For members


Word of the day: Front républicain

This might sound like it involves storming the barricades, but is in fact less dramatic and more tactical.

Word of the day: Front républicain

Why do I need to know Front républicain?

Because it comes up every time there’s an election in France.

What does it mean?

Front républicain, logically enough, means republican front.

But what this actually refers to is when figures from across the political spectrum join together to keep the far-right from power.

The key to understanding this is France’s two-round voting system, which sees all candidates standing in the first round and then the highest-scoring going through to the second round, when people get to vote for a second time. If a far-right candidate makes it through to the second round, candidates from the centre-left or centre-right will often either withdraw from the polling altogether, or call on their supporters to vote for their rivals in order to avoid splitting the vote and enabling a far-right victory.

In recent times it’s most commonly used against the far-right, but according to the historian Gilles Candar, writing in Le Monde, the notion dates back to 1885, when the monarchist and Bonapartist opposition recorded high scores in the first round of the legislative elections, and candidates who supported the Republic came together and were able to win a majority of seats.

The term is in the news once again as France prepares for the second round of regional elections on Sunday.

Use it like this

Je suis en faveur d’un front républicain contre l’extrême droite – I am in favour of a republican front against the far right.

Le candidat socialiste a bénéficié d’un front républicain – The socialist candidate benefited from a republican front.


Faire barrage à l’extrême droite – to block the far right

Retirer sa candidature – to withdraw from the running

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.
For members


French Expression of the Day: Tarte à la crème

This expression is more than just your last order at the boulangerie.

French Expression of the Day: Tarte à la crème

Why do I need to know tarte à la crème ?

Because if someone uses this phrase to describe you, you should probably be a bit offended.

What does it mean?

Tarte à la crème – pronounced tart ah lah krem – literally refers to a cream filled tart, or a custard tart, in English. However, this expression has more to do than just baking. It is another way of describing something that is boring, predictable or commonplace.

This expression comes straight from Moliere himself. In the 17th century, there was a popular rhyming game called “Corbillon.” The phrase “Je vous passe mon corbillon” (I pass you by corbillon) is said, and then it is followed by “Qu’y met-on?” (What does one put on it?) To keep the rhyme up, people must respond with something ending in an -ON sound.

In the play, “L’Ecole des Femmes” (The School of Wives), one character says the ideal woman would respond to the question with “tarte à la crème” which is obviously the wrong answer. The right answer would be tarte à la citron (lemon tart). Molière did this on purpose to poke fun at the fact that disgruntled fans would send poor actors cream tarts to express their frustration.

It was a way of ridiculing his critics and showing he was unimpressed by their method of showing discontentment at his plays. Over time, the phrase went on to describe things that are commonplace or boring. It is often used to describe entertainment related topics, such as books, movies, or plays.

A synonym for this phrase in French might be banal and in English you might say something is ‘vanilla’ to describe something that is fairly unexciting.

Use it like this

Le film était vraiment tarte à la crème. Je ne recommande pas d’aller le voir au cinéma, vous pouvez attendre de le voir une fois qu’il sera gratuit en ligne. – The movie was really boring. I don’t recommend going to see it at the movies, you can simply wait to see it once it is free online.

Je pense que l’album est tarte à la crème. Elle a pris tellement d’idées d’autres artistes que ce n’est vraiment pas original du tout. – I think the album is predictable. She really took plenty of ideas from other artists and it was not original at all.