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French word of the day: Ne pas mâcher ses mots

This is something of a trait among French people so it's as well to know the phrase for it.

French word of the day: Ne pas mâcher ses mots
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

Why do I need to know ne pas mâcher ses mots ?

Because applying this expression to your life can make things clearer.

What does it mean ?

Mâcher means to chew, and mots means words.

The idea behind the expression is letting the words come out of your mouth without thinking about what you want to say, which will probably result in a very frank speech.

The opposite of this expression, mâcher ses mots, is also very common. It means that you are taking the time to choose your words wisely.

For instance, adding et je mâche mes mots at the end of a sentence is a way of emphasizing your attempt at being fair and objective in your judgement.

So saying that somebody ne mâche pas ses mots means that their way of speaking is very up-front and honest, perhaps too honest. This is something of a trait in France, which you need to be aware of before asking a French person whether your bum looks big in your new trousers.

Use it like this

Mon médecin ne mâche pas ses mots quand il parle de la situation sanitaire en France – My doctor does not mince his words talking about the French health situation.

Elle lui a enfin dit la vérité, sans mâcher ses mots  – She finally told him the truth, she did not pull any punches.


Parler franchement – to speak frankly

Etre cash – to be direct  

Appeler un chat un chat – to say it the way it is  

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For members


French Word of the Day: Bordéliser

This French expression is not the kindest, but it will certainly get your point across.

French Word of the Day: Bordéliser

Why do I need to know bordéliser?

Because when things feel chaotic, you might want to use this word.

What does it mean?

Bordéliser roughly pronounced bore-del-ee-zay – comes from the swear word “bordel” which means brothel.

In popular usage, bordel is used to describe a mess or a chaotic environment, and bordéliser turns the bordel into a verb – meaning to make or create disorder, disaster or chaos. 

During periods of unrest in France, you may hear people blame one group for causing the problem by using this expression. Keep in mind that bordéliser is not polite language – the English equivalent might be to “fuck (or screw) something up”.

One popular theory says that the root word bordel comes from medieval French – at the time, sex workers were explicitly not allowed to work near the ports, so they were relegated to wooden huts or small houses – or bordes, in French –  away from the city.

You may also hear another French expression that uses the same root word: “c’est le bordel”. 

This literally translates to “it’s a brothel” but it is used to describe a situation that’s untidy, messy or chaotic, both literally and figuratively as in  ‘what a bloody mess!’ or ‘it’s mayhem!’ or ‘what a disaster!’

Use it like this

Le militant accuse le gouvernement de bordéliser le pays avec sa réforme impopulaire. – The activist accuses the government of “fucking up” the country with its unpopular reform.

Tu as bordélisé l’appartement et notre dynamique de colocation en achetant le singe comme animal de compagnie. Qu’est-ce qui t’a pris ? – You have screwed up the apartment and our roommate dynamic by buying the monkey as a pet. What were you thinking?