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French word of the day: Brassage

If you are a beer fan, you might have already heard the word, but pay attention to the conversation topic when using it because it also has several alcohol-free meanings!

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

Why do I need to know brassage?

Because it does not always have to be about beer.  

What does it mean?

Brassage generally means 'brewing' from the verb brasser and is also the root of the term brasserie, traditionally a place that brewed its own beer.

But in some circumstances it has a wider meaning of 'mixing'.

The website of French dictionary Larousse gives it three distinct definitions: The making of beer, the action of stirring to mix something and the merger of social classes.

In this way, you can mix a lot of things, literally and figuratively, with this term. If a fan brasse air, it means that it circulates it, but if you are told that you are brasser de l’air, someone wants to tell you that you are talking hot air.

When involving people, it generally means “intermingle” (people from different groups for example).

Le brassage des élèves (the mingling of pupils) is also an expression often heard in schools implying that children from various ages and classes are being mixed up. It has a particular resonance this September as schools work out health protocols to create as little mingling as possible.

A lesser-known sense of the word is related to baking. Brasser la pâte means kneading the dough, so if you're a fan of the French version of Bake Off you might already know this.

READ ALSO Five reasons the Bake Off is better in France than Britain


Use it like this

Tu brasses de l’air – Literally “you are stirring air”, meaning “you talk a lot of hot air”

Il faut bien brasser la bière – The beer needs to be brewed well

Le brassage des populations est une bonne chose – The mixing of populations is a good thing

Tu ne trouves pas qu’il brasse beaucoup d’argent ? –  Don’t you think he handles a lot of money?


Mélanger – Mix

Mêler  – Blend

Pétrir – Knead

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French Expression of the Day: Faire son miel

Surprisingly, this phrase has nothing to do with beekeeping.

French Expression of the Day: Faire son miel

Why do I need to know faire son miel?

Because you might want to describe how you were able to buy a new wardrobe after the airline lost your luggage.

What does it mean?

Faire son miel – usually pronounced fair soan mee-ell – literally means to make your honey, or to make your own honey. In practice, this phrase actually means to take advantage of a situation, usually by turning a profit or to get the most out of a situation. 

The phrase comes from the idea that bees are actually profiteers: they take advantage of flowers in order to make honey. In the 16th century, this phrase was first put into use, and it followed the idea that bees fly up to the innocent flowers and steal their nectar and pollen for their own purposes. People began to use this as a way to describe people who take advantage of others or particular situations for their own benefit, or those who take things that do not belong to them.

Though the phrase is tied to the idea of turning a situation around for your own benefit, it is does not necessarily have a negative connotation. It can be used both for physical profit, or intellectual. It is somewhat similar to the English phrase of ‘making lemonade from lemons’ – taking a bad situation and making something good out of it.

In fact, French actually has another phrase that is quite similar to this one: faire son beurre, which is potentially even older than faire son miel

Use it like this

La compagnie aérienne a perdu nos sacs, avec tous nos vêtements dedans. Nous avons pu faire notre miel de la situation et acheter un nouvel ensemble de meilleurs vêtements avec l’argent de la compagnie aérienne! – The airline lost our bags, with all our clothes inside. We were able to take advantage of the situation by buying a whole new wardrobe on their dime!

Les oiseaux font leur miel de tous les nouveaux arbres plantés dans la ville. Ils profitent de ce nouvel espace pour faire leurs nids. – The birds are taking advantage of all the new trees being planted across the city. They are enjoying the new space to build their nests.

Le politicien a fait son miel des fonds supplémentaires et en a utilisé une partie pour son propre projet de construction. Ils pourraient le mettre en procès pour corruption. – The politician took advantage of the extra public funds for his own construction project. They might put him on trial for corruption.