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French expression of the day: Changer de cap

This expression explains what French President Emmanuel Macron could be planning for his country in the next couple of months.

French expression of the day: Changer de cap
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

Why do I need to know changer de cap?

Because the term explains well what is happening in France right now.

What does it mean?

Changer de cap means 'to change course', both literally and figuratively. 

It's a term used by some French analysts to describe what's happening in France right now, as Edouard Philippe has stepped down from his post as prime minister.

One analyst told us:

Historiquement, changer le gouvernement est le meilleur moyen de changer de cap. – 'Changing the government is the best way historically to show that you want to change political course.'

Basically, it means Macron is redirecting the focus for the final part of his presidency, after the coronavirus health crisis turned things pretty much on their heads.

Use it like this

You may use changer de cap about physically changing course or any kind big shift, be it political, societal or personal.

Le bateau a dû changer de cap pour éviter la tempête – The boat had to change direction to avoid the storm.

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For members


French Expression of the Day: Tarte à la crème

This expression is more than just your last order at the boulangerie.

French Expression of the Day: Tarte à la crème

Why do I need to know tarte à la crème ?

Because if someone uses this phrase to describe you, you should probably be a bit offended.

What does it mean?

Tarte à la crème – pronounced tart ah lah krem – literally refers to a cream filled tart, or a custard tart, in English. However, this expression has more to do than just baking. It is another way of describing something that is boring, predictable or commonplace.

This expression comes straight from Moliere himself. In the 17th century, there was a popular rhyming game called “Corbillon.” The phrase “Je vous passe mon corbillon” (I pass you by corbillon) is said, and then it is followed by “Qu’y met-on?” (What does one put on it?) To keep the rhyme up, people must respond with something ending in an -ON sound.

In the play, “L’Ecole des Femmes” (The School of Wives), one character says the ideal woman would respond to the question with “tarte à la crème” which is obviously the wrong answer. The right answer would be tarte à la citron (lemon tart). Molière did this on purpose to poke fun at the fact that disgruntled fans would send poor actors cream tarts to express their frustration.

It was a way of ridiculing his critics and showing he was unimpressed by their method of showing discontentment at his plays. Over time, the phrase went on to describe things that are commonplace or boring. It is often used to describe entertainment related topics, such as books, movies, or plays.

A synonym for this phrase in French might be banal and in English you might say something is ‘vanilla’ to describe something that is fairly unexciting.

Use it like this

Le film était vraiment tarte à la crème. Je ne recommande pas d’aller le voir au cinéma, vous pouvez attendre de le voir une fois qu’il sera gratuit en ligne. – The movie was really boring. I don’t recommend going to see it at the movies, you can simply wait to see it once it is free online.

Je pense que l’album est tarte à la crème. Elle a pris tellement d’idées d’autres artistes que ce n’est vraiment pas original du tout. – I think the album is predictable. She really took plenty of ideas from other artists and it was not original at all.