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French expression of the day: On se barre

It's both a quick exit and the slogan of this year's most iconic feminist act in France.

French expression of the day: On se barre
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

Why do I need to know on se barre?

Not only is it a way of making a quick exit, it’s also the catch-phrase of this year’s perhaps most iconic feminist act in France.

What does it mean?

On se barre comes from the verb se barrer, which you use to say that you want to ‘leave’.

On se barre? – Shall we leave?

Je me barre – I’m getting out of here

Tu t’es barré avant que j’ai pu te dire au revoir – You left before I could say goodbye

Se barrer is more colloquial than partir, but slightly less so than se casser.

Use it as an interjection:

Barre-toi ! – Get out of here!

Or as a feminist catch-phrase

On se barre recently was turned into a popular feminist slogan in France, after actress Adèle Haenel walked out of this year’s César film ceremony in protest at convicted child rapist Roman Polanski being awarded the title of best director.

Her protest led to author Virginie Despentes writing a poignant and widely shared article dedicated to Haenel titled: Désormais, on se lève et on se barre – ‘From here on, we get up and leave’.

Haenel became an icon, and on se barre became a symbol of one of the must difficult acts: getting up and walking out when you don’t agree.

Lots of French women carried posters titled on se barre on the International Women’s Day protest this weekend.

So now you may use on se barre both to fight patriarchy and whenever you just want to get out of somewhere. Or both at once.

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For members


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.