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French expression of the day: Cul sec

If someone shouts this at you they are not talking about your bottom.

French expression of the day: Cul sec
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

Why do I need to know cul sec?

Because it’s an expression we hope soon to hear again as France prepares to reopen its restaurants and bars later in spring.

What does it mean?

Cul sec directly translates as ‘dry bottom’, which sounds like an inappropriate thing to say in public.

But although cul is often translated as ‘arse’ or ‘butt’ it can also mean the bottom of an object.

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

So if someone in a bar shouts cul sec, they’re not talking about the human cul, but rather the cul (bottom) of the drink. When the glass is sec (dry), the drink is gone.

French online dictionary l’Internaute defines cul sec as “boire un verre d’un seul trait, sans s’arrêter”, which means “do have a drink in one go, without stopping.”

It’s what in English is also known as ‘chugging’ or ‘downing’ a drink.

Cul sec ! – Down it!

The full expression is faire cul sec (to do dry bottom) or boire cul sec (to drink dry bottom).

Cul sec isn’t a vulgar expression, but if you’re at a work party or with your French in-laws we suggest you refrain from hurling back your drink and instead opt for the more formal option of toasting the company with a santé (good health) or tchin-tchin (cheers) adn taking a polite sip.

Use it like this

On fait cul sec ? – Let’s down it?

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

Si tu perds, tu dois boire cul sec ton verre entier. – If you lose, you have to down your whole drink.

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For members


French Word of the Day: La thune

If someone says you do not have this, you might be offended, but don’t worry - they’re not insulting your singing voice.

French Word of the Day: La thune

Why do I need to know la thune ?

Because you’ll want to know why your French friend described himself as lacking this.

What does it mean?

La thune – roughly pronounced lah tune – is a French slang term that has nothing to do with music, even though it might ring that way for English-speaking ears.

If you want to talk about money in French, your options are practically limitless, as there are many slang terms at your disposal. La thune is another – it simply means ‘money,’ and it is often used to describe a person who has a lot of it “avoir la thune” or has none “sans thune.” 

Originally, the word was slang for “alms” in the 1600s, and then in the 19th century, it was used to refer to a coin of five francs. Later, in the 1900s, five francs was the amount unions would demand for a day’s labour.

Many speculate that the word comes from “Tunes” – the title that was given to the “King of beggars” or (“roi de Thune”) in lawless parts of old Paris, during the Ancien régime. 

It is usually preceded by “de” or “de la,” but you can see the word used as a noun sometimes. A person might say “Je n’ai plus une thune” – meaning they have no money left.

Use it like this

Il est très difficile de vivre dans des villes chères, comme Paris, Londres ou New York, si l’on n’a pas la thune. – It is very difficult to live in expensive cities like Paris, London or New York without money. 

On ne se rend pas compte qu’il n’a pas la thune parce qu’il s’habille de façon très chic. – You would not realise that he does not have much money because he dresses so stylishly.