French Expression of the Day: Au pif

If you don't feel like being painstakingly accurate or just want to trust your gut, then 'au pif' is the expression for you.

French Expression of the Day: Au pif
Why do I need to know au pif?
French people might try to wild guess all sorts of things, and when they do have, they have a dedicated expression for it. If you want to take your shot in the dark in French, keep on reading. 
So, what does it mean?
The expression au pif means 'at random', 'at a rough guess' and 'off the top of your head'. Pif is a slang word for nez – nose. This expression is based on the idea of flair and instinct.
For example, when cooking you might say: Pour les ingrédients, j'y vais au pif! –  I'm adding ingredients at a rough guess!
Or, when guessing someone's age, Au pif, je dirais qu'il a 40 ans!  – Guesstimating, I would say he is 40!
A slight variant of the expression is au pifomètre ('intuition'), which relies on the image of a certain kind of measurement, literally a intuition thermometer – Au pifomètre, je dirais au'il est 9 heures. – Off the top of my head, I would say it is 9 am.
The expression, while informal, is not rude or impolite but it does give you a laid-back, sometimes careless attitude – for example, you can't tell your boss you are doing something au pif or else you will get in trouble.
Au pif is not the only saying  that can be used when guessing or choosing something at random, you could also use  à vue de nez – 'approximately', which also comes from this idea of flair, au doigt mouillé – by rule of thumb, or au petit bonheur la chance – haphazardly.
Where you may have heard pif before
If the word pif is mainly used when referring to one's nose, it can also be a slang word for wine, especially red wine. There is also 'Pif le chien', a famous cartoon dog created in the 1950s that is still published to this day.


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French Phrase of the Day: Syndrome de la bonne élève

Why being a good pupil can sometimes be … bad.

French Phrase of the Day: Syndrome de la bonne élève

Why do I need to know Syndrome de la bonne élève?

Feeling under-valued at work despite doing everything – and more – asked of you? You may have ‘good student syndrome’.

What does it mean?

Syndrome de la bonne élève – pronounced sin-dromm de la bon ell-evv – translates, as we’ve already hinted, as good student syndrome. 

You may well also see it written as syndrome du bon élève (pronounced sin-dromm doo bon ell-evv) – but this is predominantly a female issue.

It refers to someone in the workplace who tries their hardest to work to the rules, do all the jobs asked of them – and more – and yet is overlooked in favour of co-workers who don’t necessarily put in the same hard graft.

It’s not an official ‘syndrome’, but mental health experts do recognise it in many people – particularly women.

It is a hangover, according to features in magazines such as Cosmopolitan and Marie Claire, from school days when girls are considered to be harder workers and less trouble than their boy counterparts.

Marie Claire labelled it a “destructive perfectionism … which affects the mental health of the women they become, while preventing them from embracing positions of responsibility’.’

Use it like this

Le syndrome de la bonne élève touche essentiellement les femmes dans le monde occidental. – Good student syndrome mainly affects women in the Western world.

Cette question d’éducation est d’autant plus marquante que le syndrome du « bon élève » affecte généralement les femmes – This question of education is all the more striking because “good student” syndrome generally affects women