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French word of the day: Plouc

Most foreigners will likely feel a little bit like this when arriving in Paris for the first time.

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

Why do I need to know plouc?

Whether your goal is to master the top level of Parisian arrogance, or just to unmask those who do, this is a good expression to know.

What does it mean?

Plouc is a pejorative French expression used about someone who is a little bit country, in the most literal sense.

It originated in Brittany in the late 19th century and means paysan (peasant) in the regional accent there.

At its origins it was used to poke fun at the stereotypical countryside French person as being somewhat simple and rustic.

So if you hear someone say plouc today, it means that they are a 'country bumpkin', 'yokel', 'hick', or 'hillbilly'.

It's definitely not a compliment and it implies that the person is lacking of what the French call savoir-vivre, which is an elegant yet snobbish way of saying that someone is uncouth, lacking of social-cultural capital.

Quel plouc – What a hick

Similarly, plouqistan or ploukistan is a pejorative way of talking about the 'place where the ploucs live'. 

Use it like this

Il n'est jamais allé à Paris, c'est un vrai plouc – He's never been to Paris, he's a real hick.

J'en peux plus de tous ces ploucs. Je te dis, c'est la dernière fois qu'on passe nos vacances dans un camping – I can't take these hillbillies anymore. I'm telling you, this is the last time we're spending our holidays in a camping.

C'était un vrai dîner des bobos, des vrais bourgeois quoi. Je ne me suis rarement senti aussi plouc. – It was a real city-snob dinner, a truly bourgeois crowd, you know. I've rarely felt like so much like a country bumpkin. 


Cul-terreux – arse-earthy (very colloquial way of saying that someone is from the countryside).

Péquenot – yokel

Personne rustre – loutish

Campagnard – person from the countryside 

Paysan – peasant 

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For members


French Expression of the Day: Pleurer comme une madeleine

No, this expression does not involve weeping cakes.

French Expression of the Day: Pleurer comme une madeleine

Why do I need to know pleurer comme une madeleine ?

Because it can be confusing to imagine why a madeleine cake might cry.

What does it mean?

Pleurer comme une madeleine roughly pronounced pler-ay kohm oon mahd-eh-lenn – translates literally to “cry like a Madeleine” which means to sob or cry a lot. 

A similar expression in English might be to cry one’s eyes out, or to cry like a baby. 

The French expression is biblical in origin – it refers to Mary Magdalene, known in the religious text as a former prostitute. In the Bible, there is a scene where Mary Magdalene covered Jesus’ feet in tears as she confessed her sins and received forgiveness. 

French has had many expressions implicating Mary Magdalene, prior to the 19th century, if one was to “faire la Madeleine” (make the Madeleine” that meant to “feign repentance.” In the 19th century, the expression pleurer comme une Madeleine became popular, in part due to its use by the classic writer Balzac. 

Over time, the phrase has come to describe a person whose tears or weeping is considered to be excessive or unjustified, though it can also be used to simply describe someone who is crying a lot.

In the first sense, the expression might be more similar to the English one of “crocodile tears.”

It has nothing to do with the delicious little shell-shaped sponge cake known as a madeleine, although the cake (via the author Marcel Proust) has inspired its own expression une madeleine de proust, which means a taste, smell, sight or sound that brings back a rush of memories or intense emotions.

Use it like this

J’ai dit à ma fille d’arrêter de pleurer comme une madeleine après avoir dû rendre le jouet de son frère qu’elle avait pris sans demander la permission. – I told my daughter to stop crying her eyes out over having to give back her brother’s toy that she had taken without permission.

On ne savait pas si ses larmes étaient authentiques quand elle pleurait comme une madeleine, mais le spectacle a duré longtemps. – We did not know if the tears were authentic when she was sobbing her heart out, but the ordeal went on for a long time.