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French word of the day: Quatorzaine

As complicated it can be to learn French, this expression is quite self-evident. But what happened to 'quarantaine'?

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

Why do I need to know quatorzaine?

Because it’s the correct term to use if you get coronavirus and have to isolate yourself for two weeks.

What does it mean?

If you merge quarantaine (quarantine) and quatorze (fourteen) together, you get quatorzaine

The term is the one to use when referring to going into isolation for a period of fourteen days (or less) due to a contagious illness such as the coronavirus. 

Quatorzaine was used frequently in French media when referring to the fourteen days of isolation required for everyone who travelled to France from infection zones such as China or Italy in the early days of the pandemic.

Admittedly, quatorzaine is a less fun mix of words than jeudredi – a term referring to not knowing the day of the week, which means you can make your favourite cocktail on a Thursday if you want.

But having to go into quatorzaine could potentially mean you will be able to enjoy fourteen jeudredis in a row – provided that your office does not have you work from home, of course.

What about quarantaine?

For the Anglo ear, it's perhaps not self-evident that quarantaine refers to quarante (forty), so using quatorzaine instead of quarantaine when referring to a shorter period of quarantine is more accurate, linguistically speaking.

However chances are small that people will think you're self-isolating for forty days if you say quarantaine, the French use both terms pretty loosely.

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For members


French Expression of the Day: C’est du vent

This French expression is useful for brushing things off.

French Expression of the Day: C’est du vent

Why do I need to know c’est du vent?

Because you might wonder why the politician is talking about wind in response to questions about the latest scandal.

What does it mean?

C’est du vent roughly pronounced say doo vahnt – translates literally to “it is the wind”, but in reality it is more akin to the English expression “it’s just hot air” or “it’s a load of nonsense”.

You can use this expression when you want to say that someone has made an empty threat, or if their words are unlikely to be followed through with real action. 

This is a French expression you might hear politicians use when seeking to downplay something – for instance, a strike threat from unions. 

You may also hear someone use this expression to minimise an accusation or rumour that is circulating about them. If you want to target a specific person when using the phrase, you could say “Il/Elle fait du vent” (He/She is full of hot air). 

Use it like this

Il a déclaré que ce n’était du vent lorsque les journalistes l’ont interrogé sur les accusations de blanchiment d’argent.– He said it was just hot air when journalists asked him about accusations of money laundering.

Il a dit qu’il allait encore quitter son emploi cette semaine, mais il fait du vent. – He said he was going to quit his job again this week, but it’s a load of nonsense.