16 new words that the French language really needs

French has loads of great untranslatable words - and even a special phrase for thinking of a perfect comeback too late - but here are some that Oliver Gee reckons they should incorporate to the language.

16 new words that the French language really needs
Time to add a few words to your vocabulary. Photo: Lagotic/Flickr
Ménage a moi
When you end up going home alone in a taxi (or Uber more likely) after spending an unsuccessful night out in Paris trying to pick up locals.
“Did you meet anyone last night? Yeah beaucoup, but no luck. Another 'ménage a moi' for me.”
Déja who
The sensation of meeting a French person at a soirée who you definitely remember meeting at a previous soirée or perhaps even twice, but whose name you've totally forgotten, again.
When you go out for an early evening apéritif at the house of your French friends that descends into torture.
Normally it's because they don't have enough alcohol for you, no one talks to you, you don't speak good enough French, can't follow the conversations, don't dare to speak, and wish you could be elsewhere. 
The laid back approach that some Parisian men have towards their hairstyles, which is definitely more laissez-faire than lacquered perfection. Forget hair product, embrace the disheveled and messy laissez-hair look .

French actor and YouTube sensation Norman Thavaud goes laissez-hair. Photo: AFP

After spending Christmas in France eating copious amounts of foie gras and chocolate log (separately, normally) you’ll probably be feeling very guilty and take a vow to do some rigorous exercise to shed those extra pounds. 

“Oh I feel terrible, I'm gonna have to spend the whole of January at the flabattoir.”

A la toad
Those foreigners who come to Paris and try to dress as fashionably as the French, but don't pull off à la mode and just basically look ridiculous.
The French intellectual, or intello as they are called here, that you meet in a café on the Left Bank who turns out to be more mad than clever and you have to make a run for it.
Gone appétit
The exclamation for when a meal looks so unappetising that when it's plonked down in front of you, you're suddenly no longer hungry. Think tête de veau (calf's brains), langue de boeuf (cow's tongue) and andouillettes (pig's intestines). 
“Oh dear I really shouldn't have chosen the tripe. Gone appetite, everyone.”
Ban au chocolat
A mindset for when you're cutting back on French pastries – “I won't be stopping at the patisserie, I'm on month long “ban au chocolat”.
Banning pain au chocolat? Inconceivable. Photo: AFP
An exclamation to be used when finding an empty Vélib bicycle rack, or indeed when realising too late that your bike is faulty. 
“Oh this is bloody unVélibable,” said one irate newcomer after getting a flat tyre.

The Vélib' bike hire system is generally great, except when it isn't. Photo: AFP
La hell vie
The reality of life for some new arrivals whose dream of finding La Belle Vie in France has been scuppered by endless and confusing taxes, red tape, loneliness and a lack of Yorkshire Tea. 
Someone who wishes they were a takeaway-coffee drinking, beard-wearing hipster (known as a bobo – short for bourgeoise-bohème – in France), but who doesn't actually pull it off.
A posh Parisian, most often found in the west of the city in an apartment with an Eiffel Tower view. 

While Parisians are quite happy to use the word périphérique for the city’s crazy ring road where vehicles drive bumper to bumper, expats are more likely to refer to the noose around Paris as the Periphereeeeeeek! given how frightening it is to navigate. 

The notorious Paris périphérique. Photo: AFP


Parisians who are forced to cross the periphereeeeeeek ring road to go the suburbs (banlieue) are often left looking a little pale and feeling weak at the knees. That’s because they are suffering from a bad case of “banlieurgy”.

It's easily cured, just by taking them home.

Often to get to the banlieue Parisians have to take the rundown, under invested, always packed, occasionally smelly and sometimes dangerous commuter train system the RER.

And lastly, we all lapse into franglaziness every now and again, when we can't be bothered to to think of the French word and just start speaking “franglais” in the hope to be understood. So stop being franglazy and learn the language.

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Le Havre rules: How to talk about French towns beginning with Le, La or Les

If you're into car racing, French politics or visits to seaside resorts you are likely at some point to need to talk about French towns with a 'Le' in the title. But how you talk about these places involves a slightly unexpected French grammar rule. Here's how it works.

