For members


French Expression of the Day: C’est coton

When something is 100 percent cotton, this doesn't necessarily mean it is a quality piece of clothing.

French Expression of the Day: C'est coton
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

Why do I need to know c’est coton? 

Because not everything comes easy. 

What does it mean?

C’est coton, pronounced “say cot-on”, literally means “it is cotton” and you will frequently find the word coton in clothing labels.

The figurative sense of this expression is more along the lines of “it is difficult/challenging”. 

The term dates back to the late 19th century when weaving and spinning mills were a major industry in France. 

People working with raw cotton in the mills had to stay highly focused for hours on end to produce a high quality product. The dust created during the cotton processing often caused respiratory illness. It was not uncommon for factory staff to lose fingers in the machinery.

The work was tough and poorly paid – and became synonymous with struggle.

What began as slang for the proletariat of the industrial revolution has lived on through to today. 

Use it like this 

Trouver un emploi, ça c’était coton – Finding a job was difficult

C’est tout à fait possible, mais c’est coton – It is entirely possible, but challenging

Rester alerte, ça c’est coton – Staying alert is difficult

Effectuer des tâches administratives en France, c’est coton – Doing admin tasks in France is tough


C’est le bagne – it’s difficult

C’est un véritable calvaire – it’s a struggle

C’est difficile/dur/compliqué – it’s difficult/tough/complicated. C’est compliqué is the preferred phrase for someone who is about the reject your request

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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