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French Expression of the Day: En fripe

This purchase was not free, but it was probably close to it.

French Expression of the Day: En fripe
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

Why do I need to know En fripe ?

Because someone might tell you that this is how they got their latest shirt that you just complimented, and because has become quite trendy.

What does it mean?

En fripe – pronounced ahn freep – translates to ‘in rags.’ Usually, this phrase is accompanied by ‘acheter’ (to buy), but it does not mean that whatever that person bought was actually ‘in rags’. While a fripe is defined as an ‘old garment, or a rag’ the more common word for rag in French is haillon

If someone tells you they bought something this way though, they are informing you that they made the purchase at a thrift store, as fripe is the root for the word friperie (thrift store).

Oftentimes people will simply shorten friperie to be ‘fripe’ and usually it is used in the plural. For instance, you might say: ‘Tu veux aller voir les fripes?” – Do you want to go check out the thrift stores?

You might also hear a thrift store described as a magasin d’occasion, but it’s more likely you will see or hear people talking about les friperies.

The word has been used in French since the middle ages, but in recent years with the growing popularity of thrift stores, it has become more closely attributed to secondhand clothing, rather than deteriorated garments.

If you buy your used clothing online, then you can say you bought it seconde main en ligne (second hand online), rather than en fripe, which usually refers to making a purchase in person at a thrift shop. 

Use it like this

Ça te dit d’aller faire les fripes plus tard dans l’après-midi? – Are you down to go thrift shopping later this afternoon?

Oh, tu aimes cette chemise ? Je l’ai acheté en fripe. Il coûtait que quelques euros. – Oh, you like this shirt? I bought it at the thrift store. It was only a couple euros.

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For members


French Expression of the Day: Les plus modestes

Surprisingly, this phrase has nothing to do with provocative dress or bragging about your achievements.

French Expression of the Day: Les plus modestes

Why do I need to know les plus modestes ?

Because you might want to understand why “the most modest” are always called out in government announcements and in articles

What does it mean?

Les plus modestes – roughly pronounced lay ploos moe-dests – literally translates to “the most modest.” 

At first glance, this phrase in French might be misleading for anglophones because “modest” is a bit of a false-friend.

In English, one might think of a Jane Austen character who is very respectable and never shows too much skin, or perhaps just someone who is very self-deprecating about their own achievements.

But in the French phrase, les plus modestes means people who are on low incomes or generally don’t have much money.

You might also see the phrase “les ménages modestes” (low-income households). 

You will often hear this term when the French government or press are discussing subsidy plans or budgeting efforts to assist low-income families.

It’s different to les plus fragiles – which is also often used in government announcements but refers to people who vulnerable for health reasons, such as the elderly or people with long-term medical conditions.

Use it like this

Pour protéger les plus modestes, le gouvernement a annoncé une subvention spécifique pour aider à payer l’énergie. – To protect the most vulnerable households, the government has announced a specific subsidy to help pay for energy.

Même avec les interventions du gouvernement, l’inflation touchera surtout les plus modestes. – Even with government interventions, inflation will impact low-income households the most.