French expression of the day: Ce n’est pas le Pérou

French expression of the day: Ce n’est pas le Pérou
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond
This expression is not one you hear every day, but it's got an interesting backstory.

Why do I need to know ce n’est pas le Pérou?

It’s an old and diplomatic way of saying that something is not top notch.

What does it mean?

Ce n’est pas le Pérou literally means ‘it’s not Peru’.

It’s an old French expression inspired by the idea that Peru was the country where you could find Eldorado, the land of gold.

French Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire used it about the government's solidarity fund, which provides up to €1,500 to small businesses and self-employed to help them through the economic crisis caused by the coronavirus.

“C'est pas le Pérou !” Le Maire said, and thereby admitted that, for many, €1,500 would not cover all of their expenses. But it was a whole lot more than nothing, he said.

Back in the day when Europeans were searching for Eldorado, they explored the untrodden lands of South America convinced that piles and piles of gold were awaiting them.

So Pérou became incorporated into the language as a symbol of a treasure or fortune.

Use it like this

Saying ce n'est pas le Pérou, is kind of saying 'it's not Eldorado' – it's not a goldmine.

You're not blowing it off as utterly worthless, just casually implying that it's not like you won the lotto.

It is however not that commonly used anymore, so more modern versions are:

Ce n'est pas grand-chose – it's not that much
Ce n'est pas énorme – it's not major
Or, in case you want to get down with the youngsters, say:
C'est pas ouf / c'est pas fou / c'est pas dingue – it's not incredible

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