An old WW2 photo taken in the French port town of Le Havre.
An old WW2 photo taken in the French port town of Le Havre. It can be difficult to know what prepositions to use for places like this - so we have explained it for you. (Photo by AFP)

If you’re listening to French chat about any of those topics, at some point you’re likely to hear the names of Mans, Havre and Touquet bandied about.

And this is because French towns that have a ‘Le’ ‘La’ or ‘Les’ in the title lose them when you begin constructing sentences. 

As a general rule, French town, commune and city names do not carry a gender. 

So if you wanted to describe Paris as beautiful, you could write: Paris est belle or Paris est beau. It doesn’t matter what adjectival agreement you use. 

For most towns and cities, you would use à to evoke movement to the place or explain that you are already there, and de to explain that you come from/are coming from that location:

Je vais à Marseille – I am going to Marseille

Je suis à Marseille – I am in Marseille 

Je viens de Marseille – I come from Marseille 

But a select few settlements in France do carry a ‘Le’, a ‘La’ or a ‘Les’ as part of their name. 

In this case the preposition disappears when you begin formulating most sentences, and you structure the sentence as you would any other phrase with a ‘le’, ‘la’ or ‘les’ in it.


Le is the most common preposition for two names (probably something to do with the patriarchy) with Le Havre, La Mans, Le Touquet and the town of Le Tampon on the French overseas territory of La Réunion (more on that later)

A good example of this is Le Havre, a city in northern France where former Prime Minister, Edouard Philippe, who is tipped to one day run for the French presidency, serves as mayor. 

Edouard Philippe’s twitter profile describes him as the ‘Maire du Havre’, using a masculine preposition

Here we can see that his location is Le Havre, and his Twitter handle is Philippe_LH (for Le Havre) but when he comes to describe his job the Le disappears.

Because Le Havre is masculine, he describes himself as the Maire du Havre rather than the Maire de Havre (Anne Hidalgo, for example would describe herself as the Maire de Paris). 

For place names with ‘Le’ in front of them, you should use prepositions like this:

Ja vais au Touquet – I am going to Le Touquet

Je suis au Touquet – I am in Le Touquet 

Je viens du Touquet – I am from Le Touquet 

Je parle du Touquet – I am talking about Le Touquet

Le Traité du Touquet – the Le Touquet Treaty


Some towns carry ‘La’ as part of their name. La Rochelle, the scenic town on the west coast of France known for its great seafood and rugby team, is one such example.

In French ‘à la‘ or ‘de la‘ is allowed, while ‘à le‘ becomes au and ‘de le’ becomes du. So for ‘feminine’ towns such as this, you should use the following prepositions:

Je vais à La Rochelle – I am going to La Rochelle

Je viens de La Rochelle – I am coming from La Rochelle 


And some places have ‘Les’ in front of their name, like Les Lilas, a commune in the suburbs of Paris. The name of this commune literally translates as ‘The Lilacs’ and was made famous by Serge Gainsbourg’s song Le Poinçonneur des Lilas, about a ticket puncher at the Metro station there. 

When talking about a place with ‘Les’ as part of the name, you must use a plural preposition like so:

Je suis le poinçonneur des Lilas – I am the ticket puncher of Lilas 

Je vais aux Lilas – I am going to Les Lilas

Il est né aux Lilas – He was born in Les Lilas  


Islands follow more complicated rules. 

If you are talking about going to one island in particular, you would use à or en. This has nothing to do with gender and is entirely randomised. For example:

Je vais à La Réunion – I am going to La Réunion 

Je vais en Corse – I am going to Corsica 

Generally speaking, when talking about one of the en islands, you would use the following structure to suggest movement from the place: 

Je viens de Corse – I am coming from Corsica 

For the à Islands, you would say:

Je viens de La Réunion – I am coming from La Réunion 

When talking about territories composed of multiple islands, you should use aux.

Je vais aux Maldives – I am going to the Maldives. 

No preposition needed 

There are some phrases in French which don’t require any a preposition at all. This doesn’t change when dealing with ‘Le’ places, such as Le Mans – which is famous for its car-racing track and Motorcycle Grand Prix. Phrases that don’t need a preposition include: 

Je visite Le Mans – I am visiting Le Mans

J’aime Le Mans – I like Le Mans

But for a preposition phrase, the town becomes simply Mans, as in Je vais au Mans.