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FRENCH WORD OF THE DAY

French word of the day: Flâner

Essential in your French vocabulary, this word will make you want to stretch your legs and rediscover your surroundings.

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

Why do I need to know flâner?

As one of those untranslatable words that help to describe a way of living, the word flâner has even been described as “the word that encapsulates Frenchness”.

What does it mean?

Flâner means to wander aimlessly. The closest translation would be to stroll, but in no particular direction, just for the pleasure of taking in one’s surroundings. The person doing this is called a flâneur or flâneuse.

The word is often associated with the city, and more specifically with Paris. In the second half of the 19th century, the French capital went through a huge transformation (Hausmann’s renovation) that improved quality of life by widening streets and introducing large avenues, where people from all social backgrounds suddenly passed each other on the street. This brought with it a desire for discovery. 

Flâner is enjoying the anonymity provided by the modern city.

Use it like this

J’ai passé l’après-midi à flâner sur la plage – I spent the afternoon strolling along the beach

Vous remontez en flânant les Champs Elysées et vous arrivez à la place de l’Étoile – Wander up the Champs Elysées and you will arrive at the Place de l’Étoile

Je n’ai pas le temps de flâner, je dois aller travailler! – I don’t have time for a stroll, I need to get to work!

Synonyms

Boulevarder – flâner, but more specifically on boulevards

Déambuler – Very similar to flâner: to stroll with no destination in mind

Errer – to wander, to roam

Se promener – to go for a walk

 

Member comments

  1. I can’t help but point out the difference between the street experience for men vs. women. It’s hard to be a flaneuse, because we women must always be watchful of who’s around us. With social distancing, men are now experiencing the way women have always been in public: notice who’s around you, make sure someone is not too close, and be prepared to change your route if some guy looks like he might be troublesome.

  2. To flaner around the city is a wonderful way to experience life. You not only see the little shops and street vendors, but it’s a great people-watching experience once you tune out your cellphone and your worries. I’ve seen both les flaneurs and flaneuses get in the groove, enjoy seeing others and being seen, and relaxing while still being active. You unwind enough to smell the flowers, smell the books in some old shop, and enjoy casual greetings with strangers that often have an air of flirtation that both enjoy. It’s a great way to spend an afternoon. A therapeutic way to stop being uptight, re-connect with life, with people, and your surroundings especially in a new city.

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For members

FRENCH WORD OF THE DAY

French Expression of the Day: Mettre le holà

This might look like a mix of Spanish and French, but it is definitely not Franish.

French Expression of the Day: Mettre le holà

Why do I need to know mettre le holà?

Because you might need to do this if your friends go from laughing with you to laughing at you. 

What does it mean?

Mettre le holà – pronounced meh-truh luh oh-la – literally means to put the ‘holà’ on something. You might be thinking this must be some clever mix of Spanish and French, but ‘holà’ actually has nothing to do with the Spanish greeting. 

This expression is a way to say that’s enough – or to ‘put the brakes on something.’

If a situation appears to be agitated, and you feel the need to intervene in order to help calm things down, then this might be the expression you would use. Another way of saying it in English might be to ‘put the kibosh on it.’

While the origins of ‘kibosh’ appear to be unknown, ‘holà’ goes back to the 14th century in France. Back then, people would shout “Ho! Qui va là?” (Oh, who goes there?) as an interjection to call someone out or challenge them. 

Over time this transformed into the simple holà, which you might hear on the streets, particularly if you engage in some risky jaywalking. 

A French synonym for this expression is ‘freiner’ – which literally means ‘to break’ or ‘put the brakes on,’ and can be used figuratively as well as literally. 

Use it like this

Tu aurais dû mettre le holà tout de suite. Cette conversation a duré bien trop longtemps, et il était si offensif. – You should have put a stop to that immediately. That conversation went on for too long, and he was so offensive. 

J’ai essayé de mettre le holà à la blague sur ma mère, mais ils étaient sans pitié. – I tried to put a stop to the joke about my mother, but they were merciless.

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