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FRENCH WORD OF THE DAY

French Expression of the Day: À poil

Some people prefer to sleep like this during the summer.

French Expression of the Day: À poil
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

Why do I need to know à poil ?

Because if someone invites you to come to a beach like this and you don’t know the meaning of this expression, then you might be in for a bit of a surprise.

What does it mean?

À poil – roughly pronounced ah pwahl – is an expression that makes use of the French word for an animal’s fur or its coat. A synonym might be fourrure. However, the expression as it has come to be used does not have to do with animals’ coats – it actually means to be naked. 

How a phrase referring to animal’s fur came to signify nakedness goes all the way back to the 17th century and the world of horseback-riding. At the time, one could either ride a horse with a saddle or cover (blanket), or you could ride bareback. The phrase for doing so was monter l’animal à cru (“à cru” meaning ‘bare’ or ‘raw’) which became monter un cheval à poil – to ride the horse with only its fur.

In this case, the horse was seen as naked (lacking its saddle or blanket), and over time the idea of the naked horse transferred over to naked people. 

The phrase is slightly crude – you wouldn’t use it to describe nude artworks – but not offensive, it’s roughly similar to describing someone as “butt naked” or “bollock naked” in English. The more polite way to say this might be “tout nu” (totally naked).

If you are looking for another way to say ‘birthday suit’ in French you could use “en costume d’Adam” (in Adam’s suit – a Biblical reference to the naked inhabitants of the Garden of Eden). 

Use it like this

Je me suis mise pas mal à poil dernièrement, mais ce n’est pas un délire exhibo et, dans la vie, c’est plus compliqué – I’ve been getting naked quite a bit lately, but it’s not an exhibitionist thing, life is more complicated than that. – From an interview about nude scenes with the French actress Virgine Efira.

Je préfère dormir à poil en été. Il fait vraiment trop chaud ! – I prefer sleeping totally naked in the summer. It is really too hot!

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FRENCH WORD OF THE DAY

French Word of the Day: Blasé

Even though this French word has made its way into English, in French it has an extra emphasis. Here is how to use it in both languages.

French Word of the Day: Blasé

Why do I need to know blasé ?

Because you you can use this word in both English and French, although its strength is slightly different. 

What does it mean?

Blasé – roughly pronounced blah-zay –  is a word that English speakers might be familiar with already, as it has entered our vocabulary.

In French, the official definition of blasé is a bit more harsh than what English-speakers might be used to. It is defined by La Rousse dictionary as “a person who thinks he has exhausted the human experience and is disgusted with everything.” 

In contrast, English dictionaries define blasé simply as ‘bored’ and ‘jaded’ and it’s common to use is quite casually such as “I do so many work presentations that I’m a bit blasé about them now”. 

Overall, blasé denotes a level of apathy in both languages but in French it’s less flippant – oftentimes describing a person who is not easily impressed or someone who is disengaged with the world. Keep in mind that when you use this word in French, you will have to gender it based on who you are referring to – so if the word is describing a woman, then it would be blasée.

A common French expression you might hear using this word would be “blasé de la vie” – which means to be in a general state of apathy, or to be simply disengaged from daily life.

The word comes from the French past participle of the verb blaser – which means ‘to satiate.’ However, English-speakers might be surprised that blasé’s true origins are likely more Dutch than French. 

Use it like this

J’ai fait une blague mais il est tellement blasé ces jours-ci qu’il n’a pas rigolé. – I made a joke but he has been so apathetic lately that he didn’t laugh.

Elle n’a pas souri ni ri pendant l’entretien, alors qu’il s’agissait de l’emploi de ses rêves. Je ne sais pas pourquoi elle était si blasée. – She did not smile or laugh during the interview, even though it was for her dream job. I don’t know why she was so disengaged about it.

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