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FRENCH WORD OF THE DAY

French Word of the Day: saperlipopette !

No, as Tintin readers well know, we’re not making this one up.

French Word of the Day: saperlipopette !
Photo: Depositphotos
Why do I need to know saperlipopette?
 
Besides being a widely-known reference to a fundamental piece of French language pop culture, knowing this expression may help you to express your displeasure when stronger language is inappropriate.
 
What does it mean?
 
Saperlipopette ! (‘sah – pear – lee – poe- pet’) is a minor oath that tends to get translated as ‘goodness me’, ‘good heavens’, ‘golly gosh’, or ‘gadzooks’. Like ‘fiddlesticks’ or ‘rats’, it’s the sort of thing that you can use to vent your consternation, displeasure, or surprise when there are kids around. For example, saperlipopette ! J’ai oublié mes clés means, ‘goodness me, I’ve forgotten my keys’.
 
For most people familiar with the term, saperlipopette brings to mind the legendary Adventures of Tintin (or Les Aventures de Tintin, in their original version) comic books, created by the Belgian cartoonist Hergé.
 
 
Photo: William Murphy/Flickr/Wikimedia Commons
 
As the comics were destined to a young audience, Hergé’s characters had to react to the crazy situations that their adventures led to in a way that was not offensive. The characters eventually became known for their silly exclamations.
 
In the comic books, Tintin would often say something like Saperlipopette ! Je suis poursuivi !, translatable as ‘Gadzooks! I’m being followed!’
 
Or Professeur Tournesol might exclaim Saperlipopette ! Je n’aurais pas dû sortir sans parapluie…, or, ‘Good heavens! I shouldn’t have gone out without an umbrella…’.
 
As you can probably tell, this expression is not necessarily something you’re likely to hear coming out of the mouths of the young and hip, unless it’s with a heavy dose of irony. But if using saperlipopette won’t assure that you’re taken seriously, it may well earn you a smile.
 
 
Origin
 
Like sacrebleu, saperlipopette has its origins in blasphemy. According to the Trésor de la langue française informatisé (‘The Digitized Treasury of the French Language’), saperlipopette comes from saprelotte, which, like sapristi, was probably invented to avoid saying sacré, meaning ‘sacred’ and referring to a higher power.
 
Today, most people know it thanks to Hergé and his character Tintin.
 
Alternatives
 
The well-known sacrebleu (an innocuous variation of sacré de Dieu or ‘sacred God’) and another favorite of Tintin’s, sapristi (from sacristi, variation of sacré) have similar origins and a similar meaning to saperlipopette. The main difference is that saperlipopette is more fun to say.
 
And if you're not around young children and don't mind a bit of profanity, check out our guide to that most versatile of French swearwords – putain.
 

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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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