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French word of the day: Malbouffe

This is something we all would do well to avoid during lockdown.

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

Why do I need to know malbouffe? 

Because it’s the cruel truth that, even in France, there is such a thing as junk food. 

What does it mean?

Mal means ‘bad’ and bouffe is colloquial slang for ‘food’. Bouffer means eat, but it has a greedy ring to it and is often used as a referral to having overeaten or eaten badly

It’s a common yet fatally naive delusion that a hamburger with fries somehow become healthy when eaten inside the French territory.

Yes, France is a country of delicious cuisine and a culture of joie de vivre that is inexplicably tied to their longstanding culinary traditions. 

READ ALSO: The French eating habits the world should learn from



But, the sad reality is that kebabs, burgers and fatty take away pizza don't become more healthy just because you crossed the border (yes, we know there are – delicious – exceptions, but don't pretend like all your burgers were cooked by a master chef who only used fresh products.)

And – shocker – French people love junk food too

That’s why the French have their own expression for junk food – malbouffe – instead of simply having Frenchified the anglo expression like they have done with so many others (like they did with 'hamburger' – pronounced ammburrgerr).

That's also why there's so much talk about how to prevent splurging on all the tasty malbouffe out there in times of solitude during the coronavirus lockdown. Let's face it, eating healthy and rester en forme (staying in shape) has rarely been harder than when confined to your own apartment without access to fresh fruit and veg.

But, if we're to believe the French online dictionary l'Internautemalbouffe is très mauvais pour la santé – very bad for your health.

It doesn't stop there:

Le hamburger est le symbole de la malbouffe par excellence avec sa viande et sa sauce grasses – 'The hamburger is the symbol of junk food par excellence with its meat and fatty sauce'. 

Thanks, l'Internaute, we'll have a salad for lunch, then.

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For members


French Expression of the Day: Ça tape

The long-range forecast suggests that this will be a handy phrase this summer.

French Expression of the Day: Ça tape

Why do I need to know ça tape?

Because you might want a way to describe the feeling of walking down a long boulevard with no shade in sight…or a techno concert.

What does it mean?

Ça tape usually pronounced sah tap – literally translates to ‘it taps’ or ‘it hits.’ The verb being used is taper, which means to hit or slap, and colloquially can be used to seek monetary support from someone. It is also the verb for ‘to type.’ But when spoken, this phrase does not involve violence, financial assistance, or note-taking.

Ça tape is a way to say ‘it’s scorching’ and complain about the hot weather or the search for shade. If someone uses it under a hot sun, and they say “ça tape”  or “ça tape fort” they’re referring to the particularly violent, piercing heat.

It can also be used to say something is intense, particularly in relation to music. It bears a similar colloquial meaning to the English informal phrase “it hits” or “it’s banging.” For example, you might be at a loud concert listening to a particularly passionate DJ – this might be a good scenario to employ ‘ça tape.’

The first meaning, which refers to the heat, is more commonly used across generations, whereas the second might be heard more from a younger audience. 

 Use it like this

Dès que je suis sortie de l’appartement et que je suis entrée dans la rue, j’ai dit “Ça tape !” car le soleil était si fort.– As soon as I stepped out of the apartment and into the street, I said to myself “it’s blazing!” because the sun was so strong.

Ce festival est incroyable, tout le monde est dans le même esprit. Ouh t’entends cette basse ? Ça tape !  – This festival is amazing, everyone is really in the same mood. Do you hear that bass? It’s banging.