French word of the day: Malin

French word of the day: Malin
Could this be the ultimate way of describing British PM Boris Johnson?
Why do I need to know malin?

So that you're not insulted in case someone says you are malin comme un singe – malin like a monkey.

What does it mean?

In fact, malin can be a huge compliment. The expression malin comme un singe means being very cunning or crafty. 

For example:

Sa réponse était très maligne – he/she answered very intelligently

Je vois que tu as ramené un parapluie si jamais il pleut, c'est très malin ! – I see you brought an umbrella in case it rains, that's really clever!

However malin can also refer to being sly or mischievous, depending on the context. Someone often referred to as malin by French media, is  Boris Johnson.

In fact, the multiple meanings of malin can be found through a brief Google search how the term is used to describe the British PM. First here in Les Echos:

Contrairement à [Theresa May], Boris Johnson est un vrai politique, charmeur, plein d'empathie, malin, certains diraient roué, sinon menteur. – Contrary to Theresa May, Boris Johnson is a really charming politician, full of empathy, cunning, some would even call him sly or a liar.

This Figaro piece opens with a praise of Johnson's abandoned strategy of forcing through a “no deal” Brexit October 31st, stating simply: C'est malin. – It's slick/Machiavellian.

In this piece published by Le Parisien today, the term has a more negative meaning:

Boris Johnson, pur produit du système britannique, « n'a pas la biographie d'un populiste », souligne François Rastier. « Mais il en utilise les méthodes afin de créer de la confusion. C'est surtout un gros malin, un opportuniste. » – Boris Johnson, a product of the British political system, “doesn't have a populist background,” said François Rastier. “But he uses populist methods to create confusion. He's very sly, an opportunist.”

Finally, also by Le Parisien, a (less flattering) description of the young Johnson's time as a journalist in Brussels:

Plume acérée et ton corrosif, celui que l'on surnomme alors « le bouffon » prend un malin plaisir à tourner en dérision la bureaucratie européenne. – With a sharp pen and a venomous tone, the man nicknamed “the fool” takes malicious pleasure in making fun of the European bureaucracy.


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




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