For members


French word of the Day: Cul

This slang term is the subject of a classic pitfall for many French learners.

French word of the Day: Cul

Why do I need to know cul?

It's a common slang term that you will hear frequently in France, but you also need to know how not to say it.

What does it mean?

It means ass, arse, butt or bottom – a slang term for one's behind.

So you could say

J'ai glissé et je suis tombé sur le cul – I slipped and fell on my arse

Mon cul est énorme parce que j'ai trop mangé pendant le confinement – My arse is enormous because I ate too much during the lockdown.

But the word also has a certain blush potential for French learners when you're not saying it but people think you are. The very commonly-used word beaucoup (a lot) if not correctly pronounced sounds to French ears like beau cul (nice ass).

So you might think you're saying to the waiter who brought your coffee merci beaucoup – thanks a lot.

But he thinks you're saying merci, beau cul – thanks, nice ass!

READ ALSO The 9 French words you need to be very, very careful when pronouncing

As in English it can be used as a term of abuse – trou de cul (asshole) might be appropriate for the next driver who cuts you up on a roundabout – but it also forms part of a lot of phrases, none of which have anything specifically to do with body parts.

Some of the most common include faux cul which literally means 'false bottom' but actually means you are calling someone a hypocrite or a phoney.

Avoir le cul entre deux chaises – which means to have one's ass between two chairs or as we might say in English to 'fall between two stools'

Avoir des casseroles au cul – to have saucepans dangling from your butt – is used to describe politicians whose reputation is plagued by scandals, roughly the equivalent of having skeletons in the closet.

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For members


French Phrase of the Day: Syndrome de la bonne élève

Why being a good pupil can sometimes be … bad.

French Phrase of the Day: Syndrome de la bonne élève

Why do I need to know Syndrome de la bonne élève?

Feeling under-valued at work despite doing everything – and more – asked of you? You may have ‘good student syndrome’.

What does it mean?

Syndrome de la bonne élève – pronounced sin-dromm de la bon ell-evv – translates, as we’ve already hinted, as good student syndrome. 

You may well also see it written as syndrome du bon élève (pronounced sin-dromm doo bon ell-evv) – but this is predominantly a female issue.

It refers to someone in the workplace who tries their hardest to work to the rules, do all the jobs asked of them – and more – and yet is overlooked in favour of co-workers who don’t necessarily put in the same hard graft.

It’s not an official ‘syndrome’, but mental health experts do recognise it in many people – particularly women.

It is a hangover, according to features in magazines such as Cosmopolitan and Marie Claire, from school days when girls are considered to be harder workers and less trouble than their boy counterparts.

Marie Claire labelled it a “destructive perfectionism … which affects the mental health of the women they become, while preventing them from embracing positions of responsibility’.’

Use it like this

Le syndrome de la bonne élève touche essentiellement les femmes dans le monde occidental. – Good student syndrome mainly affects women in the Western world.

Cette question d’éducation est d’autant plus marquante que le syndrome du « bon élève » affecte généralement les femmes – This question of education is all the more striking because “good student” syndrome generally affects women