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French expression of the day: Ce n’est pas sorcier

Need to get sarcastic with someone in French? Here's a great expression for that.

French expression of the day: Ce n'est pas sorcier

Why do I need to know ce n'est pas sorcier?

Is there someone in your life that is over-complicating things and putting unnecessary obstacles in the way? This is what you need to tell them.

What does it mean?

In French un sorcier is a wizard (a witch is une sorcière). So for example Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone/Sorcerer's Stone appeared in French as Harry Potter à l'école des sorciers (Harry Potter at the wizards' school).

So with ce n'est pas sorcier, or in its more slangy form c'est pas sorcier you're literally telling someone that it's not wizardry or not magic.

But it better translates as 'it's not rocket science' – ie you're telling the person that they're dumb and making something way too complicated.

So you could say Le changement climatique existe. C'est déprimant, mais ce n'est pas sorcier – Climate change exists. It's depressing, but it's not rocket science.

Accrocher les serviettes pour les faire sécher – c'est pas sorcier! – Hang the towels up to dry – it's not rocket science!

Or if you really want to unleash your fury onto someone who is putting unnecessary obstacles in your way Comme je l'ai déjà dit, ce n'est pas sorcier, c'est très clair – as I already said, this is not rocket science, it's very simple.

As is hopefully clear, this is not a particularly polite phrase, it's sarcastic at best and downright offensive at worst so we wouldn't suggest using it unless you have exhausted all of the more reasonable forms of persuasion.

You will probably feel like using it repeatedly as you navigate your way through French bureaucracy, but it is unlikely to get your paperwork processed any faster, so it might be better to just swallow your rage, explain the situation again and then do some deep breathing exercises and go to your happy place. 



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For members


French phrase of the Day: Ne me prends pas pour un lapin de six semaines

Being patronised by a Frenchman? Roll out this phrase.

French phrase of the Day: Ne me prends pas pour un lapin de six semaines

Why do I need to know ne me prends pas pour un lapin de six semaines?

Because someone might be trying to take you for a fool.

What does it mean?

Ne me prends pas pour un lapin de six semaines – pronounced ne me pren pah pour un lapan de see sem-enn – translates as ‘don’t take me for a six-week-old rabbit’, and is a go-to phrase to warn people not to mistake you for a fool, someone who doesn’t understand what’s going on.

The podcast Hit West from French regional newspaper Ouest-France suggests that the ‘six weeks’ comes from the age a rabbit is weaned at, and must therefore be ready to survive on its own.

And why a rabbit at all? Well no-one really seems very sure. Rabbits don’t get a good rap in the French language though, to stand someone up is poser un lapin in French.

English-language metaphor equivalents may be, “I didn’t come down in the last shower”, “I wasn’t born yesterday”, or, as Line of Duty’s DCI Hastings might say, “I didn’t float up the Lagan in a bubble”.

Use it like this

Honestly, keep it simple. If someone’s speaking to you in a patronising manner, simply say: Ne me prends pas pour un lapin de six semaines.

Ouest France suggests that this is the ‘more elegant’ way to request that people don’t take you for a fool. It’s not offensive, but it might be a little old-fashioned. 


You can use the more basic version of this phrase – Ne me prends pas pour une idiote (don’t take me for a fool) or the slightly more punchy Ne me prends pas pour un con (don’t take me for a moron).