French Expression of the Day: Bon chic bon genre (BCBG)

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French Expression of the Day: Bon chic bon genre (BCBG)
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

While 'Bon chic bon genre' may sound like the supreme French expression to describe class and style, there is actually a little more to it than you think.


Why do I need to know bon chic bon genre?

This expression is widely used in France to describe a particular type of clothing or some people's attitude.

What does it mean?

Bon chic bon genre - roughly pronounced bone sheek bone jan-ruh - which can also be shortened to BCBG (pronounced as (bay-say-bay-jshay) - literally translates as ''Good style, good class'' but it's really the French version of posh, preppie or Sloaney.

While chic can be quite a compliment on its own, the expression bon chic bon genre is a little more complicated.

For a French to describe someone as BCBG, they would most certainly have to wear at least one of these items on a day-to-day basis: a pearl necklace, an emblematic silk scarf from the high-end fashion brand Hermès or a three-piece suit. They will usually also live in certain well-off areas of central Paris.

While there are plenty of people in Paris who embody this style, unless you're actually a member of this elite group (which as a foreigner you almost certainly won't be) you're more likely to hear BCBG in mocking terms.


In the collective imagination, it is also common to associate the expression with hyphenated first names such as Charles-Henri or Marie-Francoise and more generally to traditional Catholic culture, strict education and a sense of social exclusivity.

If you're speaking with younger French people, they might talk about BCBG more ironically, describing someone instead as beau cul belle guele (nice ass pretty face). 

BCBG in French popular culture

In the 1990s, French humour trio Les Inconnus even recorded a song entitled ''Rap BCBG'' or ''Auteuil, Neuilly, Passy'', which are regarded as a triangle of posh Parisian neighbourhoods where the BCBG tend to congregate, to mock people living in these areas and their supposedly complicated life.


This single was one of the biggest hits of the year 1991 and remains to this day a reference in French humour, so don't be surprised if you ever hear a local jokingly hum the song.

Use it like this

Je ne vais pas acheter cette robe, elle fait trop bon chic bon genre ! - I'm not going to buy this dress, it is way too Sloaney!

Je préfère rester dans le nord de Paris, le centre est trop BCBG. - I prefer to stay in the north of Paris, the central parts are too preppie.


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