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French phrase of the Day: Angle mort

This phrase is usually less grim than it sounds.

French phrase of the Day: Angle mort
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

Why do I need to know angle mort?

Because it’s useful in both practical safety-related contexts, if you’re taking a driving test, and in more general conversation.

What does it mean?

The literal translation of un angle mort is a ‘dead angle’ but it really means a blind spot.

If you drive you will probably have noticed stickers on the side of large vehicles warning other drivers of their angle mort – the blind spot where the driver cannot see you in his or her mirrors.

However, just like its English equivalent, angle mort can also be used metaphorically to describe a person’s ‘blind spot’ on an issue that their either don’t properly understand or just ignore.

It’s quite often used in political analysis if the writer feels that a certain politician doesn’t understand an issue or understand why it is important to voters, but it can be used in any daily context.

Use it like this

Le changement de voie, par exemple, pose le problème de l’angle mort, cette zone difficilement visible entre le champ de vision direct et celui procuré par le rétroviseur – Lane changing, for example, raises the question of the blind spot, an area of reduced visibility between the driver’s direct field of vision and that offered by the rearview mirror. 

L’angle mort de Macron – c’est l’immigration – Macron’s blind spot is immigration.

L’égalité des sexes sur le lieu de travail est son angle mort – Gender equality in the workpace is a blind spot for him


Le point faible – weak spot

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For members


French Expression of the Day: Mettre le holà

This might look like a mix of Spanish and French, but it is definitely not Franish.

French Expression of the Day: Mettre le holà

Why do I need to know mettre le holà?

Because you might need to do this if your friends go from laughing with you to laughing at you. 

What does it mean?

Mettre le holà – pronounced meh-truh luh oh-la – literally means to put the ‘holà’ on something. You might be thinking this must be some clever mix of Spanish and French, but ‘holà’ actually has nothing to do with the Spanish greeting. 

This expression is a way to say that’s enough – or to ‘put the brakes on something.’

If a situation appears to be agitated, and you feel the need to intervene in order to help calm things down, then this might be the expression you would use. Another way of saying it in English might be to ‘put the kibosh on it.’

While the origins of ‘kibosh’ appear to be unknown, ‘holà’ goes back to the 14th century in France. Back then, people would shout “Ho! Qui va là?” (Oh, who goes there?) as an interjection to call someone out or challenge them. 

Over time this transformed into the simple holà, which you might hear on the streets, particularly if you engage in some risky jaywalking. 

A French synonym for this expression is ‘freiner’ – which literally means ‘to break’ or ‘put the brakes on,’ and can be used figuratively as well as literally. 

Use it like this

Tu aurais dû mettre le holà tout de suite. Cette conversation a duré bien trop longtemps, et il était si offensif. – You should have put a stop to that immediately. That conversation went on for too long, and he was so offensive. 

J’ai essayé de mettre le holà à la blague sur ma mère, mais ils étaient sans pitié. – I tried to put a stop to the joke about my mother, but they were merciless.