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French Word of the Day: Zonard

This pejorative word is not one that should be used in polite company.

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

Why do I need to know zonard? 

Because if someone calls you this, you probably have the right to be offended. 

What does it mean? 

A zonard, pronounced zone-are, is someone who hangs out on street corners all day, confining themselves to a certain zone or area. 

In France, it is typically used to talk about someone who lives and hangs out in a poor part of town.

The term zonard generally refers to young people, on the margins of society and involved in some kind of delinquency. 

When describing his turbulent youth, France’s former interior minister, Christophe Castaner, once explained to Paris Match that he left home and quit high-school at 18-years-old to zoner on the streets of Marseille for two years. 

The term zonard is considered offensive and incredibly snobby. Its female equivalent is zonarde

Some French rappers have reclaimed the word zonard, wearing the label as a badge of pride. 

Use it like this 

Il y a beaucoup de zonards dans mon quartier – There are lots of delinquents in my neighbourhood 

Chloé est une vraie zonarde. Elle traine dans la rue pendant toute la journée – Chloe is a bit of a thug. She hangs about on the street all day

Il ramène avec lui la rage du zonard et la plume d’un lyriciste aguerri – He brings the anger of a street thug and the writing style of a seasoned lyricist 

C’était une cité zonarde sans histoires – It was a poor housing project without any history 


Obviously, none of the terms below are nice labels to call someone. 

Un marginal – a person living on the margins

Un zonier – a delinquent, similar to zonard

Un voyou – a thug

Un jeune délinquant – a young délinquant 

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French Expression of the Day: Chercher midi à quatorze heures

This expression doesn't actually have much to do with lunchtime.

French Expression of the Day: Chercher midi à quatorze heures

Why do I need to know chercher midi à quatorze heures?

Because when someone makes what should take fifteen minutes into an hour-long effort, you might want an appropriate phase.

What does it mean?

Chercher midi à quatorze heures – usually pronounced share-shay-mid-ee-ah-cat-orz-ur – literally means “to look for noon at 2 pm.” When taken literally, the expression does not make much sense. However, in practice, it means “to make a simple thing overly complicated.” It is basically the French equivalent of “don’t make a mountain out of a molehill.”

The expression is quite old, but it is still in use…though it might be more common to find it spoken in the countryside rather than on Twitter.

It was first used as early as the 16th century – the version then was “to look for noon at eleven.” As time went on, it changed to reflect its current form in the 17th century. 

As noon is an important marker for the middle of the day, particularly as l’heure de déjeuner (lunch time), the expression makes fun of making something overly difficult. 

You’ll most likely hear this in the negative command form – as it is something you should probably avoid doing.

Use it like this

Pourquoi avoir pris la route la plus longue pour aller au supermarché ? Ne cherchez pas midi à quatorze heures. – Why take the longest route to get to the supermarket? Don’t overcomplicate things.

Tu n’as pas besoin d’essayer toutes les lettres de l’alphabet pour trouver le Wordle. C’est mieux de penser à des mots simples. Ne cherche pas midi à quatorze heures. – You don’t need to try every letter in the alphabet to get the Wordle. Just think of simple words. Don’t over complicate it.