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WORD OF DAY

French word of the day: Pacotille

This could mean that you got a great bargain or that someone ripped you off.

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

Why do I need to know pacotille?

Because it can mean two things that are contradictory and you'll want to know what's what.

What does it mean?

The French online dictionary l'Internaute defines the pacotille as “goods with no value”, and this the most common way to use the term.

Describing jewelry, a leather purse or a dress as pacotille means they're of 'poor quality', 'worthless' or just 'junk'. The term here has to be accompanied with the article de;

Un sac à main de pacotille means 'a cheap purse', 

The de is crucial, because when you remove it, pacotille means something quite different.

Une pacotille means 'very little', and is usually used to say that you got a 'bargain'. 

J'ai payé une pacotille pour ce sandwich – I paid next to nothing for this sandwich.

Use it like this

Ce sont des bijoux de pacotille – These necklaces are complete ripoffs.

Cet ordinateur m'a couté une pacotille – This computer cost me next to nothing.

Quel chanteur de pacotille ! – What a bad singer he is!

Synonyms

Camelote – junk

Cochonnerie – rubbish

Pour une bouchée de pain – for next to nothing

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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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