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French phrase of the day: Être charrette

If you are someone who loves the adrenaline rush of running right up to the last moment of a deadline before finishing a project, this is the phrase/excuse for you.

French phrase of the day: Être charrette

Why do I need to know être charrette?

This is the phrase to use when you are explaining to your boss that everything will be fine, that your nose is pressed right up against the grindstone and you are just applying the finishing touches and you will indeed meet the deadline that is one minute away. 

What does it mean?

Être charrette literally translates as ‘to be in the chariot or cart’. It is used in connection with last minute touches to get a project finished before a deadline. If you're a devotee of Le Meilleur Pâtissier (France's better version of The Great British Bake Off) you might have heard frantic bakers users it as they apply the finishing touches to their two-metre tower of profiteroles.

What are its origins?

It started out as an architectural term in the 19th century at the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris. Like students around the world, these ones typically worked up until the very last second of a deadline, when a cart would be wheeled among them to collect their models and other work for review.

Not willing to release the cart until they were happy with their model, they often applied the finishing touches when it was already in the cart. Author Émile Zola borrowed this phrase in his 1886 book about Paul Cézanne, L’Oeuvre. Thanks to Zola and others, the term evolved from its architectural setting and into common usage in France.

How is it pronounced?

Eh-t-re chah-ret


Oh là là, désolé, ce soir je ne peux pas venir à ta soirée , je suis super charrette. Oh my goodness, I cannot come this evening, I am up against a deadline

Bravo! Finalement vous avez terminé votre charette avant moi. Well done, you have finally finished your project before me. 

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For members


French Expression of the Day: Chanter faux

This is definitely not lip synching.

French Expression of the Day: Chanter faux

Why do I need to know Chanter faux ?

Because if you were not blessed with a beautiful singing voice, then this might be a good phrase to know. 

What does it mean?

Chanter faux – pronounced shahn-tay foe – literally means to ‘fake sing.’ You might assume this expression would mean ‘lip sync’ in French, but its true meaning is to sing out of tune. (Lip synching is chanter en playback).

It joins a chorus of other French expressions about bad singing, like chanter comme une casserole (to sing like a saucepan) or chanter comme une seringue (to sing like a siren).  

Chanter faux is actually the most correct way to describe someone being off key, so it might be a better option than comparing another’s voice to a cooking utensil. 

You might have seen this expression pop up recently amid the drought, as people call for rain dances and rain singing (where there is no shame in singing badly).

Use it like this

Pendant l’audition pour la pièce, Sarah a chanté faux. Malheureusement, elle n’a pas obtenu le rôle. – During her audition for the play, Sarah sang out of tune. Sadly, she did not get a role.

Si on fait un karaoké, tu verras comme je chante mal. Je chante vraiment faux, mais je m’en fiche. Il s’agit de s’amuser. – If we do karaoke you will see how badly I sing. I am really out of tune, but I don’t care. It’s all about having fun.