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FRENCH WORD OF THE DAY

French word of the day: Epauler

When French people give a shoulder, it's rarely cold. Here's why.

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

Why do I need to know épauler?

Because you don’t want to translate it into the English expression of ‘giving someone a cold shoulder’.

What does it mean?

Quite the opposite. Epauler literally means ‘to shoulder’, but it really is a way of expressing 'help', 'support' or 'backup'.

The English equivalent would be 'giving someone a leg-up' or 'having someone's back'.

It's a versatile verb and can also mean 'reinforce' or strengthen. Use it in the same way you would use soutenir (support) or donner un coup de main (giving a helping hand).

It's not quite the same as se serrer les coudes (locking elbows), which means 'standing together'. Both are actions of solidarity, they're just a little different. Whereas se serrer les coudes is about helping each other, épauler implies someone helping someone else.

Use it like this

Je t'épaules. – I've got your back.

Tu m'épaules ? – You've got my back?
 
Ne t'inquiètes pas, on va t'épauler. – Don't worry, we'll help you.
 
Tous les jours après l'école il épaulait ses parents en faisant les ménages. – Every day after school he helped his parents by cleaning the house.
 
Le gouvernement français a mis en place plusieurs mesures pour épauler les entreprises impactées par le coronavirus. – The French government has put in place a series of measures to support business affected by the coronavirus.
 
Synonyms
 
Soutenir – support
 
Appuyer – back up
 
Assister – assist
 
Donner un coup de main – giving a helping hand

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For members

FRENCH WORD OF THE DAY

French phrase of the Day: Ne me prends pas pour un lapin de six semaines

Being patronised by a Frenchman? Roll out this phrase.

French phrase of the Day: Ne me prends pas pour un lapin de six semaines

Why do I need to know ne me prends pas pour un lapin de six semaines?

Because someone might be trying to take you for a fool.

What does it mean?

Ne me prends pas pour un lapin de six semaines – pronounced ne me pren pah pour un lapan de see sem-enn – translates as ‘don’t take me for a six-week-old rabbit’, and is a go-to phrase to warn people not to mistake you for a fool, someone who doesn’t understand what’s going on.

The podcast Hit West from French regional newspaper Ouest-France suggests that the ‘six weeks’ comes from the age a rabbit is weaned at, and must therefore be ready to survive on its own.

And why a rabbit at all? Well no-one really seems very sure. Rabbits don’t get a good rap in the French language though, to stand someone up is poser un lapin in French.

English-language metaphor equivalents may be, “I didn’t come down in the last shower”, “I wasn’t born yesterday”, or, as Line of Duty’s DCI Hastings might say, “I didn’t float up the Lagan in a bubble”.

Use it like this

Honestly, keep it simple. If someone’s speaking to you in a patronising manner, simply say: Ne me prends pas pour un lapin de six semaines.

Ouest France suggests that this is the ‘more elegant’ way to request that people don’t take you for a fool. It’s not offensive, but it might be a little old-fashioned. 

Alternatives

You can use the more basic version of this phrase – Ne me prends pas pour une idiote (don’t take me for a fool) or the slightly more punchy Ne me prends pas pour un con (don’t take me for a moron).

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