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French word of the day: Purée

Few French people actually think about mashed potatoes when using this expression.

French word of the day: Purée

Why do I need to know purée?

It's a swearword you can use in front of basically anyone.

What does it mean?

As a swearword, purée falls among the really harmless insults that you may use as you please.

Purée ! – Mashed potato!

It is kind of like saying 'oh sugar!' if you drop a vase in front of your kids. Even an old, posh French lady could probably hear you exclaim purée without frowning.

When can I use it?


Use purée like you use putain – which French people tend to do constantly (read more about putain here) – just without the fear of offending someone nearby.

Tu as vu l'heure? Purée, on est en retard – Did you see the time? Shoot, we're running late

Purée, il pleut ! – Oh darn, it's raining!

Purée, on a pas fait assez de purée – Oh sod it, we didn't make enough mashed potatoes.

Another French variant is punaise, 'darn' it', or the funny-sounding saperlipopette, which according to an online dictionary is an “ancient term used to express astonishment”. 

Any other options?

Don't forget that purée really refers to a delightful side dish that is mashed potatoes. Although the most traditional version is crushed pommes de terres (potatoes) mixed with a generous lump of butter, purée technically means “mash” and you can use in front of all mashed veggies:

Purée aux épinards – mashed spinach

Purée de carotte – mashed carrots

Purée de pois cassés – mashed peas

Or (personal favourite) Purée aux truffes – mashed potatoes with truffle oil.

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For members


French Expression of the Day: Faire son miel

Surprisingly, this phrase has nothing to do with beekeeping.

French Expression of the Day: Faire son miel

Why do I need to know faire son miel?

Because you might want to describe how you were able to buy a new wardrobe after the airline lost your luggage.

What does it mean?

Faire son miel – usually pronounced fair soan mee-ell – literally means to make your honey, or to make your own honey. In practice, this phrase actually means to take advantage of a situation, usually by turning a profit or to get the most out of a situation. 

The phrase comes from the idea that bees are actually profiteers: they take advantage of flowers in order to make honey. In the 16th century, this phrase was first put into use, and it followed the idea that bees fly up to the innocent flowers and steal their nectar and pollen for their own purposes. People began to use this as a way to describe people who take advantage of others or particular situations for their own benefit, or those who take things that do not belong to them.

Though the phrase is tied to the idea of turning a situation around for your own benefit, it is does not necessarily have a negative connotation. It can be used both for physical profit, or intellectual. It is somewhat similar to the English phrase of ‘making lemonade from lemons’ – taking a bad situation and making something good out of it.

In fact, French actually has another phrase that is quite similar to this one: faire son beurre, which is potentially even older than faire son miel

Use it like this

La compagnie aérienne a perdu nos sacs, avec tous nos vêtements dedans. Nous avons pu faire notre miel de la situation et acheter un nouvel ensemble de meilleurs vêtements avec l’argent de la compagnie aérienne! – The airline lost our bags, with all our clothes inside. We were able to take advantage of the situation by buying a whole new wardrobe on their dime!

Les oiseaux font leur miel de tous les nouveaux arbres plantés dans la ville. Ils profitent de ce nouvel espace pour faire leurs nids. – The birds are taking advantage of all the new trees being planted across the city. They are enjoying the new space to build their nests.

Le politicien a fait son miel des fonds supplémentaires et en a utilisé une partie pour son propre projet de construction. Ils pourraient le mettre en procès pour corruption. – The politician took advantage of the extra public funds for his own construction project. They might put him on trial for corruption.