For members


French expression of the Day: Gauche caviar

Actually nothing to do with food, this is an expression that you might hear flung about as campaigning hots up for next month's municipal elections.

French expression of the Day: Gauche caviar
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

Why do I need to know gauche caviar?

Well firstly you need to establish that you're not being offered a tasty fish snack if someone says this you and it may also come in handy as an insult.

What does it mean?

Literally translated as 'caviar left' this is actually a derogatory political term roughly equivalent to 'champagne socialist' in English.

It's used for people who espouse leftist or socialist values but live the lifestyle of the elites.

So if you know someone who is always banging on about solidarity with the workers while at the same time splurging on an expensive lifestyle and paying their cleaner the bare minimum this is a good insult to fling at them.

Vous parlez de solidarité mais en réalité vous n'êtes qu'une gauche caviar – You talk about solidarity but really you're just a champagne socialist

Ces politiciens gauche caviar séjournent tous dans des hôtels cinq étoiles – Those champagne socialist politicians all stay in five-star hotels

There's a fairly heavyweight list of French politicians, artists and intellectuals who have been accused of this, including Dominique Strauss-Kahn (although it's possible that wasn't the worst thing about him), François Mitterrand, Anne Hidalgo, Bernard-Henri Lévy and Françoise Sagan.

Alternatives include gauche de salon (drawing room socialist) or gauche Toscane after the favoured holiday destination of a certain type of European elite.

Just as in English, there isn't really an alternative for a right-winger who has sold out on their principles. The term droite cassoulet briefly featured in political discourse in 2008 but it was a joke, coined by comedian Anne Roulanoff.

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.
For members


French Word of the Day: Rodéo

In France, this word has nothing to do with cowboys.

French Word of the Day: Rodéo

Why do I need to know rodéo ?

Because they are becoming more common in certain parts of France, so you’ll likely hear about them, but if you’re expecting cowboys the you’re likely to be disappointed. 

What does it mean?

Rodéo – roughly pronounced roe-day-oh – is a French word that is formally defined as the assembling or herding of a group of young animals. 

This is probably the definition you are most familiar with, or perhaps you associate the word with the American and Mexican sporting events that involve large arenas and activities like lassoing young cows, riding bulls or broncos, or attempting to restrain a steer.

However, in practice, the more common French usage of the word “rodéo” would be one that is more correctly defined as a “rodéo urbain.”

These are illegal street races that take place either between motorcycles or cars on public roads, sometimes also known as a rodéo sauvage – unlicenced race.

Les rodéos have become a focus of French law enforcement in recent years, due to the increasing popularity of these races in working-class neighbourhoods across the country. Punishable by one year’s imprisonment and a fine of up to 15,000, the French government instituted new laws to “reinforce the fight against rodéos” in 2018.

They are particularly controversial due to their loudness and for how dangerous they are, and they’re also the subject of an award-winning French film called simply Rodeo (using the English spelling), in which the director used real rodéo riders to perform the stunts.

Use it like this

Le jeune homme de 19 ans a été interpellé après un rodéo urbain. – The 19-year-old young man was arrested after an illegal street race. 

Il y a quelques semaines, le ministre de l’Intérieur a mobilisé les forces de l’ordre afin d’enrayer des rodéos en France. – A few weeks ago, the Minister of the Interior mobilised law enforcement forces to curb the rise of illegal street racing in France.