French Word of the day: faux cul

If you've been watching any political debates you're likely to have come across this one, and you may have already guessed that it's is not a compliment...

French Word of the day: faux cul
Photo: Depositphotos
Why might I want to know faux cul?
Last night on TF1, a shouting match erupted between Rassemblement National (RN) candidate Gilbert Collard and former ecologist, MEP and May '68 student leader Daniel Cohn-Bendit. Collard called Cohn-Bendit a faux-cul (pronounced “foh kue”) de la politique. But what exactly was Collard accusing him of?
What does it mean?
The words faux cul, sometimes written faux-cul, actually mean “false bottom”, or maybe “false ass”, given that cul is the vulgar French word for one’s backside. Originally, faux cul described an apparatus worn under the dress by 19th century women (sometimes called a “bustle” in English), often along with a corset, in an attempt to emphasize their curves.
Because of the use of the faux cul to misrepresent one’s appearance, it soon became a synonym for “hypocrite”, “phony” or “two-faced”. As in, 
Ce faux cul, il nous dit qu’il faut beaucoup travailler, mail il ne fait jamais rien.
“That hypocrite, he tells us that you have to work hard, but he never does anything.”
Elle m’avait dit précisément le contraire. Quel faux cul !
“She told me exactly the opposite. What a phony!”
So, when Collard called Cohn-Bendit a faux cul de la politique, or ‘political phony’, he was alluding to Cohn-Bendit’s past support for Emmanuel Macron and La République en Marche. Since there was already an LREM representative on the program, and Daniel Cohn-Bendit was there in a theoretically neutral position, Gilbert Collard apparently judged the situation to be unfair, and Cohn-Bendit’s presence – and his person – to be misleading.
There’s really no nice way to call someone a phony or hypocrite, but slightly less vulgar terms that mean the same thing include faux derche (“fake butt”) or faux jeton (“fake token”). Or you can get straight to the point and use hypocrite, which needs no translation.

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.
For members


French Expression of the Day: Tarte à la crème

This expression is more than just your last order at the boulangerie.

French Expression of the Day: Tarte à la crème

Why do I need to know tarte à la crème ?

Because if someone uses this phrase to describe you, you should probably be a bit offended.

What does it mean?

Tarte à la crème – pronounced tart ah lah krem – literally refers to a cream filled tart, or a custard tart, in English. However, this expression has more to do than just baking. It is another way of describing something that is boring, predictable or commonplace.

This expression comes straight from Moliere himself. In the 17th century, there was a popular rhyming game called “Corbillon.” The phrase “Je vous passe mon corbillon” (I pass you by corbillon) is said, and then it is followed by “Qu’y met-on?” (What does one put on it?) To keep the rhyme up, people must respond with something ending in an -ON sound.

In the play, “L’Ecole des Femmes” (The School of Wives), one character says the ideal woman would respond to the question with “tarte à la crème” which is obviously the wrong answer. The right answer would be tarte à la citron (lemon tart). Molière did this on purpose to poke fun at the fact that disgruntled fans would send poor actors cream tarts to express their frustration.

It was a way of ridiculing his critics and showing he was unimpressed by their method of showing discontentment at his plays. Over time, the phrase went on to describe things that are commonplace or boring. It is often used to describe entertainment related topics, such as books, movies, or plays.

A synonym for this phrase in French might be banal and in English you might say something is ‘vanilla’ to describe something that is fairly unexciting.

Use it like this

Le film était vraiment tarte à la crème. Je ne recommande pas d’aller le voir au cinéma, vous pouvez attendre de le voir une fois qu’il sera gratuit en ligne. – The movie was really boring. I don’t recommend going to see it at the movies, you can simply wait to see it once it is free online.

Je pense que l’album est tarte à la crème. Elle a pris tellement d’idées d’autres artistes que ce n’est vraiment pas original du tout. – I think the album is predictable. She really took plenty of ideas from other artists and it was not original at all.