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FRENCH WORD OF THE DAY

French Expression of the Day: Rester de marbre

Don't worry, this expression is not just for sculptors.

French Expression of the Day: Rester de marbre
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

Why do I need to know rester de marbre?

Because you might need to describe your colleague who never laughs at your jokes.

What does it mean?

Rester de marbre – pronounced rest-ay duh mahr-bruh – translates as ‘to remain marble,’ which is the material used for sculpture-making and sounds like it might refer to staying still as a statue, but in practice, this phrase actually means to be cold or closed off, and to not show any emotion. 

In English, you might say this person has a poker face, as their emotions are unreadable. 

Originally, the phrase did come from sculpture and statue-making. It first appeared in the 17th century, when people instead used the expression froid comme marbre meaning “cold as marble,” referring to how the stone itself is cold, hard and solid. Later, in the 18th century, the expression became rester de marbre, but it kept the original idea of denoting a person’s emotional coldness. 

Use it like this

L’employée de la banque, qui reste normalement de marbre, a eu du mal à ne pas être émue par les histoires des familles qui ont perdu leur maison dans l’incendie. – The bank teller, who normally shows no emotion, found it difficult not to be moved by the stories of families who lost their homes in the fire. 

Quand il m’a critiqué, je n’ai pas réagi, je suis resté de marbre. Peut-être pensait-il que c’était impoli, mais je ne voulais pas donner de réaction. –  When he criticised me I did not react, I kept a poker face. Maybe he thought that was rude, but I did not want to give a reaction.

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FRENCH WORD OF THE DAY

French Expression of the Day: Tarte à la crème

This expression is more than just your last order at the boulangerie.

French Expression of the Day: Tarte à la crème

Why do I need to know tarte à la crème ?

Because if someone uses this phrase to describe you, you should probably be a bit offended.

What does it mean?

Tarte à la crème – pronounced tart ah lah krem – literally refers to a cream filled tart, or a custard tart, in English. However, this expression has more to do than just baking. It is another way of describing something that is boring, predictable or commonplace.

This expression comes straight from Moliere himself. In the 17th century, there was a popular rhyming game called “Corbillon.” The phrase “Je vous passe mon corbillon” (I pass you by corbillon) is said, and then it is followed by “Qu’y met-on?” (What does one put on it?) To keep the rhyme up, people must respond with something ending in an -ON sound.

In the play, “L’Ecole des Femmes” (The School of Wives), one character says the ideal woman would respond to the question with “tarte à la crème” which is obviously the wrong answer. The right answer would be tarte à la citron (lemon tart). Molière did this on purpose to poke fun at the fact that disgruntled fans would send poor actors cream tarts to express their frustration.

It was a way of ridiculing his critics and showing he was unimpressed by their method of showing discontentment at his plays. Over time, the phrase went on to describe things that are commonplace or boring. It is often used to describe entertainment related topics, such as books, movies, or plays.

A synonym for this phrase in French might be banal and in English you might say something is ‘vanilla’ to describe something that is fairly unexciting.

Use it like this

Le film était vraiment tarte à la crème. Je ne recommande pas d’aller le voir au cinéma, vous pouvez attendre de le voir une fois qu’il sera gratuit en ligne. – The movie was really boring. I don’t recommend going to see it at the movies, you can simply wait to see it once it is free online.

Je pense que l’album est tarte à la crème. Elle a pris tellement d’idées d’autres artistes que ce n’est vraiment pas original du tout. – I think the album is predictable. She really took plenty of ideas from other artists and it was not original at all.

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