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French expression of the day: Ma grande

It could sound like an insult, but calling someone 'grande' in France is actually an act of kindness.

French expression of the day: Ma grande

Why do I need to know ma grande?

Don’t flinch if someone calls you ma grande, they’re not actually referring to your body size.

What does it mean?

Calling someone ma grande 'my big/tall [girl]' is a friendly and slightly colloquial way of addressing a female person in France.

Contrary to what you might think, the expression does not refer to receiver’s physical appearance. The French use ma grande in a similar way as the English use 'my dear'.

Ca va, ma grande? – How are you, dear?

Merci, ma grande – Thank you, dear.

It's an expression mostly used by older people, usually when addressing young girls rather than women. There is a masculine option (mon grand), but it's a bit rarer than the female version.

Young girls might find it slightly patronising if older men call them ma grande, especially if they don’t know them well. When in doubt, better to avoid it.


Young people tend to say grosse more than ma grande. But, whereas grande means 'tall' or 'big', grosse actually means 'fat'.

As a foreigner, the first time you hear grosse thrown around in a school yard you might be forgiven for flinching over what sounds like blunt body shaming. But grosse doesn’t refer to the receiver’s physical appearance either.

Ca va, grosse? – How are you, hun?

Merci, grosse – Thank you, babe.

It is however a very colloquial expression, so don't use it unless you're a) roughly the same age as the other person and b) know them very well. 

Similarly, boys use gros as a way of saying 'bro' or 'mate'.

Salut, gros – Hey, mate

A plus, gros – Later, bro

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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