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French word of the day: Intello

When you need to channel your inner nerd in French, this expression is for you.

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

Why do I need to know intello?

Because it's a common abbreviation.

What does it mean?

Intello is a common French abbreviation of intellectuel, which means 'intellectual' in English.

French online dictionary l'Internaute defines un intello as “an individual who engages in mainly intellectual activities”. 

It can mean simply a a studious type, a nerd or a geek, but it can also be a pick at someone who is a bit arrogant with their knowledge, what you in English would call 'highbrow' or 'egghead'.

A man is un intello, a woman une intello, while several people are des intellos.

Intello can also be used to say that something is 'nerdy', 'geeky', or requires a lot of brain capacity to process. A three-hour long subtitled film about an underground Ukrainian artistic community could be said to be un truc intello – 'a nerdy thing'. 

French people sometimes talk about their coté intello, which means their 'geeky side'.

Just like apéro (short for apéritif), ventilo (short for ventilateur – 'fan') and matos (short for matériel – 'equipment'), intello has become pretty much as common as the original word.

Use it like this

Il a tout le temps le nez dans ses livres, cet intello. – He always has his nose in his books, that nerd.

Tu as tous les films Star Wars ? C'est ton côté un peu intello ? – You have all the Star Wars movies? Is this your geeky side?

Les étudiants à l'université me font un peu peur, ce sont tous des gros intellos. – The students at the university scare me a little, they're all such highbrows.

Lire n'est pas un truc d'intello, c'est pour tout le monde. – Reading isn't a thing for nerds, it's for everyone.

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For members


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.