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French phrase of the day: Père Fouettard

This is a figure you are likely to encounter in early December, but one which also has a wider meaning.

French phrase of the day: Père Fouettard
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

Why do I need to know Père Fouettard?

Because you want to avoid him!

What does it mean?

Père Fouettard is a traditional figure in the Saint Nicolas Day celebrations which take place in eastern France on December 6th.

The name literally translates as ‘Father whipping’ and Père Fouettard is the visitor that naughty children get. While well-behaved children get a visit from Saint Nicolas who brings them small gifts like sweets or gingerbread, bad children get a visit from Père Fouettard, who brings a whip.

READ ALSO The extra festival that some of France celebrates in December

As a figure he is slightly controversial as he is traditionally attended by three black servants, although this tradition is not really observed any more.

But Père Fouettard, thanks to his role of scaring kids, is sometimes used in a more generic way to mean a bogeyman or figure of fear.

Use it like this  

Père Fouettard rend visite aux vilains enfants – Père Fouettard visits the bad kids

l’Union européenne est devenue le père fouettard – The European Union has become the bogeyman

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For members


French Expression of the Day: La clim’

You'll definitely want to know about this during the summer.

French Expression of the Day: La clim'

Why do I need to know la clim’?

Because the lack of green spaces in cities might find you looking desperately for fresh air.

What does it mean?

La clim’, pronounced la-cleem, means air conditioning, it is a shortened version of la climatisation.

Climatisation comes from the word climatiseur, which itself comes from Klima in Greek and means the inclination of planet Earth from the equator to the poles. This inclination of the planet on its axis is responsible for the seasons and if you find yourself in a French city in August your inclination will definitely be towards climatisation.

Air-conditioning in private homes is not common France, some hotels have it but not all and in the summer months restaurants will often advertise air-con if they have it, as a way of luring in hot-and-bothered tourists.

If you find yourself desperate for cool air, head to a supermarket – almost all French supermarkets are air-conditioned in the summer. Or for a more fun option just head to the nearest city fountain or water feature and join the locals who are splashing around to cool off.

Use it like this

Il fait très chaud, avez-vous la clim’ dans votre hotel ? – It’s really hot, do you have air-con in the hotel?

Je n’aime pas mettre la clim’ en route car cela est mauvais pour la santé et l’environnement – I don’t like turning on the AC, it’s bad for my health and for the environment

Il fait froid, peut-on s’il vous plait éteindre la clim’ ? – It’s cold, could  we turn off the air-con?

La clim’ fait beaucoup de bruit, pouvons-nous la mettre en sourdine ? – This AC is really noisy, could we turn it down?


Un climatiseur – the formal name for an air-conditioner (in French the air conditioning is feminine by the air conditioner is masculine)

Un ventilateur – a ventilator

Un Brumisateur – a ‘fogger’ – these machines which pump out cool water vapour are often seen on the streets and in parks during the summer

Un Rafraichisseur d’air – an air freshener