For members


French word of the day: Fiché S

A piece of police jargon that has made its way into everyday conversation.

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

Why do I need to know fiché S ?

Because you're likely to see this piece of official police jargon in a lot of news headlines, as well as hear it in everyday conversation, at present.

What does it mean ?

In France, a fiche S is part of a national database called the Fichier des Personnes Recherchées (FPR), which is a database of wanted criminals or people on watchlists that was created in 1969.

This database also contains details of escaped prisoners (letter V), people who have escaped from institutions (AL) or people barred from entering the country (IT).

The letter S stands for 'state security' and there are different types of fiches S, with numbers going from S1 to S16 so when someone is described as fiché S, it means that they are suspected of being a threat to state security.

Fiché S is, however, not in itself a cause for arrest.

Around 70 percent of fiches S are made by the French interior security general direction (DGSI), which is the national intelligence service.

You will most commonly hear the term in relation to terrorists, such as when French police raided the homes of dozens of fichés S after the terror attack in Conflans in which a teacher was beheaded.

However not all fiché S are terrorists – football hooligans can be fichés S. It is the same for some radical environmental activists, even if they are non-violent.

In total, France currently counts some 22,000 fichés S, of which 8,000 are fichés for radicalisation, the French interior minister said last week.

A fiche S is kept for two years in the Fichier des Personnes Recherchées and is destroyed if the person has kept a low profile. Otherwise, the fiche S is renewed.

Fiche S refers to the file, while fiché S is the person who is the subject of the file.

Although it's obviously a serious subject, the term has become so ubiquitous in everyday life that some people even use it as a joke. So for example if you declare a particularly controversial opinion – a salade Niçoise is actually better with potatoes in it, let's say – your friend might say Ooooh, tu es fiché S ! –  You're on the watchlist now!

Or as in the tweet below “Damn, I don't like cassoulet – that's me going on the watchlist.”



Use it like this

Le terroriste arrêté est fiché S depuis quelques années – The arrested terrorist had been on a watchlist for several years.

Elle a été fichée S parce qu’elle participait au blocage de Notre Dame des Landes – She has been recorded as a national security threat because she took part in the blockade at Notre Dame des Landes.

Tu manges des légumes avec ta raclette ? Attention, tu seras bientôt fiché S ! La raclette ne se mange qu'avec des patates et de la charcuterie ! – Do you put veggies with your raclette? Careful, you'll soon be registered as a national security threat! Raclette should only be eaten with potatoes and charcuterie!

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For members


French Expression of the Day: Les grands esprits se rencontrent

Though this phrase has a close English equivalent, it's just so much more poetic in French

French Expression of the Day: Les grands esprits se rencontrent

Why do I need to know les grands esprits se rencontrent?

Because you might want to use this phrase the next time you and a friend have the same idea for how to spend vacation.

What does it mean?

Les grands esprits se rencontrent – usually pronounced lay grand eh-spreets suh rahn-cahn-truh – literally translates to “the great minds meet each other” or “the great spirits meet each other.” More appropriately, the very poetic phrase in French translates to the English expression “great minds think alike.” 

For the French phrase, it actually finds its origins with Voltaire. In 1760, he wrote a letter to another well-known French writer at the time and included the phrase: “Les beaux esprits se rencontrent” (the beautiful minds meet each other) to emphasise the fact that both expressed the same idea at the same time.

Over time, the phrase switched from ‘beautiful’ minds to ‘great’ minds, but the meaning remains the same. The phrase is usually said ironically in French, and can be used more or less interchangeably with the English version of this expression (which curiously has different origins altogether). However, sadly, the French version does not include the snarky reply: “and fools seldom differ” 

Use it like this

J’avais envie de pizza pour le dîner mais je lui ai demandé ce qu’il voulait quand même et il a dit pizza. Les grands esprits se rencontrent ! – I was wanting pizza for dinner, but I asked him what he wanted anyways, and he said pizza. Great minds think alike!

Nous pensons tous deux que la vue de Paris depuis le Belvédère de Belleville est la meilleure de la ville. Les grands esprits se rencontrent. – We both think that the view of Paris from Belvédère de Belleville is the best of the city. Great minds think alike.