'work', 'job' and 'hard work' so 'Métro, boulot, dodo' translates as 'Metro, work, sleep'. 

If you were using it in conversation in France, you might say: Je change de boulot à la fin du mois. – 'I'm changing jobs at the end of the month' or J'ai trop de boulot. – 'I've got too much work on'. 

And if you were feeling particularly enthusiastic, you might say: Au boulot! – 'Let's get to work!'

According to most sources, it hasn't been in use for that long despite how common it is today among people of all ages – and it's origins are apparently somewhat ambiguous. 
Some suggest it comes from the word bouler (to roll) which then became boulotter (to lead a quiet, predictable lifestyle) before it transformed into boulot as we mean it today. 
Another – although apparently less likely explanation for its origin –  is that it comes from bouleau (the same as the French for 'birch' – as in the tree) which is a tough wood to work with, leading to its contemporary meaning, 'hard work'. 
But wherever it came from, boulot is far from the only slang word the French use to describe work. 
If you're having a particularly tough day, you might use the word besogne instead.
Like boulot, besogne means 'work', 'hard work', 'task' but it can also mean 'slog', 'toil' or 'drudge'. 
For example, Cet ouvrier est endurant, il est dur à la besogne. – 'That worker has stamina; he's tough when it comes to hard work.'
If you are struggling with the pronunciation, this link will help you out.
Another French slang word for work is taf which doesn't have quite the negative implication of besogne.
You could use it in the following way: Je suis en retard au taf. – 'Now I'm late for work'.


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French Expression of the Day: Les toxicos

You'll want to be sure to only use this French expression in the right contexts.

French Expression of the Day: Les toxicos

Why do I need to know les toxicos?

Because you might want to avoid using this term if you simply want to describe someone as behaving in a toxic manner.

What does it mean?

Les toxicos roughly pronounced lay tox-ee-kohs – is the French slang term to describe “drug addict”.

The English equivalent might be “junkie”.

The word comes from a French word for drug addiction more generally. “Toxicomanie” refers to the physical and/or psychological dependence on chemical substances without prescription or therapeutic justification.

The official term for a person addicted to substances is “toximane” – and les toxicos is a shortened, more informal version of the term. 

In French, you can also use the term “dépendance” to refer to addiction as well.

READ MORE: French Expression of the Day: Les stups

Some may use this term in a derogatory way, though its usage depends on context and the person speaking.

Use it like this

Le politicien a critiqué le manque de financement de la police et a cité le fait qu’il y avait trop de toxicos près de la gare. – The politician criticised a lack of funding for police and cited the fact that there were too many drug addicts by the train station.

L’homme m’a dit que je devais faire attention en traversant le parc car il y avait beaucoup de toxicos, mais je me sentais en sécurité.– The man told me that I should be careful when crossing the park because there are many junkies, but I felt safe.