French Expression of the Day: Être fauché

If you're heading back to work having spent all your money on summer fun then this is one for you.

French Expression of the Day: Être fauché

Why do I need to know être fauché?

If you're experiencing a temporary cash flow crisis, then this one is for you.

What does it mean?

It means to be brassic, skint, on the rocks, stony broke, penurious or without two centimes to rub together. Basically having no ready cash.

So if you've slightly overdone it on the holiday spending, you could say J'ai achete' trop des cocktails cet été et maintenaint je suis fauché – I bought too many cocktails this summer and now I'm broke.

Or if things aren't that bad you could say Je ne suis pas fauché, mais les prix qu'ils demandent pour les boissons sont carrément obscènes – I'm not exactly broke, but the prices they charge for drinks are just obscene.

Although it's slightly casual, it's perfectly OK to use in more serious contexts as well, such as Je serai fauché si les prix sont mauvais encore cette année pour les abricots –  I'll be broke if this is another year of bad prices for apricots.

Just as the English language has come up with plenty of synonyms for being short of cash, there are several French expressions too. Il est fauché comme les blés (he is broke like wheat) is a common one used to describe a person left with nothing. The agricultural metaphor evokes a field once the crop has been harvested – ie one with nothing in it.

And if you are going through this, you might need to serre la ceinture or tighten your belt (ie spend less money). Il faut que je me serre la ceinture pour pouvoir rembourser mes dettes – I need to tighten my belt to pay back my debts.

Just be careful not to get it mixed up with je suis faché (I'm angry) unless you're talking about your anger at your cash flow problems of course. Je suis si faché que je suis fauché – I'm furious that I'm broke.

Fauché also means “run down” or “mown down”. We often see headlines in the French media about road accidents in which a victim was fauché par une voiture (knocked over by a car).

For more words and phrases, check out our French Word of the Day section.

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French Expression of the Day: Robin des bois

He's the legendary Englishman who is surprisingly relevant to French political discourse.

French Expression of the Day: Robin des bois

Why do I need to know Robin des bois?

Because you might be wondering why the French reference this English outlaw during protest movements 

What does it mean?

Robin des bois roughly pronounced roe-bahn day bwah – is the French version of “Robin Hood” – the legendary outlaw who stole from the rich and gave to the poor. 

Robin Hood is part of English folklore, with the first references to him occurring sometime during the 13th or 14th century. He did not become Robin des bois for some time – as the legend did not spread to the majority of French people until at least the 18th or 19th century. 

Robin des bois most likely made his big entrance on the French stage in the 19th century when the novel Ivanhoe (1819), which tells tales of medieval England, was translated into French. 

The fabled outlaw was welcomed by the French, particularly romantic writers and thinkers of the time who saw him as a symbol of the fight against the aristocracy. 

But the French had their own versions of Robin Hood before the English legend made its way to l’Hexagone – like the “Louis Mandrin” who supposedly rebelled against corrupt tax collectors during the Ancien Regime. 

Over the years, the French – particularly those on the political left – have evoked “Robin des bois” during strikes and protests, and it’s relatively common to see protest movements or direct action groups name themselves after Robin Hood.

The English outlaw also had his own French television series between 1963 and 1966 – though this time he was called “Thierry La Fronde” and he lived in France during the Hundred Years’ War.

Use it like this

Nous devons nous attaquer aux actions de Robin des Bois afin d’aider la classe ouvrière à payer leurs factures d’énergie, a déclaré le syndicat dans un communiqué de presse. – We must take action like Robin Hood to help the working class pay for their energy bills, the union said in a flyer. 

Le restaurateur était un véritable Robin des Bois – il avait tendance à surfacturer les tables des riches et à sous-facturer celles de la classe populaire. – The restaurant owner was a real Robin Hood – he had a tendency of overcharging tables of rich people and under-charging those of poor folks.