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FRENCH WORD OF THE DAY

French expression of the day: Neuf trois

Are you a neuf trois? No, it doesn't refer to your age.

French expression of the day: Neuf trois
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

Why do I need to know neuf trois?

It's a bit of slightly niche slang that's very much in vogue at the moment since making it to Hollywood.

What does it mean?

Well as even a beginner French learner can tell you, it literally translates as 'nine three' but if you're referring to someone as a neuf trois it's not a comment on their age or their size.

The phrase comes from the French system of numbering départements. Every département in France has a two-digit number that forms the first part of your code postal.

And French people frequently refer to their départements by number as well as by name.

J'ai rencontré un nouveau mec. Il est sympa mais il habite dans le 81e, donc ce n'est pas très pratique – I met a new fella. He's nice but he lives down in 81 [Tarn] so it's not very practical.

And if you're referring to a départment number you say the full number – so sixteen not one six.

But there is one exception to this rule – Seine-Saint-Denis, one of the three départements that circles Paris.

Its département number is 93 so people can and do say quatre-vingt treize. But if you want to sound a little more street you can also refer to it as le neuf trois.

Oui, j'habite dans le neuf trois, et alors? – Yeah, I live in 93, so?

The reason that neuf trois has gained a wider meaning is that Seine-Saint-Denis has a certain reputation.

It is the most deprived département in France and scores high on indicators such as crime, unemployment and poverty.

Not all of it is like this, of course. Paris' trendiest suburb – Pantin – is in 93, as is the arty area of Montreuil and the more family-friendly Les Lilas, but it does undeniably have some rough areas, one of which – Montfermeil – is the subject of the Oscar nominated film Les Misérables.

READ ALSO: Banlieue boom – No Paris suburbs are not all deprived and crime-ridden 

But its gritty reputation has also made it pretty cool – apart from the film there are also lots of musicians from Seine-Saint-Denis as well as quite a few footballers, including World Cup hero Kylian Mbappé.

So while people might not want to live in some of its more deprived areas, some do aspire to the style of the people from there.

So if you refer to someone as a neuf trois you're basically saying that their style is a bit ghetto or a bit gangsta, like the group below (and if you like what you see check out the Facebook group 'Rap du neuf trois' for more groups from the area).

 

Member comments

  1. It’s called Le Neuf-trois because that’s the way the police say quatre-vingt treize in in their radio communications.

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For members

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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