French Word of the Day: relou

Another verlan word? That sucks!

French Word of the Day: relou
Photo: Depositphotos
Why do I need to know relou?
Another entry in our series of verlan words, relou will help you to emphatically express your displeasure with a person, situation, or thing.
Relou is a verlan word, meaning that it is formed by inverting another word’s syllables (for more on verlan, check out our recent word of the day vénère and our more in-depth analysis of this French argot).
In this case, that word is lourd – not in its literal sense, ‘heavy’, but rather the figurative one, used to describe a presence or situation that is ‘oppressive’, ‘irritating’, or ‘unbearable’.
Lourd, in which the ‘d’ often goes unpronounced, gets an ‘e’ tacked on in between the ‘r’ and ‘l’, to become relou.
How do I use it?
Like lourd, relou is used to talk about someone or something that is irritating or oppressive, but the verlan version, probably because it is less formal and more slangy, carries a little bit of extra oomph.
Relou is probably most frequently used when talking about a person whose presence or behaviour is or has become oppressive:
Au début, Pierre semblait cool, mais il est devenu trop relou.
‘At first, Pierre seemed cool, but he got really annoying.’
Especially when applied to a man, relou usually refers to the sort of guy who makes bad jokes, lacks tact, and doesn’t know when their presence is unwanted… think Michael Scott from the Office (or David Brent in the UK version), seen without any sympathy.
Arrête de la draguer tout le temps, t’es relou !
‘Stop hitting on her all the time, you’re a pain in the ass!’
It can also be used to describe a disagreeable situation, much like ‘that sucks’ in English.
Comment ça se passe, le travail à Paris ? – Je ne fais que métro, boulot, dodo, c’est relou.
‘How’s the job in Paris going? – I do nothing but commute, work, and sleep, it sucks.’
And finally, relou can be used as a generally disparaging adjective to talk about most things or concepts:
Ta gueule ! On en a marre de tes blagues reloues !
‘Shut it! We’ve had it up to here with your lame jokes!’
Besides the standard lourd, French has no shortage of ways to express one’s lack of tolerance for people, things or situations. Chiant, the gerund and adjective form of the verb chier, meaning ‘to shit’, is probably the most common, as in Il faut se lever à 6 heures de matin pour y arriver à temps, c’est chiant – ‘You have to get up at 6 in the morning to get there on time, it’s annoying’.

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French Expression of the Day: Mettre le holà

This might look like a mix of Spanish and French, but it is definitely not Franish.

French Expression of the Day: Mettre le holà

Why do I need to know mettre le holà?

Because you might need to do this if your friends go from laughing with you to laughing at you. 

What does it mean?

Mettre le holà – pronounced meh-truh luh oh-la – literally means to put the ‘holà’ on something. You might be thinking this must be some clever mix of Spanish and French, but ‘holà’ actually has nothing to do with the Spanish greeting. 

This expression is a way to say that’s enough – or to ‘put the brakes on something.’

If a situation appears to be agitated, and you feel the need to intervene in order to help calm things down, then this might be the expression you would use. Another way of saying it in English might be to ‘put the kibosh on it.’

While the origins of ‘kibosh’ appear to be unknown, ‘holà’ goes back to the 14th century in France. Back then, people would shout “Ho! Qui va là?” (Oh, who goes there?) as an interjection to call someone out or challenge them. 

Over time this transformed into the simple holà, which you might hear on the streets, particularly if you engage in some risky jaywalking. 

A French synonym for this expression is ‘freiner’ – which literally means ‘to break’ or ‘put the brakes on,’ and can be used figuratively as well as literally. 

Use it like this

Tu aurais dû mettre le holà tout de suite. Cette conversation a duré bien trop longtemps, et il était si offensif. – You should have put a stop to that immediately. That conversation went on for too long, and he was so offensive. 

J’ai essayé de mettre le holà à la blague sur ma mère, mais ils étaient sans pitié. – I tried to put a stop to the joke about my mother, but they were merciless.