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FRENCH WORD OF THE DAY

French word of they day: Riquiqui

If somebody describes you this way, you should probably take offence.

French word of they day: Riquiqui
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

Why do I need to know riquiqui?

Because it sounds playful, which could give you the wrong impression when it comes up in conversation.

What does it mean?

Riquiqui is an informal term which means “very small”. It may sound like a cute way of describing something, but it’s often used to ridicule something, to make fun of or complain about how small it is. For example, if you’re moaning about the size of your meal in a restaurant, and want to be almost dismissive about what you’ve been served, you can use riquiqui.

It’s often used in combination with a high-pitched voice or a hand gesture to emphasise just how tiny the thing is.

The word may look like a strange jumble of letters, but it’s easy enough to pronounce. The vowel sound is the same in all three syllables, because you do not pronounce the u, so it sounds like the French words riz qui qui.

For that reason, you might see it written rikiki. There is not one agreed-upon spelling because this word is mainly used in spoken French.

Use it like this

J’ai pas envie de vivre à Paris dans un appartement riquiqui – I don’t want to live in Paris in a tiny apartment

Je peux rien mettre dans mon sac, il est tellement riquiqui – I can’t fit anything in my bag, it’s so tiny

Les portions servies dans ce restaurant sont vraiment rikiki – The portion sizes in this restaurant are really miniscule

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FRENCH WORD OF THE DAY

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.

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