For members


French Word of the Day: Croquer le marmot

If you're not fond of queuing, this is a good expression for you.

French Expression of the Day: Croquer le marmot
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

Why do I need to know croquer le marmot? 

Because no one likes waiting. 

What does it mean?

Croquer le marmot, pronounced “crock-eh luh mar-moh”, means “to wait for a long time”. 

The phrase comes from the 16th century and is rooted in Old French. At the time, croquer meant “to knock” and “marmot” was a word for “knocker” – the large metal rings that people would bang against the door – bank before doorbells existed. 

So literally, the phrase meant, “to knock on the door”. It is assumed that this knocking would not always be heard straight away and that people would spend time waiting in the street. 

In old French, a croque-note was slang for a poor musician, who consistently failed to play the right note. 

In modern French, croquer means to bite, munch or crunch. When something is croquant, it means crunchy or crispy. 

How do I use it?

J’ai croqué le marmot car cela n’ouvrait qu’à 9H30 – I was waiting for ages because it didn’t open until 9:30

Je croquerai le marmot à la station pendant une heure – I will be waiting at the station for an hour


Patienter longuement – “To wait a long time”

Se morfondre – “To mope”

Claquer des mâchoires – this is another antiquated expression that means “to wait a long time”

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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.