For members


French Word of the Day: Bombe à retardement

This word is useful in more than just military contexts.

French Word of the Day: Bombe à retardement
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

Why do I need to know bombe à retardement? 

Because there is always a crisis just around the corner. 

What does it mean? 

A bombe à retardement, pronounced “bom ah ray-tard-ah-mon”, literally means “time bomb”. 

As in English, the French use this both literally and as a metaphor for something that will become a problem in the future. 

It can be used in a wide range of catastrophic contexts.

Typically, it would be employed to describe a situation rather than a person. 

The plural is bombes à retardement – the ‘s’ is silent. 

How do I use it? 

La situation est une bombe à retardement – The situation is a time bomb 

Une centrale nucléaire, sur terre ou sous terre, c’est une bombe à retardement – A nuclear power plant, above ground or underground, is a ticking time bomb.

Le pays est confronté à une bombe à retardement au plan démographique – The country is confronted by a demographic time bomb

La question de savoir si la torture est justifiée dans les scénarios de «bombe à retardement» reste controversée – The question of whether torture is justified in a time bomb situation remains controversial 


Une grenade dégoupillée, or “unpinned grenade”, is another explosive metaphor to describe a pending disaster. 

It can be used to describe both a situation and a person. 

Zemmour est une grenade dégoupillée pour faire exploser la droite – Zemmour is an unpinned grenade poised to destroy the political right

Cette nouvelle souche virale est une grenade dégoupillée – This new viral strain is an unpinned grenade

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For members


French Expression of the Day: La clim’

You'll definitely want to know about this during the summer.

French Expression of the Day: La clim'

Why do I need to know la clim’?

Because the lack of green spaces in cities might find you looking desperately for fresh air.

What does it mean?

La clim’, pronounced la-cleem, means air conditioning, it is a shortened version of la climatisation.

Climatisation comes from the word climatiseur, which itself comes from Klima in Greek and means the inclination of planet Earth from the equator to the poles. This inclination of the planet on its axis is responsible for the seasons and if you find yourself in a French city in August your inclination will definitely be towards climatisation.

Air-conditioning in private homes is not common France, some hotels have it but not all and in the summer months restaurants will often advertise air-con if they have it, as a way of luring in hot-and-bothered tourists.

If you find yourself desperate for cool air, head to a supermarket – almost all French supermarkets are air-conditioned in the summer. Or for a more fun option just head to the nearest city fountain or water feature and join the locals who are splashing around to cool off.

Use it like this

Il fait très chaud, avez-vous la clim’ dans votre hotel ? – It’s really hot, do you have air-con in the hotel?

Je n’aime pas mettre la clim’ en route car cela est mauvais pour la santé et l’environnement – I don’t like turning on the AC, it’s bad for my health and for the environment

Il fait froid, peut-on s’il vous plait éteindre la clim’ ? – It’s cold, could  we turn off the air-con?

La clim’ fait beaucoup de bruit, pouvons-nous la mettre en sourdine ? – This AC is really noisy, could we turn it down?


Un climatiseur – the formal name for an air-conditioner (in French the air conditioning is feminine by the air conditioner is masculine)

Un ventilateur – a ventilator

Un Brumisateur – a ‘fogger’ – these machines which pump out cool water vapour are often seen on the streets and in parks during the summer

Un Rafraichisseur d’air – an air freshener