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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
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

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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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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