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LANGUAGE AND CULTURE

Cool cul: 13 of the best French ‘bottom’ expressions

From drinking games to good luck, one-night-stands to political scandals, the French language has a long list of expressions based on the word 'cul' (arse). (Careful, some of these are pretty rude..)

Cool cul: 13 of the best French 'bottom' expressions
Photo: Spencer Means / Flickr

There are many ways to talk about the human behind in France. From loaf to firecracker, the French language has a long list of alternatives to the more common fesses (buttocks) or cul (arse).

However, cul also features in several common expressions that have nothing to do with human anatomy.

You won’t learn these in school – some of them are pretty coarse – but they do play an important role in le français populaire (common French).

Here’s a look at some of the most common ones.

1. Avoir du cul

Avoir du cul is different from avoir un cul, which simply means ‘to have an arse’. Avoir du cul, which translates as ‘to have arse’ means ‘to be lucky’. Cul is a metaphor for ‘luck’ in French (don’t ask us why).

The sister expressions avoir du bol or avoir du pot both mean ‘to be lucky’ and both refer to the ‘anus’, according to French online dictionary l’Internaute. (Bol and pot are slang words for ‘anus’.)

So there’s no doubt about it, avoir du cul in French is something you want.

Il a du cul. – He’s so lucky.

Pas de cul ! – Bad luck.

2. Histoire de cul

Now here’s a golden one for nights of wine and gossip. Une histoire de cul translates as ‘a story of arse’, which it is too – kind of. It is a ‘dirty story’, which means there’s often elaborate sexual details involved. It’s very colloquial, so save it for close friends.

3. Plan cul

If you’re telling une histoire de cul, you might want to talk about your plan cul (ass plan).

Plan cul is a more crude version of un coup d’un soir (a one-night stand) or the old school (and poetic) une aventure sans lendemain (an adventure without a tomorrow). 

It’s possible to have a plan cul régulier, which is French for ‘friend with benefits’ or ‘fuck-buddy’.  

There’s a very sweet 2-minute French series explaining that better than we can here:

4. Faux-cul

Faux-cul translates as ‘fake-arse’, which is what French people call someone who is a ‘hypocrite’ or a ‘phoney’.

Ne lui fais pas confiance, c’est un vrai faux-cul ! – Don’t trust him, he’s a real hypocrite!

Faux-cul originally referred to the actual fake behinds women used to put under their dresses to dramatically enhance their silhouette, known in English as a bustle.

READ ALSO The 9 French words you need to be very, very careful when pronouncing

5. Mon cul

Mon cul in France means ‘sure’ or ‘right’, but dripping with sarcasm, the same way English uses ‘yeah, my arse’. If you say mon cul, you’re really saying: “I don’t believe a single word of what you just said.”

It’s pretty vulgar, never use it in front of your French in-laws.

The full expression is actually mon cul, c’est du poulet, which means ‘my arse, it’s a chicken’. (read more about how it came about here.)

6. Lèche-cul

Now, what you really don’t want to be in French is a lèche-cul.

It means ‘lick-butt’, which is cruder alternative to lèche-bottesbootlicker. Both lèche-cul and lèche-bottes mean ‘suck up’ or ‘kiss-ass’.

Ce lèche-cul ne peut jamais s’empêcher de corriger tout le monde tout le temps, c’est insupportable. – That kiss-ass can never stop himself from correcting everyone all the time, it’s unbearable.

7. Comme cul et chemise

This is a very strange expression. Comme cul et chemise directly translates as ‘like ass and shirt’, but it means that two things are similar or fit perfectly together.

It is the French version of the English expression ‘like two peas in a pod’:

On sait tous que ces deux-là sont comme cul et chemise. – We all know that those two are like two peas in a pod.

8. Faire cul sec

Faire cul sec directly translates as ‘to do dry bottom’. Here the bottom refers to the bottom of your glass, while sec (dry) is what it will be once you’ve downed your drink.

Faire cul sec is the French version of ‘downing’ or ‘chugging’ a drink – emptying the glass in one go. Another version is boire cul sec – to drink dry bottom.

Allez les gars, cul sec ! – Come on guys, down it!  

9. Casseroles au cul

This is a great expression for all of those interested in French politics. 

Avoir des casseroles au cul means ‘to have saucepans dangling from one’s butt’. Casseroles here is code for ‘scandals’, and if you have saucepans dangling from your butt, you will be unable to move around without them making a lot of noise.

This is an expression often used about politicians whose reputation is plagued by scandals, which will follow them whenever they make public appearances. It’s roughly the equivalent of ‘having skeletons in the closet’.

To make it less inelegant, commentators sometimes shorten it to just avoir des casseroles, though the cul is of course implied.

10. Cul dans les ronces

Cul dans les ronces translates to ‘arse in the brambles’. It sounds like a pretty unpleasant experience, and it is.

You really don’t want your cul dans les ronces, because, depending on the context, it means something along the lines us ‘the danger isn’t over’, that ‘there’s still work left to do’, or that you’re ‘not done yet’.

It’s similar to ‘not out of the woods yet’ in English. In other words, the work isn’t done, it’s not over yet.

Ils avaient le cul dans les ronces. – They were stuck.

11. L’avoir dans le cul

Another thing you don’t want is to l’avoir dans le cul – to have it in the arse. L’Internaute describes this as a “vulgar expression” that originated in the 20th century as an alternative to être baisé – to be fucked.

All of these expressions metaphors for ‘being in a very bad situation’. (And, yes, l’avoir dans le cul is a homophobic expression that refers to the “humiliating sexual act” of anal sex, according to l’Internaute)

READ ALSO: What’s the worst possible insult you can use in French?

