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FRENCH WORD OF THE DAY

Word of the day: Enième

Getting a sense that you've seen it all before? Here's a quasi-scientific term for you.

Word of the day: Enième
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

Why do I need to know énième?

Because it’s useful when you want to say that something has happened a lot, without getting into specifics.

What does it mean?

Just as you can have deuxième, troisième, or quatrième (second, third or fourth), the word énième can replace any of these. It operates in the same way as “nth” does in English, standing in for a number in a series, even if the French term is rather more melodic.

Just like in English, the term can be used in a scientific context to denote an unspecified number in a series, or in general usage.

It’s more versatile in French, though, because it can also be used to emphasise repetition, in much the same way as the English word “umpteenth”. For example, Libération recently described “une énième réforme du bac” (an umpteenth reform to the end-of-school baccalaureate exam). In this case, it has negative connotations, since it suggests the government keeps trying, and failing, to find the right formula.

It is sometimes spelled nième, but always pronounced énième.

Use it like this

Il s’est fait virer pour la énième fois – He was fired for the umpteenth time

C’est une énième changement de plan – It’s an umpteenth change of plan

Member comments

  1. In the example, Use it like this, it should be: C’est un énième changement de plan. Not “une énième”

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FRENCH WORD OF THE DAY

French Word of the Day: Soixante-huitard

About one in five people of a certain French generation can be described using this term.

French Word of the Day: Soixante-huitard

Why do I need to know soixante-huitard?

Because it references a very important part of French history and culture.

What does it mean?

Soixante-huitard – pronounced swah-sahnt wheat arr – literally means sixty-eighter. While its translation might sound a bit like a sports team (ex. Forty-niners),  this term in French has an important political and social context behind it. 

A soixante-huitard is someone who participated in the famous May 1968 protests in France. With the backdrop of the Prague Spring and the American Civil Rights Movement and anti-war protests, French students and striking workers demanded a more egalitarian world in May 1968. 

This period of civil unrest lasted seven weeks and even forced then-President Charles de Gaulle to temporarily flee to West Germany. The events of this time have had a profound effect on French culture and politics. 

Around 11 million people – 22 percent of the population at the time – was involved in some way or another, and these days, those people are referred to as un soixante-huitard or une soixante-huitarde (for a woman). 

Though the term is typically reserved to refer to those actually involved in the protest movement, it can occasionally be used as a way to describe someone who has held onto the far-left ideas or sentiments from the 1968 movement.

Use it like this

Il a gardé ses convictions d’extrême-gauche longtemps après 1968. C’est un vrai soixante-huitard. – He held onto his far-left beliefs long after 1968. He is a true sixty-eighter. 

Tu pourrais être surpris que ta tante ait une soixante-huitarde. Ses opinions ont certainement changé avec le temps. Tu ne l’aurais jamais deviné ! – You might be surprised that your aunt participated in May 68. Her opinions have really changed with time, you would never have guessed it.

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