French Word of the Day: Blocus

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French Word of the Day: Blocus
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This expression is key to better understand France's (in)famous strikes and general reputation for rebellion.


Why do I need to know blocus?

Because it's key to understand French strike culture, which - if you follow France's news - will know is crucial to the country's identity.

What does it mean?

Blocus - roughly pronounced bloh-koos - translates to 'blockade', and is an old war concept where military would block strategic entries or passage points in order to weaken the enemy by cutting off resources such as food or arms.

Bloquer quelque chose means 'to block something'.

Today in France blocus usually refers to less dramatic actions such as physically blocking entries to factories during strikes or protest actions. 

For example, you might hear about a blocus lycéen (high school blockade) amid the ongoing discussion around pension reform and strikes, as several youth organisations have called on supporters to block the entrances to their high schools in protest and solidarity.

Faire un blocus means 'stage a blockade', and des lycéens organisent des blocus, 'high schoolers are organising blockades'.


When organised in French schools, pupils usually gather outside the establishment, chanting slogans, carrying placards, themselves physically blocking the entry.

It's not just in schools though, the country's oil refinery workers often stage blockades and it's not uncommon to see workers blocking entry to a factory during an industrial dispute - often the workers will gather outside with banners and placards, and sometimes a burning brazier to keep warm if the action takes place during the colder months. 

Use it like this

Les forces de l’ordre sont intervenues pour empêcher le blocus. Un élève est placé en garde à vue. - Police intervened to prevent the blockade. One pupil was detained. 

Ca part en blocus, je crois. - I think it's headed towards a blockade.

On en a fait combien de blocus cette année sans qu'il y ait eu de changement ? Plein ! Il faudra changer de stratégie. -  How many blockades have we staged this year without obtaining change? Lots! We need to change strategies.


Blocage - blockade

Opération escargot - a rolling roadblock on the type that hauliers and farmers often stage on French roads


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