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French expression of the day: Ça va chauffer

It's a sign there may be mayhem coming.

French expression of the day: Ça va chauffer

Why do I need to know ça va chauffer?

Because you will know when to get out of the way.

What does it mean?

If you have ever been to a protest in Paris, maybe you have heard a protester or a police officer say ça va chauffer! – ‘it’s going to get heated!’

In this context, chauffer means ‘trouble’, not ‘warmth’. It’s a warning that something could be about to happen, in this case – seeing as you are at a protest – that ‘something’ most likely refers to a potentially violent situation.

Ça va chauffer, je le sens. Il va y avoir des grabuges là. – 'Trouble is coming, I can feel it. There is about to be mayhem.’

Needless to say, it’s a sign to get out of the way.


A synonym to ça va chauffer is ça va péter, which is even more dramatic in tone. Péter – which is very informal – means ‘explode’ as in 'this is going to blow up'.

You might also want to check out our previous explanation of  the expression péter les plombs.

It's not only for use if you're demonstrating though, there are a wide variety of situations where this could be appropriate.

So ça va chauffer does not necessarily refer to violence, it simply means that a current tension will slide over into some form of argument – delightfully illustrated by the tweet below.

“Look at his face as he sees himself on the big screen. It's going to be heated when they get back home.


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French Expression of the Day: Tarte à la crème

This expression is more than just your last order at the boulangerie.

French Expression of the Day: Tarte à la crème

Why do I need to know tarte à la crème ?

Because if someone uses this phrase to describe you, you should probably be a bit offended.

What does it mean?

Tarte à la crème – pronounced tart ah lah krem – literally refers to a cream filled tart, or a custard tart, in English. However, this expression has more to do than just baking. It is another way of describing something that is boring, predictable or commonplace.

This expression comes straight from Moliere himself. In the 17th century, there was a popular rhyming game called “Corbillon.” The phrase “Je vous passe mon corbillon” (I pass you by corbillon) is said, and then it is followed by “Qu’y met-on?” (What does one put on it?) To keep the rhyme up, people must respond with something ending in an -ON sound.

In the play, “L’Ecole des Femmes” (The School of Wives), one character says the ideal woman would respond to the question with “tarte à la crème” which is obviously the wrong answer. The right answer would be tarte à la citron (lemon tart). Molière did this on purpose to poke fun at the fact that disgruntled fans would send poor actors cream tarts to express their frustration.

It was a way of ridiculing his critics and showing he was unimpressed by their method of showing discontentment at his plays. Over time, the phrase went on to describe things that are commonplace or boring. It is often used to describe entertainment related topics, such as books, movies, or plays.

A synonym for this phrase in French might be banal and in English you might say something is ‘vanilla’ to describe something that is fairly unexciting.

Use it like this

Le film était vraiment tarte à la crème. Je ne recommande pas d’aller le voir au cinéma, vous pouvez attendre de le voir une fois qu’il sera gratuit en ligne. – The movie was really boring. I don’t recommend going to see it at the movies, you can simply wait to see it once it is free online.

Je pense que l’album est tarte à la crème. Elle a pris tellement d’idées d’autres artistes que ce n’est vraiment pas original du tout. – I think the album is predictable. She really took plenty of ideas from other artists and it was not original at all.