For members


French word of the Day: Tanguy

If you hear somebody referred to as Tanguy, even though that’s not their name, it’s probably a reference to a popular French film.

French word of the Day: Tanguy
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

Why do I need to know Tanguy?

Because you will impress acquaintances with your knowledge of French popular culture

What does it mean?

A ‘Tanguy’ is somebody (usually a man) who lives with his parents long into adulthood.

The term originated with the 2001 film Tanguy, directed by Étienne Chatiliez. The title character, played by Éric Berger, is a brilliant and affable PhD student, who can’t bring himself to leave the comfort and luxury of the family home even at the age of 28, much to the chagrin of his exasperated parents.

Like ‘Romeo and Juliet’ in English, ‘Tanguy’ has taken on a life of its own, and is now used to describe any adult who is still living at home well into their late twenties or early thirties. This applies whether it’s a conscious choice, or a result of financial constraints, even though the original Tanguy had no real barriers to flying the nest.

While it’s not necessarily an insult, you should be careful when using it because people might take offence at the implication that they are a bit of a mummy’s boy.

Of course, in times of financial crisis, it is more common for people to move out at an older age, or to return home after their studies. In April 2020, Le Figaro published an article headlined Coronavirus: Le retour à la maison de la génération Tanguy (Coronavirus: The return home of the Tanguy generation).

Although its original meaning was people who never left the parental home, rather than people who moved out and then moved back.

Don’t confuse it with

Colonel Rol-Tanguy was a prominent figure in the French Resistance during World War II who masterminded the liberation of Paris. He has several monuments in the capital including a street named after him and, as far as we know, did not live with his parents during adulthood. You can find more about him here.

Use it like this

Il a quarante ans et il habite toujours chez ses parents. C’est un vrai Tanguy. – He’s forty and still lives with his parents. He’s a real kiddult.

Il est grand temps que je déménage, je ne veux pas devenir un Tanguy. – I really need to move out, I don’t want to become one of those grown men still living with their parents.

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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.