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French expression of the day: C’est carré

Calling someone a square in French is not the insult that it would be in English.

French expression of the day: C'est carré

Why do I need to know carré?

Because no one wants to be a square, right?

What does it mean?

While carré literally means ‘square’ – so can be used in the literal sense of metre carré (metres squared) if you are talking about the size of your Paris apartment –  it is also something you can call a person, but it doesn't have the same meaning to call someone a square as it does in English.

If an English-speaker at a bar calls you ‘square’, it means that he thinks you’re boring and probably should have another tequila shot.

But if your French nephew says you’re carré, don’t be insulted. In France, carré is used to show that something is clean and clear, like the perfect square shape.

Pour bien la comprendre, il nous faut en connaître la racine. – To understand the expression, you need to know its root. 

This French joke (unarguably such a dad joke), actually makes a good point. Knowing the history of carré helps in understanding how to use it in a conversation.

Carré was first made popular by the French rapper Moha La Squale who featured the expression as a gimmick in nearly all of his songs. 




More rappers started using it. Then cool people and teenagers started using it. Now carré is urban, it's hip. 

When something is carré, everything goes to the plan: c’est propre. C’est reglo. C’est carré. – It’s sorted.

For example:

J’avais peur de rater mon train mais j’ai pu l’avoir juste à temps et je suis dedans. C’est carré. – I was afraid I might miss my train but I was able to get in just in time. It's sorted.

You can also use it about a person. If you say that someone is carré, it means they're pretty damn good.

If you want to recommend someone to a friend for a job, you might say:

Avec lui je peux te dire que c'est carré, le travail est bien fait. – You won't have any trouble with him, he does great work.

Or if  female friend is worried about a guy she's dating, but you know he's a keeper and want to vouch for him you might say:

Non non, t'inquiète, c'est un mec carré. – No no, don't worry, he's a good guy.

Any other options?

Young people sometimes use it instead of ça marche or ça roulewhich you might know to be the English equivalent of 'alright' (you can read about ça marche here and ça roule here.)

But none of these expressions come close to the hipness of carré.

So it seems that Huey Lewis and the News were right way back in 1986 when they insisted that It's Hip to be Square.

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French Expression of the Day: C’est de la daube

A daube is a delicious and hearty French stew - but this expression is not something that you would aspire to.

French Expression of the Day: C’est de la daube

Why do I need to know c’est de la daube?

Because you might want to express your strong opinion on a movie/book/TV show you’ve just watched in informal but relatively polite society.

What does it mean?

C’est de la daube  – pronounced say de la dorb – translates as ‘it’s a piece of crap’ (rubbish, while a perfectly reasonable alternative, just doesn’t quite cut it) and is perfect for use in discussions about books, films and TV shows … there’s even a book about cinema called C’est de la daube (Chroniques de cinéma)

The phrase can also be used to describe things that have little value and can be discarded after use – or, basically, anything you want to describe as ‘crap’.

Famously, daube is a classic Provençal stew made with inexpensive beef braised in wine, vegetables, garlic, and herbes de Provence, and traditionally cooked in a daubière, a braising pan. The question, then, is how a delicious and hearty stew came to be used to describe something cheap and nasty and best avoided.

It’s thought that this phrase has its origins in the kitchen. According to Gaston Esnault in his “dictionnaire des argots”, ‘daube’ in this less-savoury context is a 19th-century word of Lyon origin to describe fruits and meat as being ‘spoiled’, applied to fruits and meats.

Notoriously, French programmers who like the Linux system often refer to Windows as Windaube…

Use it like this

C’est de la daube cette film – it’s crap, this film

Ton opinion, c’est de la daube – your opinion is rubbish