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FRENCH WORD OF THE DAY

French Expression of the Day: Se dorer la pilule

Even though this expression does not actually have to do with pills, it might still make you think of Vitamin D.

French Expression of the Day: Se dorer la pilule
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

Why do I need to know se dorer la pilule?

Because you’re probably planning to do this at some point during your holidays.

What does it mean?

Se dorer la pilule – pronounced door-ay lah peel-ool – translates exactly to ‘to guild or sweeten the pill.’ Though it sounds like it might have to do with medicine, or that maybe it’s related to the English phrase ‘to sweeten the deal,’ this French expression actually is all about that perfect summertime tan. Its closest synonym in French is bronzer (to tan).

Mary Poppins was not all wrong when she sang ‘a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down.’ For centuries, pills have been used to treat the sick. But uncoated tablets or pills can be more difficult to swallow, rougher, and altogether bad-tasting. 

As a result, apothecaries began to coat pills – a practice that began as early as the 17th century. Often, a thin layer of sugar was used, though sometimes pills would even be coated with a thin film of gold.

At this time, the expression ‘se dorer la pilule’ came into use as the idea of embellishing something, or making its appearance better in order for it to be easier to take in – literally and figuratively.

Around the 20th century, the expression turned into what we know it as now, which is embellishing your body by getting a tan, if you don’t want to stay pale as aspirin, that is. 

Use it like this

Alors qu’elle est censée finir de nettoyer la maison, Caroline se dore la pilule à la plage. – While she is supposed to be working from home, Caroline is tanning at the beach.

Même si je veux me dorer la pilule à la piscine, je dois me rappeler de mettre de la crème solaire. –  Even though I want to tan at the pool, I have to remember to put on sunscreen.

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FRENCH WORD OF THE DAY

French Word of the Day: Soixante-huitard

About one in five people of a certain French generation can be described using this term.

French Word of the Day: Soixante-huitard

Why do I need to know soixante-huitard?

Because it references a very important part of French history and culture.

What does it mean?

Soixante-huitard – pronounced swah-sahnt wheat arr – literally means sixty-eighter. While its translation might sound a bit like a sports team (ex. Forty-niners),  this term in French has an important political and social context behind it. 

A soixante-huitard is someone who participated in the famous May 1968 protests in France. With the backdrop of the Prague Spring and the American Civil Rights Movement and anti-war protests, French students and striking workers demanded a more egalitarian world in May 1968. 

This period of civil unrest lasted seven weeks and even forced then-President Charles de Gaulle to temporarily flee to West Germany. The events of this time have had a profound effect on French culture and politics. 

Around 11 million people – 22 percent of the population at the time – was involved in some way or another, and these days, those people are referred to as un soixante-huitard or une soixante-huitarde (for a woman). 

Though the term is typically reserved to refer to those actually involved in the protest movement, it can occasionally be used as a way to describe someone who has held onto the far-left ideas or sentiments from the 1968 movement.

Use it like this

Il a gardé ses convictions d’extrême-gauche longtemps après 1968. C’est un vrai soixante-huitard. – He held onto his far-left beliefs long after 1968. He is a true sixty-eighter. 

Tu pourrais être surpris que ta tante ait une soixante-huitarde. Ses opinions ont certainement changé avec le temps. Tu ne l’aurais jamais deviné ! – You might be surprised that your aunt participated in May 68. Her opinions have really changed with time, you would never have guessed it.

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