For members


French word of the Day: Mélo

Embellishing the truth is sometimes key to telling a good story - but some people like to take it too far.

French Word of the Day: Mélo
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

Why do I need to know mélo? 

Because some people love drama. 

What does it mean?

Mélo, pronounced “mel-oh”, is short for mélodramatique – melodramatic. 

It comes from the word mélodrame (melodrama) – a theatrical genre which flourished in France in the 18th century. Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s Pygmalion is widely considered  the first great melodramas. The play was first performed in Lyon in 1770 and tells the story of a sculptor who falls in love with one of his statues – spoiler alert: the Goddess Venus then brings the statue alive. 

The melodrama genre is characterised by sensationalised storylines that aim to tug on the heartstrings. The goal is to achieve the strongest possible emotional appeal.

Early melodramas often integrated music, perhaps helping pave way for modern day musical theatre. 

How do I use it? 

In contemporary French, you can sarcastically use the word mélo to indicate that someone is exaggerating or that they are giving undue emotional importance to a situation. 

C’est mélo hein ? – That’s a bit melodramatic, isn’t it? 

C’est du mélo – It is melodramatic

If you want to go even further you can accuse someone of being mytho – a serial bullshitter or compulsive liar.

Not to be confused with…

Be careful not to confuse mélo with méli-mélo or emméli-mélo which means “a confusing mix/mess/mishmash”. 

Un méli-mélo de symboles ne fait que rebuter les consommateurs au lieu de les informer – A confusing mix of symbols only alienates consumers rather than informing them 

Le modèle social européen est un méli-mélo – The European social model is a mishmash

Mélo is also the name of the “Clefairy” Pokemon in French.

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For members


French Expression of the Day: La Première ministre

A brand new coinage in the French language that reflects the changing times.

French Expression of the Day: La Première ministre

Why do I need to know la Première ministre?

Because France has one now.

What does it mean?

La Première ministre – usually pronounced lah prem-ee-air mean-east-ruh– translates as “the prime minister,” but this spelling is different from what you might be used to seeing.

This title is feminised, indicating that the prime minister in question is a woman. Under former PMs such as Jean Castex, the masculine title Le Premier ministre was used.

Élisabeth Borne made headlines on May 16th not only because she was appointed as France’s second female prime minister, but also because she will be the first to use the feminisation of the work title: Madame la Première ministre. The female prime minister who held the position before her, Edith Cresson, used the masculine version of the title.

Feminising work titles has been controversial in France, and most titles like “le Premier ministre” have been automatically put in masculine form.

But in 2019, France’s infamous Academie Francaise, which polices the French language and typically resists any sweeping changes to it, changed their stance and said there was “no obstacle in principle” to the wholesale feminisation of job titles. 

Use it like this

Le Président Emmanuel Macron a fait une annonce importante. Élisabeth Borne est la Première ministre. – President Emmanuel Macron made an important announcement: Élisabeth Borne is the prime minister.

“Madame la Première ministre, qui avez-vous choisi pour diriger votre nouveau gouvernement ?” a demandé le journaliste. – “Madame Prime Minister, who have you chosen to lead your new government?” asked the journalist.