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FRENCH WORD OF THE DAY

French Expression of the Day: Gros poisson

This expression has long been associated with policing but has many other uses too, although you won't see it on a menu.

French Expression of the Day: Gros poisson
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

Why do I need to know gros poisson? 

Because while we assume that readers of The Local are not involved in organised crime, you never know. 

What does it mean?

Gros poisson, pronounced “groh pwah-sonn” means big fish.

But when used as an expression, it means an important or influential person. 

It is slang which comes from the world of policing and is often used to talk about crime bosses, kingpins and gang leaders. 

In this context you can use gros poisson like this: 

On a arrêté plusieurs gros poissons – We have arrested several crime bosses

Vito Corleone est le gros poisson du milieu italien – Vito Corleone is the head of the Italian mafia 

It can also be used in a more general sense, not necessarily in relation to crime, to refer to anyone who is a big figure, important or influential.

Emmanuel Macron est le gros poisson de l’état français – Emmanuel Macron is the big dog of the French state”

Si tu fais beaucoup d’effort, tu pourrais devenir le gros poisson – If you put in lots of work, you can become the big boss

In French, gros poisson dans un petite mare (big fish in a small sea) is the equivalent idiom to “big fish in a small pond” – ie someone who is important but only within their own small group. 

It is used by the rapper, Orelsan, in one of his songs. 

The chorus contains the lyrics: 

Un gros poisson dans une petite mare // Le roi des fourmis, le prince des sous-fifres// Un gros poisson dans une petite mare// J’te parle de bluff, d’excès d’orgueil, d’abus de pouvoir// Un gros poisson dans une petite mare// Le roi des fourmis, le prince des sous-fifres// Un gros poisson dans une petite mare// On trouve toujours plus fort que soi, c’est ça la morale de l’histoire

A big fish in a small pond// The king of the ants, the prince of the underlings// A big fish in a small pond// I am talking to you about bluffing, an excess of pride and an abuse of power// A big fish in a small pond// The king of the ants, the prince of the underlings// A big fish in a small pond// There is always someone stronger than you, that is the moral of the story

Synonyms 

In French people do not say le grand fromage to mean the “big cheese” or big boss. 

A better way to convey that someone is a big player, whether involved in crime or not, is grand manitou

Elle est un grand manitou de l’industrie – She is a big figure in the industry 

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FRENCH WORD OF THE DAY

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.

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