An alternative is l’avoir dans l’os, ‘to have it in the bone’, which sounds less vulgar, but refers to the same thing. While we don’t necessarily recommend you use either of these two French expressions, it’s always good to know what people are talking about.

12. Cul entre deux chaises

Avoir le cul entre deux chaises translates as ‘to have one’s arse between two chairs’. It describes that situation when you’re ‘caught in the middle’ or ‘stuck on the fence’. It’s not a good place to be. If you’re not careful, you might just fall through the gap between the two chairs and land flat on your cul.

If you were torn between going to your friend’s birthday or a work dinner, you could say j’ai le cul entre deux chaises.

13. Cul-de-sac

Next up, cul-de-sac, which directly translates to bottom-of-the-bag, but you rarely hear it used about an actual purse or backpack.

Generally French people use cul-de-sac to describe a ‘blind alley’ or ‘dead end’, the cul here being the ‘end’ – either literally (a closed street) or metaphorically (a dead end task). 

Attention, c’est un cul-de-sac. – Careful, that’s a dead end.

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LANGUAGE AND CULTURE

Le Havre rules: How to talk about French towns beginning with Le, La or Les

If you're into car racing, French politics or visits to seaside resorts you are likely at some point to need to talk about French towns with a 'Le' in the title. But how you talk about these places involves a slightly unexpected French grammar rule. Here's how it works.

An old WW2 photo taken in the French port town of Le Havre.
An old WW2 photo taken in the French port town of Le Havre. It can be difficult to know what prepositions to use for places like this - so we have explained it for you. (Photo by AFP)

If you’re listening to French chat about any of those topics, at some point you’re likely to hear the names of Mans, Havre and Touquet bandied about.

And this is because French towns that have a ‘Le’ ‘La’ or ‘Les’ in the title lose them when you begin constructing sentences. 

As a general rule, French town, commune and city names do not carry a gender. 

So if you wanted to describe Paris as beautiful, you could write: Paris est belle or Paris est beau. It doesn’t matter what adjectival agreement you use. 

For most towns and cities, you would use à to evoke movement to the place or explain that you are already there, and de to explain that you come from/are coming from that location:

Je vais à Marseille – I am going to Marseille

Je suis à Marseille – I am in Marseille 

Je viens de Marseille – I come from Marseille 

But a select few settlements in France do carry a ‘Le’, a ‘La’ or a ‘Les’ as part of their name. 

In this case the preposition disappears when you begin formulating most sentences, and you structure the sentence as you would any other phrase with a ‘le’, ‘la’ or ‘les’ in it.

Masculine

Le is the most common preposition for two names (probably something to do with the patriarchy) with Le Havre, La Mans, Le Touquet and the town of Le Tampon on the French overseas territory of La Réunion (more on that later)

A good example of this is Le Havre, a city in northern France where former Prime Minister, Edouard Philippe, who is tipped to one day run for the French presidency, serves as mayor. 

Edouard Philippe’s twitter profile describes him as the ‘Maire du Havre’, using a masculine preposition

Here we can see that his location is Le Havre, and his Twitter handle is Philippe_LH (for Le Havre) but when he comes to describe his job the Le disappears.

Because Le Havre is masculine, he describes himself as the Maire du Havre rather than the Maire de Havre (Anne Hidalgo, for example would describe herself as the Maire de Paris). 

For place names with ‘Le’ in front of them, you should use prepositions like this:

Ja vais au Touquet – I am going to Le Touquet

Je suis au Touquet – I am in Le Touquet 

Je viens du Touquet – I am from Le Touquet 

Je parle du Touquet – I am talking about Le Touquet

Le Traité du Touquet – the Le Touquet Treaty

Feminine

Some towns carry ‘La’ as part of their name. La Rochelle, the scenic town on the west coast of France known for its great seafood and rugby team, is one such example.

In French ‘à la‘ or ‘de la‘ is allowed, while ‘à le‘ becomes au and ‘de le’ becomes du. So for ‘feminine’ towns such as this, you should use the following prepositions:

Je vais à La Rochelle – I am going to La Rochelle

Je viens de La Rochelle – I am coming from La Rochelle 

Plural

And some places have ‘Les’ in front of their name, like Les Lilas, a commune in the suburbs of Paris. The name of this commune literally translates as ‘The Lilacs’ and was made famous by Serge Gainsbourg’s song Le Poinçonneur des Lilas, about a ticket puncher at the Metro station there. 

When talking about a place with ‘Les’ as part of the name, you must use a plural preposition like so:

Je suis le poinçonneur des Lilas – I am the ticket puncher of Lilas 

Je vais aux Lilas – I am going to Les Lilas

Il est né aux Lilas – He was born in Les Lilas  

Islands 

Islands follow more complicated rules. 

If you are talking about going to one island in particular, you would use à or en. This has nothing to do with gender and is entirely randomised. For example:

Je vais à La Réunion – I am going to La Réunion 

Je vais en Corse – I am going to Corsica 

Generally speaking, when talking about one of the en islands, you would use the following structure to suggest movement from the place: 

Je viens de Corse – I am coming from Corsica 

For the à Islands, you would say:

Je viens de La Réunion – I am coming from La Réunion 

When talking about territories composed of multiple islands, you should use aux.

Je vais aux Maldives – I am going to the Maldives. 

No preposition needed 

There are some phrases in French which don’t require any a preposition at all. This doesn’t change when dealing with ‘Le’ places, such as Le Mans – which is famous for its car-racing track and Motorcycle Grand Prix. Phrases that don’t need a preposition include: 

Je visite Le Mans – I am visiting Le Mans

J’aime Le Mans – I like Le Mans

But for a preposition phrase, the town becomes simply Mans, as in Je vais au Mans.

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