French Word of the Day: Covoiturage

It's far from a new concept, but it does have a relatively new word.

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

Why do I need to know covoiturage?

Because the price of petrol at the pumps is sky-high and we all need to find ways to cut the cost of our daily commute and other journeys.  It’s more environmentally friendly too.

What does it mean?

Covoiturage – pronounced co-vwah-ture-arj – is French for car-pooling or car-sharing. 

It’s easy to dismiss it as a 21st-century means of giving someone a regular lift – but these days it’s quite the business, with a number of apps – think Blabla Car or Mobicoop – allowing people to make regular or one-off travel more affordable by sharing the cost of a car journey.

People who carpool are known as covoitureurs.

And there are areas on the outskirts of towns and cities across France, known as Aires de covoiturage, where people from different locations can meet, park their cars and complete their journeys in one vehicle, to cut costs.

The co prefix is used in many French words to mean sharing such as colocation – house-share or apartment share – or  the widely-used English language imports cohoming and coworking

Use it like this

Faire du covoiturage – car-pool

Des réseaux sociaux en ligne aident à planifier le covoiturage et à connecter entre eux les covoitureurs – Online social networks help plan carpools and connect carpoolers

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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.