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French word of the day: Glauque

This expression has nothing to do with guns (although it sounds like it does) but it's a bulletproof way of turning down an idea without further explanation.

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

Why do I need to know glauque?

It’s an example of French slang that you’ll hear a lot.

Why does it mean?

Although it sounds like “Glock” the gun, it has nothing to do with firing bullets. 

Glauque is one of the many French slang words where the meaning changes slightly depending on the context. The best English translation is probably ‘shady’.

C’est glauque – '‘it’s shady’'

Shifty, fishy, smelly, dodgy or unpleasant are other options. (Sometimes glauque encompasses all of these elements.)

What's nice about glauque is that it's just enough in itself to discard something. No further explanation needed.

Is the restaurant glauque, you say? OK, we'll go somewhere else.

You don't need to specify whether it's smelly-glauque, dark-glauque or if it's the food that's glauque.

Practically anything can be thrown off as glauque

Oh non, pas ce bar! Il est tellement glauque – Oh no, not that bar! It’s so dodgy.

C’est glauque comme concept – What a shady concept.

Ce mec est grave glauque – That guy is so shifty.

Other options are louche (shifty), or even its hip, younger, verlan brother: chelou.
Another way to go is sordide, which is more specific and formal – and better to use in a professional setting or in an important discussion if, for example, you have reservations about one of your colleagues.

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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.