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WORD OF DAY

French expression of the day: Refiler le bébé

Why, in France, giving someone a baby is a vicious thing to do.

French expression of the day: Refiler le bébé
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

Why do I need to know refiler le bébé?

Because this kind of cynicism is typically French. 

What does it mean?

Refiler le bébé literally translates as ‘to give (someone) the baby’.

However, refiler is different from donner (to give) or offrir (to give) in that it implies that the item passed on is unwanted or dumped on someone.

Il m'a refile son vieux pull comme si c'était un cadeau – He passed on his old sweater as if it were a gift.

Of course, passing on a sweater is not the same as giving them a baby, which needs constant care and attention, poops all day and will keep you up most of the night.

Refiler le bébé means more than just passing over a task to someone else, it's getting rid of a problem by leaving another person with the responsibility – passing the buck, in other words.

If you feel like you have accepted a task too quickly, or if you changed your mind, you can try and refiler le bébé to someone who is more likely to succeed, or to someone you don't like.

Use it like this

 

Je n’avais pas envie de m’occuper des invitations, alors j’ai refilé le bébé au stagiaire – I didn’t want to take care of the invitations, so I dumped it on my intern.

On m’a confié l’organisation du festival mais je n’ai jamais fait ça, je vais tenter de refiler le bébé à Antoine – I’ve been given the task to organise the festival, but I’ve never done it before so I will try to pass the buck to Antoine.

Don't use it like this

Be careful, refiler le bébé is a pretty colloquial expression that should not be employed in formal situations. Use it with people you know.

Synonyms

Se renvoyer la balle – to pass the ball

Faire un cadeau empoisonné hand someone a poisoned chalice.

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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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