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FRENCH WORD OF THE DAY

French Expression of the Day: Faire son cinéma

We're probably all tempted to do this after an unexpected, last-minute train or flight cancellation

French Expression of the Day: Faire son cinéma
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

Why do I need to know faire son cinéma?

Because you might be running out of words to describe your child’s latest meltdown.

What does it mean?

Faire son cinéma – usually pronounced something like fair sohn sin-ay-mah – translates literally to ‘to make one’s theatre,’ but in practice the expression is not about opening your own movie theatre. It is actually used to describe overly dramatic or excessive behaviour, and the best colloquial translation in English would be ‘to make a scene.’

You will likely hear this phrase in French in a particular context – when a parent is chastising their misbehaving child who is likely throwing a temper tantrum. But the expression is not limited to overly tired three year olds – it can also be used to describe melodramatic adults, or people simply hamming it up, as we might say in English. 

The origins of the expression are what you might expect – as actors are known for their exaggerated gestures and simulations, around the mid-20th century, this idea of exaggerated performance became an expression used for anyone (not just those paid for it). There is another similar French expression: Faire tout un cinéma, which translates to ‘making a big deal of something,’ and though similar, it is more so focused on the idea of exaggerating to amuse an audience.

Use it like this

Tu dois arrêter de faire ton cinéma, on était d’accord pour quitter le parc il y a cinq minutes. – You need to stop making a scene, we agreed we would be leaving the park five minutes ago.

La femme à côté de moi a vraiment fait son cinéma. Elle était tellement énervée que son hamburger était froid qu’elle a crié sur le serveur. – The woman next to me really made a scene. She was so upset her burger was cold that she screamed at the server.

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FRENCH WORD OF THE DAY

French Expression of the Day: Mettre le holà

This might look like a mix of Spanish and French, but it is definitely not Franish.

French Expression of the Day: Mettre le holà

Why do I need to know mettre le holà?

Because you might need to do this if your friends go from laughing with you to laughing at you. 

What does it mean?

Mettre le holà – pronounced meh-truh luh oh-la – literally means to put the ‘holà’ on something. You might be thinking this must be some clever mix of Spanish and French, but ‘holà’ actually has nothing to do with the Spanish greeting. 

This expression is a way to say that’s enough – or to ‘put the brakes on something.’

If a situation appears to be agitated, and you feel the need to intervene in order to help calm things down, then this might be the expression you would use. Another way of saying it in English might be to ‘put the kibosh on it.’

While the origins of ‘kibosh’ appear to be unknown, ‘holà’ goes back to the 14th century in France. Back then, people would shout “Ho! Qui va là?” (Oh, who goes there?) as an interjection to call someone out or challenge them. 

Over time this transformed into the simple holà, which you might hear on the streets, particularly if you engage in some risky jaywalking. 

A French synonym for this expression is ‘freiner’ – which literally means ‘to break’ or ‘put the brakes on,’ and can be used figuratively as well as literally. 

Use it like this

Tu aurais dû mettre le holà tout de suite. Cette conversation a duré bien trop longtemps, et il était si offensif. – You should have put a stop to that immediately. That conversation went on for too long, and he was so offensive. 

J’ai essayé de mettre le holà à la blague sur ma mère, mais ils étaient sans pitié. – I tried to put a stop to the joke about my mother, but they were merciless.

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