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French Expression of the Day: Réservoir de voix

This French expression is particularly useful to know around election time.

French Word of the Day: Réservoir de voix
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

Why do I need to know réservoir de voix? 

Because every five years, whoever has the biggest one has the potential to shape the future of France. 

What does it mean? 

A réservoir des voix, pronounced reservoir day vwah, literally translates as reservoir of votes.

It refers to the number of people that a politician can count on voting for them. 

In France, many elections (including presidential and legislative) have a two-round voting system, whereby the top two polling candidates from the first round face off in a second one, with one candidate eventually winning an absolute majority. 

In these elections, a réservoir des voix typically refers to the number of people who will not vote for a particular candidate in the first round but will almost certainly back them in the second, as a back-up choice or simply the lesser of two evils. 

Use it like this 

Marine Le Pen a un réservoir de voix supérieur à 2017 grâce à la candidature d’Eric Zemmour – Marine Le Pen has a bigger reservoir of votes than in 2017 thanks to the candidacy of Éric Zemmour 

Elle semble disposer d’un réservoir de voix plus important cette année – She seems to have a bigger reservoir of votes this year

Emmanuel Macron peut également compter sur un réservoir de voix – Emmanuel Macron can also rely on a reservoir of votes 

Related expressions 

Some candidates can count on a reservoir of votes because of a front populaire, front républicain

Both of these phrases refer to the idea that a voter can support someone in the second round even if the candidate was not their initial preference. Generally in France, this refers to the idea of keeping a far-right candidate out of power. 

A front populaire or front républicain often refers to the idea of supporting a candidate in the second round of an election. 

Le front populaire a battu le candidat d’extrême droite – The popular front defeated the far-right candidate 

Le front républicain sera avec nous – The republican front will back us 

A vote utile meanwhile is a term that is used frequently in reference to both first and second round voting. 

Il joue la carte du vote utile pour se rapprocher d’un éventuel deuxième tour– He is playing the useful vote card to make it to the second round 

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For members


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.