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French word of the Day: Paperasse

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

Why do I need to know paperasse?

Because if you’re going to be spending much time in France you will almost certainly be doing a lot of this.

What does it mean?

Online dictionary Le Robert defines it as, “Written papers, seen as useless or cumbersome”. Which means it’s sure to come in handy whenever you feel like complaining about French bureaucracy.

It can be translated as “paperwork”, and can be used in a general sense to refer to administrative tasks, or it can also refer to physical papers which are littered across a desk.

It may sound playful, but it can be used to express a sense of exasperation.

This is because France really, really loves paperwork and everyone – French people included – enjoys complaining about the endless forms.

READ ALSO From dossier to notaire: French bureaucracy explained

This is perfectly illustrated in the Netflix series Lupin, when the protagonist disguises himself as a police officer in order to steal from an old woman, and he is able to get the real police officers to go along with him by promising, “Je m’occupe de la paperasse” (I’ll take care of the paperwork). Because that’s an offer nobody could refuse!

Bureaucracy comes with its own very specific vocabulary – check out The Local’s guide here

Use it like this

Elle a quitté son boulot ; elle en avait marre de la paperasse – She quit her job; she was fed up with the admin.

Je ne suis pas quelqu’un de très organisé, mon bureau est toujours recouvert de paperasse – I’m not a very organised person, my desk is always covered in papers.

Ils ont modifié la loi, ça va me faire encore de la paperasse ! – They’ve changed the law, that’s going to mean even more paperwork for me!

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For members


French Expression of the Day: Faire d’une pierre deux coups

The most organised of people will likely make use of this handy French Expression.

French Expression of the Day: Faire d’une pierre deux coups

Why do I need to know faire d’une pierre deux coups ?

Because you might want to use this expression after a particularly productive errand-running-day. 

What does it mean?

Faire d’une pierre deux coups – roughly pronounced fair doon pee-air duh koo – translates exactly to “make one rock two shots.” 

If your first instinct is to find it similar to the English expression, “to kill two birds with one stone,” then you would be correct. The French expression carries the same meaning as the English one – which is to achieve two goals at the same time.

The origin of this phrase – for both languages – goes back to the time when people used to hunt with a sling. It would be a great achievement for a hunter to manage to kill two birds with a single stone. 

The expression is still used today, with variations in several different languages, even though most of mankind no longer uses stones to hunt. Nevertheless – it is quite a feat to manage to accomplish two distinct goals in just one action.

Use it like this

J’ai fait d’une pierre deux coups en achetant le cadeau et le repas au même endroit. – I killed two birds with one stone by buying the gift and the meal at the same place.

Vous pouvez faire d’une pierre deux coups en postant votre lettre en même temps que vous récupérez votre colis?  – You could kill two birds with one stone by mailing your letter at the same time as picking up your package?