For members


French word of the Day: Bidouiller

This one is handy for discussing both DIY and dodgy accountants.

French word of the Day: Bidouiller
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

Why do I need to know bidouiller?

Because it’s a nice little colloquialism that has a range of different meanings, both positive and negative.

What does it mean?

The verb bidouiller – pronounced bee-do-yay – is a colloquial word which means to tinker with or fiddle with. 

It’s an action aimed at achieving or improving something without respecting a given procedure or the rules of perfection – it can have a positive meaning such as bodging together an imperfect but workable solution or a negative meaning such as ‘to fiddle the books’ in a financial sense.

bidouilleur can be used for a person who is particularly apt at hacking things and bidouillage can be said of an action that was imperfect but managed to fix something – in English we might say a bodge-job or something ‘cobbled together’.

Bidouiller comes from the noun une bidouille, but when used about a person it has a slightly different meaning – naïve, silly and simple or someone who is not really on the ball.

Use it like this

J’ai bidouillé le circuit électrique pour alimenter le moteur de la voiture. – I tinkered with the electrical circuit to power the engine of the car.

L’enquêteur a découvert un bidouillage dans les données financières de la banque. – The investigator found out a fiddle in the financial information of the bank.

Tu peux demander à Frank de t’aider, c’est le bidouilleur du village, il sera ravi de réparer la machine à laver. – you can ask Frank for help, he is a handyman of the village, he will be delighted to repair the washing machine.

By Julie Edde

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For members


French Expression of the Day: Le Fisc

You probably don't want to get on the bad side of the Fisc.

French Expression of the Day: Le Fisc

Why do I need to know le Fisc?

Because you might have heard it mentioned in slightly ominous tones.

What does it mean?

Le Fisc – pronounced luh fisk – is a term used to reference the French institution in charge of levying taxes. It’s a shorter, more casual version of the phrase l’administration fiscale (the fiscal administration).  Often, it refers specifically to the“Direction générale des Finances publiques which is the French public finances administration.

Though it may look like a shortened version of the feminine noun ‘fiscalité’ (which refers to the set of laws related to the tax collection system in France), le Fisc is a masculine noun with a different definition that refers specifically to the government body doing the tax collecting.

The closest English synonyms to this expression might be ‘the taxman’ or ‘tax authorities.’  

The term le Fisc comes from the Latin word “Fiscus” which means “basket” and by extension went on to be used interchangeably for ‘treasure’ as well. 

In ancient Rome, the name for the public treasury was ‘fiscus,’ which is the root of the French terms le Fisc and fiscalité.  

Often, you’ll see this word used in newspapers or by politicians when referencing matters related to the national budget and taxation.

Use it like this

Le Fisc va récupérer €10 millions de plus cette année dans les piscines non déclarées. – The taxman will recover more than €10 million in taxes this year due to undeclared swimming pools. 

Le Fisc a pris connaissance du fait que l’acteur omettait de déclarer une partie importante de ses revenus en France. Il sera probablement condamné à une amende. – The tax authorities have become aware of how the actor was failing to declare significant portions of his income in France. He will likely be fined.