French Expression of the Day: On n’est pas chez les Bisounours

French Expression of the Day: On n'est pas chez les bisounours
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond
The saccharine universe of the popular child's toy Care Bears is a far cry from brutal reality.

Why do I need to know the phrase on n’est pas chez les Bisounours? 

Because life is cruel. 

What does it mean? 

On n’est pas chez les Bisounours translates as ‘We are not in Care Bear land’. 

The phrase is pronounced: ‘On nay pah chey lay bee-zoo-norse’ 

It is an expression you might use to signify that something is serious or to suggest that someone should ‘get a grip’. 

Care Bears (Bisounours in French) are the colourful teddy bears sold as toys since the 1980s.

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Among the prominent members of the Care Bear collection are Funshine-Bear (Grosjojo), Friend-Bear (Groscopain), and Love-a-lot Bear (Groschéri). In various TV series and films, they protect children from malevolent ‘baddies’. 

But the unsentimental French think that Care Bears are ill-equipped to deal with the savage challenges of the real world. 

Various political figures have used Care Bear metaphors to highlight the gravity of a situation or to portray rivals as disconnected from reality. 

Real examples:

On n’est pas dans un monde de Bisounours. Il y a une crise. Il y a six millions de personnes qui sont privées d’emploi – We are not in the world of Care Bears. There are six million people without work. — trade unionist Bernard Thibault in a 2013 interview with Le Monde

La seule qui ne pratique pas le protectionnisme c’est l’Union européenne. Expliquez-nous pourquoi nous sommes les naïfs du village global? Nous ne sommes pas dans une économie de Bisounours. – The only one not practising protectionism is the EU. Explain to us why we are the naive ones in the global community? We are not in a Care Bear economy — former French minister, Arnaud Montebourg, in 2013.

Ce n’est pas le pays des Bisounours une campagne présidentielle – Presidential campaigns are a serious business – former French minister Roselyne Bachelot in 2012

During his time as President of France, some people referred to François Hollande as le président Bisounours – the ‘Care Bear’ President, out of touch with real-world problems. 

Other uses 

Le business, ce n’est pas le bisounours – Business is a serious thing 

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