For members


French word of the day: Bibi

In some parts of this world this is a grandmother or a nickname, but in France it has a more specific meaning.

French word of the day: Bibi
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

Why do I need to know bibi ?

Because it’s a playful way of talking about yourself.

What does it mean?

Bibi – pronounced bee-bee – is an informal, often humoristic, stand-in for the word moi (me).

It’s often used in the phrase c’est bibi (it’s me), for example as the answer to a rhetorical question. If you want to brag about your victory at a boardgame the next time you see your friends, you might say, “Qui c’est qui a gagné ? C’est bibi !” – “Who won? That’s right, me!”

President Emmanuel Macron even used the expression in the weeks leading up to the first ‘Yellow Vest’ protest against rising fuel costs in November 2018. Called out by a member of the public during a visit to Verdun, Macron replied: “Le carburant, c’est pas bibi” (“Fuel, that’s not me”), meaning most of the price hike was due to international markets, not taxes.

To make matters more confusing, Bibi is also a nickname given to Macron’s wife, Brigitte…

Bibie with an e is a Ghanaian singer, hence the editing on this clip from satirical news show Quotidien.

The origins of the expression are disputed, according to an article from Le Figaro, with one possible explanation tracing it back to an abbreviation of the word “biffin”, meaning a foot soldier, while others say it was initially used to refer to children or anything small.

Use it like this

C’est qui le champion? C’est bibi ! – Who’s the champion? I am!

Qui a encore perdu son téléphone ? C’est bibi – Guess who lost here phone again. Me

Le chocolat, c’est à bibi – The chocolate is mine

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.