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FRENCH WORD OF THE DAY

French word of the day: Coucou

Want an alternative to the endless bonjours in France?

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

Why do I need to know coucou?

It’s such a common word in France that you want to at least avoid the confusion of thinking that someone is yelling 'cuckoo' when they’re actually just saying hello.

What does it mean?

Coucou is a way of saying hello in French, similar to salut – hi.

French dictionary Larousse defines it as a way to “cheerfully attract someone's attention when you show up by surprise.”

It's less formal than bonjour, so if a French person tells you coucou it means that they are considering that you are on pretty equal social footing.

You don't say coucou to your boss, unless you are on extraordinarily good terms. You may, however, use it with friends or even colleagues that you're close with.

Coucou is also a common way for adults to address children in France.

French people coo more than say coucou. Some people really linger on that last ou, which others may find annoying. 

Whether coucou is a socially acceptable way of greeting someone or just annoying baby talk has long been a matter of discussion.

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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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