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French Word of the Day: Cagole

French Word of the Day: Cagole
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond
This originally pejorative term from the southeast of France has been reclaimed by feminists in recent years, but can still be quite divisive.

Why do I need to know cagole?

Because it is a very commonly used word in big southeastern cities like Marseille – and carries a surprising level of nuance. 

What does it mean?

Pronounced “cag-ole”, this word loosely translates as “bimbo” or perhaps “trailer trash”.

It is typically used to refer to the stereotype of an overly-made up, fake-tanned, high-heeled, short-skirted female resident of Marseille. 

There is also male equivalent – cacou – to denote a muscled man, with a T-shirt several sizes too small, with gleaming white teeth and a BMW… you get the idea. A cacou is the Ken doll/himbo equivalent to the cagole

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The word cagole is thought to come from the early 20th-century Provençal word, cagoulo, which was the name of the apron worn by women working in date-processing factories. Others claim it comes from the Pronençale verb, caga, which means “to poop”. 

Either way, cagole, has long been seen as a pejorative way to refer to women. But that is beginning to change. 

READ MORE French regional stereotypes: Grumpy Parisians and drunk northerners

Since 1997, an annual Miss Cagole competition has been held, mostly in Marseille. At the beginning, this competition was a pure celebration of cagole culture, a sort of trashy version of the glamorous Miss France.

In recent years though, this competition has placed an emphasis on eco-mindedness and feminism as important cagole qualities. 

Use it like this

On dirait de cette femme que c’est une cagole – We would say that this woman is a bimbo

La cagole est à la mode – Bimboisim is fashionable 

C’est vrai que la cagole n’est pas que Marseillaise, on la retrouve un peu partout – It is true that bimbos are not just from Marseille, we find them everywhere

Dans la culture gay, le terme cagole est repris pour qualifier un homme qui porte tous les signes de la féminité – In gay culture, the term cagole is taken to describe a man who carries all the signs of femininity 

Synonyms 

Chagasse 

Pétasse 

Poufiasse 

Please note that you should avoid these terms in polite and even most informal conversations. 


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