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French phrase of the day: Année bissextile

If you hear people talking about this, it's time to go searching for a special newspaper.

French phrase of the day: Année bissextile
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

Why do I need to know année bissextile?

Well to be honest you probably won't be using this too often – only every four years in fact.

What does it mean?

It means leap year, a year that contains 366 days instead of the usual 365 days. And it's a phrase you might be hearing over the next few days as 2020 is a leap year – Saturday marks the rare day of February 29th.


Quelle est la date du samedi? C'est le 1er mars? Non, le 29 février, cette année est une année bissextile.

What is the date on Saturday, is it the first of March? No, the 29th of February, this year is a leap year.

Unlike in the UK, where it is traditional for women to propose to men, there are no romantic traditions associated with the date in France. (Although if you're a woman who wants to propose we say go for it – it's 2020 not 1920!)

There is, however, a special newspaper on sale.

La Bougie du sapeur is a satirical newspaper that only publishes on February 29th. Founded in 1980, this Saturday will mark its 10th edition.


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For members


French Phrase of the Day: Syndrome de la bonne élève

Why being a good pupil can sometimes be … bad.

French Phrase of the Day: Syndrome de la bonne élève

Why do I need to know Syndrome de la bonne élève?

Feeling under-valued at work despite doing everything – and more – asked of you? You may have ‘good student syndrome’.

What does it mean?

Syndrome de la bonne élève – pronounced sin-dromm de la bon ell-evv – translates, as we’ve already hinted, as good student syndrome. 

You may well also see it written as syndrome du bon élève (pronounced sin-dromm doo bon ell-evv) – but this is predominantly a female issue.

It refers to someone in the workplace who tries their hardest to work to the rules, do all the jobs asked of them – and more – and yet is overlooked in favour of co-workers who don’t necessarily put in the same hard graft.

It’s not an official ‘syndrome’, but mental health experts do recognise it in many people – particularly women.

It is a hangover, according to features in magazines such as Cosmopolitan and Marie Claire, from school days when girls are considered to be harder workers and less trouble than their boy counterparts.

Marie Claire labelled it a “destructive perfectionism … which affects the mental health of the women they become, while preventing them from embracing positions of responsibility’.’

Use it like this

Le syndrome de la bonne élève touche essentiellement les femmes dans le monde occidental. – Good student syndrome mainly affects women in the Western world.

Cette question d’éducation est d’autant plus marquante que le syndrome du « bon élève » affecte généralement les femmes – This question of education is all the more striking because “good student” syndrome generally affects women