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FRENCH WORD OF THE DAY

French expression of the day: Eh bé

If you think French people make weird sounds when they speak, read on.

French expression of the day: Eh bé
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

Why do I need to know eh bé?

Because you may have noticed French people saying this when they’re surprised.

What does it mean?

This expression comes from the south, specifically from the Occitan expression e ben (eh bien in standard French) but is used all over France. Wiktionnaire has recordings of different pronunciations from different regions you can listen to here.

Eh bé is similar to filler words like hein, enfin or quoi that make you sound more French.

It’s used to express surprise or to draw attention to a remark, and may be translated as “well, well” or “I say”.

You may also see it spelled in various different ways: hé bé, é bé, eh ben, or even eh bhe like Aya Nakamura in this Twitter post:

Use it like this

Eh ben dis donc! – Well, well, well!

Eh bé, on aurait pas cru! – Well, well, who would have thought!

Synonyms

ça alors! – my goodness!

tiens donc – fancy that

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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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