For members


French word of the day: Bouquiner

This is perhaps one of the most relaxing hobbies during lockdown. Just be sure to put your phone away first.

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

Why do I need to know bouquiner?

Because it gives new magic to an old habit.

What does it mean?

Bouquiner means lire – ‘read’.

But when you tap it into your Google search engine, the first explanation that comes up is fouiller dans les vieux livres – flipping through old books.

Bouquiner has something ancient and slightly magical about it. It's reading, but it's more than that. It's dusty old books filled with old wisdom, secrets and magic. 

If you have been to Paris, you will have spotted les bouquinistes – booksellers of used and antiquarian books – in their green stalls along the Seine river banks.

It doesn't really have a synonym in English. Bouquiner is more than simply reading – it implies that you are reading and enjoying it.

Une personne en train de bouquiner s'adonne à cette activité de manière ininterrompue et avec a certain plaisir, states the French online dictionary l'Internaute

'A person who is reading is doing it without interruptions and with a certain pleasure.”

Maybe the closest in English is 'falling into a good book' and 'being absorbed in a great read' but it's not quite the same.

So if you're reading a book but checking your phone every five minutes, it's definitely not bouquiner.

Use it like this

If you're in lockdown and trying to get through the 10 books you wanted to read but didn't have the time to read over the past five years, pourquoi pas bouquiner un peu ? – Why not read a little?

Tu fais quoi? Je bouquine tranquillement dans le jardin. – What are you up to? I'm reading peacefully in the garden.

Il n'y a rien qui me détend plus en vacances que de bouquiner au bord de la piscine. – There's nothing that relaxes me more on holiday than reading by the pool.

Je bouquine toujours un peu avant de m'endormir. Comme ça je dors bien. – I always read a little before going to sleep. It helps me sleep well.


Member comments

  1. Emma – It cannot be a coincidence that the first syllable of ‘bouquiner’ is, in fact, ‘book’. Surely that is key to your explanations, given that French was the language of choice in medieval England.

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For members


French Expression of the Day: Faire trempette

You'll definitely need this phrase as the temperature rises.

French Expression of the Day: Faire trempette

Why do I need to know faire trempette?

Because you might need this phrase to describe that urge to jump in the water once the temperature hits a certain degree this summer.

What does it mean?

Faire trempette – usually pronounced fair trahm-pet – literally means ‘to make dipping sauce’ because the word ‘trempette’ is actually a condiment, or a dip, typically used for raw vegetables. In Canada, the dip is popular, and quite similar to Ranch dressing – a great addition to your crudités (vegetable snacks). 

But this phrase does not have anything to do with your healthy finger-food – in the colloquial sense, the phrase faire trempette actually means to take a dip – as in to go swimming.  

The way the expression came to become about swimming and not eating is pretty logical – in the 1600s a ‘trempette’ was a slice of bread dipped in liquid. As time went on people started to say ‘faire la trempette’ to describe the action of dipping food in liquid – like bread into wine – prior to taking a bite.

It became the metaphorical way of talking about taking a very short bath in the 19th century and now it’s the best way to reference the urge to  splash around for a second before heading back to the lounge chairs to tan. 

While you may  not have heard of this phrase before, you’ve definitely heard its synonym: the verb ‘se baigner’ (‘to bathe,’ but more so used as ‘to swim’). 

Use it like this

Comme la température augmente, je suis encore plus tentée d’aller faire trempette dans le canal. – As the temperature gets higher, I am even more tempted to go take a dip in the canal. 

Je pense que je vais faire trempette et ensuite m’allonger pour bronzer au soleil pendant un moment. – I think I will take a dip and then lay out to tan for a bit.