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FRENCH WORD OF THE DAY

French Expression of the Day: ‘C’est la galère’

Were you among the miserable people who squeezed themselves into a jam-packed Metro this morning? You might want to learn this expression to deal with the ongoing transport strikes.

French Expression of the Day: 'C’est la galère'
Photo: Deposit photos
Why have we chosen this expression?
 
This is an expression which is readily used by the French when they've got something to complain about, which, if the cliché is to be believed, happens frequently.
 
But it's for a certain type of complaint.
 
It could be long traffic jams, a never-ending search for a decent apartment, an endless cycle of French paperwork or chaotic school transport, as seen in he headline below: “c’est la galère!”. 
 
 
 
 
 
So, what does it mean?
 
In an informal situation, galère can be used to mean “hellish”, “difficult” or to describe something as a “chore” or a “pain”. 
 
It comes from the verb galérer which means “to struggle” or “to have a hard time/a lot of hassle”.
 
The French use C’est la galère as its own expression in an informal setting to describe any ongoing problems they are facing so could be translated as :It's hell, it's a mess, it's a nightmare.
 
They also use quelle galère!  to mean “what a mess!” or “what a nightmare!”.
 
And when you're out and about in France, you’ll hear it said out loud when there are problems on the Metro or when there are strikes causing people troubles and it is often used when talking with friends. 
 
Of course, you can change the tense of the verb “être” if you want to talk about issues you’ve already struggled through — “c’était la galère” (“it was hell”) or difficult situation that are coming up — “ça va être la galère” (“it will be a pain”). 
 
Origin
 
“Galère” is also an old maritime word meaning “galley” — the type of ship that uses oars and sails. 
 
Working on these ships was considered a terrible job because it entailed endless hours of rowing in awful conditions. “La peine des galères” was a punishment that condemned French criminals into forced labour on ships for years on end. 
 
It’s no wonder, then, that “la galère” has come to describe a feeling of endless struggle.
 
Examples
 
From the newspaper clipping above:
 
Transports scolaires: “c'est la galère!”
School transport: “It's hell!”
 
C'est la galère sur les routes du Val-d'Oise
It's hell on the Val d'Oise roads.
 
And here are some more examples:
 
1. On a toujours un long chemin à faire. C’est la galère
We still have a long way to go. What a nightmare.
 
3. Tous les trains sont annulés. C'est la galère!
All the trains are cancelled. What a mess!
 
Alternatives
 
C'est pénible – It's hard/difficult/arduous/gruelling
 
Or you could use aother informat expression “c'est la bagne” meaning pretty much the same as “c'est le galère”.
 
And if you want to say “it's a nightmare” you could just say “c'est un cauchemar”. 

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FRENCH WORD OF THE DAY

French Expression of the Day: Une vache à lait

This might sound like the cheese for children, but it actually has nothing to do with dairy products.

French Expression of the Day: Une vache à lait

Why do I need to know une vache à lait ?

Because if someone describes a potential investment opportunity like this, you might want to consider it.

What does it mean?

Une vache à lait – roughly pronounced oon vash ah lay – translates precisely to ‘a cow with milk’ or ‘a dairy cow.’ However, this phrase has little to do with farming, cheese, or milk.

In practice, une vache à lait is almost synonymous with the English term “cash cow” – or something or someone that is a moneymaker or source of profit. 

The phrase in French comes from the middle of the 16th century and evokes an image of a cow who is being milked without protest, allowing for the farmer to profit off of it. It was gradually extended to people and business ventures as a way of talking about profitability. 

Sometimes, this expression can have a negative connotation, particularly if a person is being called a vache à lait. This would be akin to saying that they are being financially exploited without realising it. 

Use it like this

L’achat de Snapchat a été une vache à lait pour Mark Zuckerberg et Facebook. – The purchase of Snapchat was a moneymaker for Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook.

Les parents ont été accusés d’utiliser leur enfant comme une vache à lait en l’inscrivant à des publicités. Ils ont trouvé cette accusation offensante. – The parents were accused of using their child as a cash cow by signing them up for commercials. They found this accusation offensive.

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