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French Expression of the Day: Raz-de-marée

French Expression of the Day: Raz-de-marée
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond
This geographical term is becoming more common in everyday speech.

Why do I need to know Raz-de-marée? 

Because its meaning has moved beyond the original use of the word and made it into daily conversation.

What does it mean? 

Raz-de-marée, sometimes written raz de marée and pronounced “rah duh mah-ray“, is a French expression used to denote a massive wave/tidal wave/tsunami. 

The Larousse online dictionary defines it as “an enormous wave that can reach 20-30 metres in height, caused by a storm, volcanic eruption, an earthquake or landslide.”

Hopefully those conditions will not apply to readers of The Local.

But the figurative sense of the expression certainly will: “A brutal and massive phenomenon that disturbs a social or political situation”. 

The term has been employed to describe the pandemic like so:  

La cinquième vague s’est muée en raz-de-marée – The fifth wave has mutated into a tsunmai

Olivier Véran a parlé d’un “raz de marée” pour qualifier les contaminations – Olivier Veran spoke about a tidal wave to describe the contamination 

But it can also be used in a political sense, normally to describe a crushing election victory – otherwise known as a landslide election win. 

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See also on The Local:

Le parti a étendu son emprise sur le pouvoir par un raz de marée électoral – The party extended its grip on power with a massive election win 

La ville symbole du raz-de-marée de La République en marche en 2017 pourrait virer au champ de mines en 2022 – The town that was symbolic of the République en Marche landslide victory in 2017 could turn into a mine field in 2022

Synonyms

To talk about Covid, we can also use the terms: vague and even méga-vague

It is common to use weather metaphors to describe social/political upheavals in French. You could also use for example: tempête sociale/economique, tremblement de terre politique and tsunami electoral


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