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French word of the day: Enterrement de vie de jeune fille

It sounds like the title of a creepy murder movie, but it’s actually referring to a much happier event.

French word of the day: Enterrement de vie de jeune fille
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

Why do I need to know enterrement de vie de jeune fille?

To avoid serious misunderstandings in case a French female friend invites you to hers.

What does it mean?

Enterrement de vie de jeune fille literally means ‘funeral of the life of a young woman’, which unquestionably sounds pretty miserable.

Who would have guessed that it actually refers to what the Brits call a ‘hen do’ and the Americans refer to as a ‘bachelorette party’.

Because enterrement de vie de jeune fille is a tediously complicated and long expression – even for French standards – the French sometimes shorten it into EVJF.

French women are however not as fussed about their EVJFs as the Americans area bout their bachelorette parties, with many complaining that it's a tiresome and expensive affair.

Is there a male version?

Yes. In fact, the tradition was specifically reserved for French men all the way up to the 1970s, if we are to believe this Cosmopolitan article

A ‘stag do’ or ‘bachelor party’ is called enterrement de vie de garçon – ‘funeral of the life of a boy’.

For some reason the ‘young’ part fell out when the French decided on the expression for men. We don’t know why that is, but it’s not the first time the French language has been criticised for being sexist.

If you prefer a gender neutral variant you may opt for enterrement de vie de célibataire – funeral of the single life.

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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.