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FRENCH WORD OF THE DAY

French word of the day: Cauchemar

Here's one to spice up your vocabulary when you want to complain about something in France.

French word of the day: Cauchemar
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

Why do I need to know cauchemar?

Because sometimes it's nice to say something more eloquent than chiant when you're complaining in French.

What does it mean?

Cauchemar is French for ‘nightmare’, and – like it’s English brother – it can be used to signify both a bad dream or a particularly stressful or unpleasant situation.

J’ai fait un horrible cauchemar cette nuit et je n’ai pas pu me rendormir. – 'I had a horrible nightmare last night and couldn’t go back to sleep.'

If you were in Paris during the transport strike, you may have heard someone explain quel cauchemar ! – ‘What a nightmare!’ – upon seeing the scores of people trying to squeeze themselves into a single bus or Metro.

Or, if you were watching a scary film on French TV (dubbed it from English to French, obviously), then 'I am your worst nightmare' would be translated to je suis ton pire cauchemar (orif the enemy in question was particularly polite, je suis votre pire cauchemar).

Other options

Another version of cauchemar is cauchemardesque, which sounds pretty fancy and French and means ‘nightmarish’. 

Let's say you're fighting the French bureaucracy machine on some topic and you're very frustrated. You could tell your French friend that c’était cauchemardesque – ‘it was nightmarish’.

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FRENCH WORD OF THE DAY

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. 

Alternatives

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).

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