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French expression of the day: Être une pince

This expression sounds confusingly like its talking about a 'prince', but it has nothing to do with royals.

French expression of the day: Être une pince
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

Why do I need to know être une pince?

Because, if someone tells you tu es une pince, you want to know that it doesn’t mean tu es un prince – you’re a prince.

What does it mean?

Une pince looks and sounds confusingly like un prince, although the first one is feminine and lacks an R. 

It makes all the difference though. While un prince refers to ‘a prince’, une pince means ‘tweezers’ – the tool people use to pluck their eyebrows.

Être une pince therefore translates as ‘to be a pair of tweezers’. 

As you may have guessed, this expression is metaphorical. ‘Being tweezers’ is a slangy way of saying that someone is radin (stingy). 

The idea is that tweezers can pick up very small things, not letting even the tiniest hairs get away. It’s similar to the English expression ‘penny-pincher’. 

Être une pince is a colloquial expression, though not vulgar. Other options for English equivalents are are ‘tightwad’ or ‘cheapskate’.

Use it like this

Ce type et une pince, alors si j’étais toi je ne lui demanderais pas d’argent. – That guy is a real cheapskate, so if I were you I wouldn’t ask him for money.

Mon père est une vraie pince. Il ne dépense jamais un sou s’il peut l’éviter. – My father is a real tightwad. He never spends a dime if he can avoid it.

Tu es une pince, tu le sais ? – You’re a real penny-pincher, you know?


Radin – stingy

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French Expression of the Day: Tarte à la crème

This expression is more than just your last order at the boulangerie.

French Expression of the Day: Tarte à la crème

Why do I need to know tarte à la crème ?

Because if someone uses this phrase to describe you, you should probably be a bit offended.

What does it mean?

Tarte à la crème – pronounced tart ah lah krem – literally refers to a cream filled tart, or a custard tart, in English. However, this expression has more to do than just baking. It is another way of describing something that is boring, predictable or commonplace.

This expression comes straight from Moliere himself. In the 17th century, there was a popular rhyming game called “Corbillon.” The phrase “Je vous passe mon corbillon” (I pass you by corbillon) is said, and then it is followed by “Qu’y met-on?” (What does one put on it?) To keep the rhyme up, people must respond with something ending in an -ON sound.

In the play, “L’Ecole des Femmes” (The School of Wives), one character says the ideal woman would respond to the question with “tarte à la crème” which is obviously the wrong answer. The right answer would be tarte à la citron (lemon tart). Molière did this on purpose to poke fun at the fact that disgruntled fans would send poor actors cream tarts to express their frustration.

It was a way of ridiculing his critics and showing he was unimpressed by their method of showing discontentment at his plays. Over time, the phrase went on to describe things that are commonplace or boring. It is often used to describe entertainment related topics, such as books, movies, or plays.

A synonym for this phrase in French might be banal and in English you might say something is ‘vanilla’ to describe something that is fairly unexciting.

Use it like this

Le film était vraiment tarte à la crème. Je ne recommande pas d’aller le voir au cinéma, vous pouvez attendre de le voir une fois qu’il sera gratuit en ligne. – The movie was really boring. I don’t recommend going to see it at the movies, you can simply wait to see it once it is free online.

Je pense que l’album est tarte à la crème. Elle a pris tellement d’idées d’autres artistes que ce n’est vraiment pas original du tout. – I think the album is predictable. She really took plenty of ideas from other artists and it was not original at all.