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French word of the day: Blocus

French word of the day: Blocus
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond
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 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 refers to less dramatic actions such as physically blocking entries to factories during strikes or protest actions. 

For example, blocus lycéen (high school blockade) is what's happening today, as teachers across France go on strike to protest Covid-19 health measures in schools.

To demonstrate their solidarity with the strike action, some high schoolers staged un blocus by piling trash cans outside the school to block the entry.

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

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Seeing a blocus in action for the first time can be slightly shocking for foreigners not used to that level of militant spirit.

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

A high school blockade in Paris, back in 2013. Photo: AFP

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.

Synonyms

Blocage – blockade

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


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