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French word of the day: Durcissement

This little word seems to have replaced 'confinement' in France lately.

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

Why do I need to know durcissement?

Because if you live in France you might be getting it soon.

What does it mean?

Durcissement translates as ‘hardening’ or ‘making stricter’.

Un durcissement du sol (a hardening of the ground) refers to the earth literally solidifying. But un durcissement des règles means ‘toughening up the rules’, as in making them stricter.

Un durcissement is the opposite of assouplissement, which means ‘loosening up’ or ‘relaxation’.

When French President Emmanuel Macron mulls stricter Covid-19 health measures, it’s called un durcissement des mesures sanitaires. He is considering refers to the action of durcir, which means ‘to harden’, to toughen up’ or ‘to render more strict’.

The English equivalent or durcissement would probably be ‘strictifying’, if that word existed. 

It’s been rife in France lately, and some have poked fun of politicians and media employing durcissement rather than the (even) more negative confinement (lockdown).

However durcissement doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with Covid.

Un durcissement des critères pour recevoir de l’aide économique means ‘introducing tougher criteria for receiving economic aid’. Un durcissement de l’opposition means ‘a hardening of the opposition’. Anything that can become tougher, stricter or stronger can be the object of a durcissement.

Use it like this

On s’attend à un durcissement des restrictions sanitaires ce soir. – We’re expecting a toughening up of the health restrictions tonight.

S’ils décident de durcir les règles à Paris, il faudra aussi qu’ils pensent à un durcissement des déplacements interrégionaux pour éviter un exodus francilien. – If they decide to render the rules in Paris stricter, they will also have to think about toughening up inter-regional travel to avoid an exodus from the Île-de-France region.

J’ai perdu l’accès aux aides sociales suite au durcissement des critères. – I lost access to social aid following the tightening of the criteria.

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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.