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FRENCH WORD OF THE DAY

French word of the Day: Convivialté

This cheering concept has a wider meaning in French than it's English equivalent.

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

Why do I need to know convivialité?

The notion of convivialité, in addition to playing an important role in French culture, is driving recent conversations surrounding Covid and easing lockdown.

What does it mean?

Convivialité, from the Latin convivium (shared meal), is the notion of gathering together in a social way, whether it’s around the coffee machine at work or around the charcuterie board in a bar.

While the concept of conviviality exists in English, it tends to mean light-hearted moments of happiness, while in French you can use to describe any kind of group or social gathering. A recent decree relating to workplace-related health rules has a section on ‘des moments de convivialité‘, by which it meant workers gathering together for coffee breaks or canteen lunches. 

The notion of convivialité has a special place in French food culture. When UNESCO inscribed the gastronomic meal of the French onto its Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity list in 2010, it wasn’t just simply protecting escargot or boeuf bourguignon. It characterises convivialité as one of the defining points of the French gastronomic meal, emphasising the importance of gathering together and sharing dinner as a cultural practice. 

More recently, the notion of convivialité has become prominent in the context of Covid-19, when lockdown measures and regulations have been designed specifically to block people from gathering together. In a recent dispatch on BFM TV, Minister of Labor Élisabeth Borne recognised the solitude that many workers are facing months into télétravail (working from home), emphasising that “we’re missing these moments of convivialité.”

Use it like this

Ce que je déteste le plus pendant le confinement, c’est le manque de convivialité – The thing I hate the most about confinement is the lack of social contact.

Je me suis beaucoup amusé à la soirée, il y avait un véritable esprit de convivialité – I had a lot of fun at the party, there was a really lively atmosphere

Le dîner avait une ambiance très convivial – The dinner had a very convivial atmosphere.

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FRENCH WORD OF THE DAY

French Expression of the Day: À poil

Some people prefer to sleep like this during the summer.

French Expression of the Day: À poil

Why do I need to know à poil ?

Because if someone invites you to come to a beach like this and you don’t know the meaning of this expression, then you might be in for a bit of a surprise.

What does it mean?

À poil – roughly pronounced ah pwahl – is an expression that makes use of the French word for an animal’s fur or its coat. A synonym might be fourrure. However, the expression as it has come to be used does not have to do with animals’ coats – it actually means to be naked. 

How a phrase referring to animal’s fur came to signify nakedness goes all the way back to the 17th century and the world of horseback-riding. At the time, one could either ride a horse with a saddle or cover (blanket), or you could ride bareback. The phrase for doing so was monter l’animal à cru (“à cru” meaning ‘bare’ or ‘raw’) which became monter un cheval à poil – to ride the horse with only its fur.

In this case, the horse was seen as naked (lacking its saddle or blanket), and over time the idea of the naked horse transferred over to naked people. 

The phrase is slightly crude – you wouldn’t use it to describe nude artworks – but not offensive, it’s roughly similar to describing someone as “butt naked” or “bollock naked” in English. The more polite way to say this might be “tout nu” (totally naked).

If you are looking for another way to say ‘birthday suit’ in French you could use “en costume d’Adam” (in Adam’s suit – a Biblical reference to the naked inhabitants of the Garden of Eden). 

Use it like this

Je me suis mise pas mal à poil dernièrement, mais ce n’est pas un délire exhibo et, dans la vie, c’est plus compliqué – I’ve been getting naked quite a bit lately, but it’s not an exhibitionist thing, life is more complicated than that. – From an interview about nude scenes with the French actress Virgine Efira.

Je préfère dormir à poil en été. Il fait vraiment trop chaud ! – I prefer sleeping totally naked in the summer. It is really too hot!

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