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FRENCH WORD OF THE DAY

French Expression of the Day: De bonne heure

Surprisingly, this French phrase does not mean ‘on time’.

French Expression of the Day:  De bonne heure
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

Why do I need to know de bonne heure?

Because someone might tell you to arrive at this time, and you’ll want to know what they mean.

What does it mean?

De bonne heure – usually pronounced “duh bohn urr” – literally translates to “the good hour,” which you might think would mean “to be on time.” However, in practice, the phrase actually means to be early or to be in advance. The most common French synonym of this phrase would simply be “tôt” which means early.

It can also be used to describe something that happens early in the morning or early in the day more generally. 

Interestingly enough, when the phrase started being used in the 14th century, it did mean to be on time, but its meaning shifted over time, the reason for which remains unclear. 

Up for a pun? Say this phrase three times fast to feel happy (if you didn’t get the joke, it’s because bonne heure sounds like bonheur, French for happiness).

Use it like this

Nous avons commencé la réunion de bonne heure, vers 7h30, avant l’ouverture des marchés boursiers. – We started the meeting early, around 7:30am, before the markets opened.

Je n’avais même pas encore commencé à cuisiner quand il est arrivé de bonne heure. Je n’étais pas préparée à le recevoir. – I hadn’t even started cooking when he arrived early. I wasn’t ready to have him over.

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FRENCH WORD OF THE DAY

French Expression of the Day: Faire la java

This expression is one to use if you see someone looking a bit worse for wear.

French Expression of the Day: Faire la java

Why do I need to know faire la java?

Because you might be looking for a different way to describe the fun times you had last weekend.

What does it mean?

Faire la java usually pronounced fair lah jah-vah – translates literally as ‘to do the java,’ which refers to a popular dance from the early 1900s in France. However, these days, the phrase is a synonym for the more popular phrase ‘faire la fête’ which means to party, usually involving alcoholic beverages and minimal amounts of sleep.   

In the 1910s to 1920s, when the java dance was popular, it was typically performed at big parties. It’s unclear where the term ‘java’ came from, as it has no connection with the island of Java. The dance itself was quite scandalous at the time, and it was seen as overly sensual and risqué. Though the dance fell out of practice in the 1950s, the phrase remained in use, which is why you’ll probably still hear French people, especially those of the older generation, talking about their wild times ‘faisant la fava.’ 

If you’re curious what the dance was like, here is a clip:

Use it like this

J’étais tellement épuisée quand je me suis réveillée ce matin parce que hier soir on a fait la java. – I was so exhausted when I woke up this morning because last night we partied.

Mes voisins aiment faire la java, ce qui serait bien, mais ils font tellement de bruit les soirs de semaine. – My neighbours love to party, which would be fine, but they make so much noise on weeknights.

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