For members


French word of the Day: Mauviette

Are you being called this? It might be time to get a little more domineering.

French word of the Day: Mauviette
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

Why do I need to know mauviette?

Well hopefully you won't, but if someone flings this at you then it's as well to know what they're talking about.

What does it mean?

It means wimp, sissy, weakling. As those translations suggest it's a bit of a playground insult, but it does have some other uses as well.

So if you're feeling a little childish you could say Quelle mauviette! Il a peur des serpents – What a wimp! He's afraid of snakes

Or more usefully you could ask your dentist Puis-je avoir un analgésique? Je suis une vraie mauviette en ce qui concerne la douleur – Can I have some painkiller? I'm a real wuss about pain.

If you're trying to goad a friend into joining you for that bungee jump you could say Si tu es une mauviette, dis-moi… Look, if you're too much of a sissy, just tell me.

Or you could tell someone – either in all seriousness or more playfully with a twinkle in your eye (and perhaps a whip in your hand) – Tu es une honte, une mauviette! – You're a disgrace, a weakling!

Any other options?

Yes, the chicken's international reputation for cowardice has also reached France so une poule mouillée (wet hen) is a common insult for the cowardly and un froussad is another common word for a wimp.

If you want to be a little more formal in your judgements un lâche is a coward and cowardly behaviour is comportement lâche.



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For members


French Expression of the Day: Mettre le holà

This might look like a mix of Spanish and French, but it is definitely not Franish.

French Expression of the Day: Mettre le holà

Why do I need to know mettre le holà?

Because you might need to do this if your friends go from laughing with you to laughing at you. 

What does it mean?

Mettre le holà – pronounced meh-truh luh oh-la – literally means to put the ‘holà’ on something. You might be thinking this must be some clever mix of Spanish and French, but ‘holà’ actually has nothing to do with the Spanish greeting. 

This expression is a way to say that’s enough – or to ‘put the brakes on something.’

If a situation appears to be agitated, and you feel the need to intervene in order to help calm things down, then this might be the expression you would use. Another way of saying it in English might be to ‘put the kibosh on it.’

While the origins of ‘kibosh’ appear to be unknown, ‘holà’ goes back to the 14th century in France. Back then, people would shout “Ho! Qui va là?” (Oh, who goes there?) as an interjection to call someone out or challenge them. 

Over time this transformed into the simple holà, which you might hear on the streets, particularly if you engage in some risky jaywalking. 

A French synonym for this expression is ‘freiner’ – which literally means ‘to break’ or ‘put the brakes on,’ and can be used figuratively as well as literally. 

Use it like this

Tu aurais dû mettre le holà tout de suite. Cette conversation a duré bien trop longtemps, et il était si offensif. – You should have put a stop to that immediately. That conversation went on for too long, and he was so offensive. 

J’ai essayé de mettre le holà à la blague sur ma mère, mais ils étaient sans pitié. – I tried to put a stop to the joke about my mother, but they were merciless.