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FRENCH WORD OF THE DAY

French phrase of the day: En même temps

This is a well-known political catchphrase, and at the same time it's also handy for everyday conversation.

French phrase of the day: En même temps
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

Why do I need to know en même temps?

Because it is French President Emmanuel Macron’s unofficial catchphrase, but it’s also useful for everyday conversation.

What does it mean?

En même temps means ‘at the same time’ or ‘at once’.

It can refer to physically doing one thing at the same time as another, such as walking and chewing gum at the same time.

But it can also be less literal, like saying ‘then again’ or ‘on the other hand’, which can be handy if you’re trying to introduce a sense of balance and even-handedness.

In France, most people associate the expression with their president, Emmanuel Macron for whom it became something of a catchphrase during his presidential campaign in 2017, as he laid out his centrist views.

Macron responded to critics claiming that his political claim to be neither left nor right was proof that he lacked clarity, saying: “I want to confirm to you tonight that I will continue to use ‘en même temps’ in my sentences, but also in my mind.”

To Macron, ‘at the same time’ was about “uniting apparent opposites . . . whose reconciliation is essential for the proper functioning of a society.”

Whether Macron’s attempts at being all things to all voters is a reality or just political fluff remains a topic of recurrent – and sometimes fierce – debate that we won’t go into here, and the linguistic aspects of the expression are luckily less controversial.

Use it to say that you’re doing several things as once, or that you’re adding another point of view: ‘but at the same time..’

Use it like this

Les matins je bois mon café en même temps que je lis le journal. – In the mornings I drink my coffee at the same time as I read the newspaper.

Elle n’a pas eu son Bac. En même temps, elle n’avait pas beaucoup travaillé cette année. – She didn’t pass her final exams. At the same time, she didn’t work that much this year.

Il faut qu’on puisse faire plusieures choses en même temps. – We need to be able to do several things at the same time.

Synonym

Dans le même temps – at the same time

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FRENCH WORD OF THE DAY

French phrase of the Day: Ne me prends pas pour un lapin de six semaines

Being patronised by a Frenchman? Roll out this phrase.

French phrase of the Day: Ne me prends pas pour un lapin de six semaines

Why do I need to know ne me prends pas pour un lapin de six semaines?

Because someone might be trying to take you for a fool.

What does it mean?

Ne me prends pas pour un lapin de six semaines – pronounced ne me pren pah pour un lapan de see sem-enn – translates as ‘don’t take me for a six-week-old rabbit’, and is a go-to phrase to warn people not to mistake you for a fool, someone who doesn’t understand what’s going on.

The podcast Hit West from French regional newspaper Ouest-France suggests that the ‘six weeks’ comes from the age a rabbit is weaned at, and must therefore be ready to survive on its own.

And why a rabbit at all? Well no-one really seems very sure. Rabbits don’t get a good rap in the French language though, to stand someone up is poser un lapin in French.

English-language metaphor equivalents may be, “I didn’t come down in the last shower”, “I wasn’t born yesterday”, or, as Line of Duty’s DCI Hastings might say, “I didn’t float up the Lagan in a bubble”.

Use it like this

Honestly, keep it simple. If someone’s speaking to you in a patronising manner, simply say: Ne me prends pas pour un lapin de six semaines.

Ouest France suggests that this is the ‘more elegant’ way to request that people don’t take you for a fool. It’s not offensive, but it might be a little old-fashioned. 

Alternatives

You can use the more basic version of this phrase – Ne me prends pas pour une idiote (don’t take me for a fool) or the slightly more punchy Ne me prends pas pour un con (don’t take me for a moron).

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