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FRENCH WORD OF THE DAY

French Expression of the Day: Pleurer comme une madeleine

No, this expression does not involve weeping cakes.

French Expression of the Day: Pleurer comme une madeleine
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

Why do I need to know pleurer comme une madeleine ?

Because it can be confusing to imagine why a madeleine cake might cry.

What does it mean?

Pleurer comme une madeleine roughly pronounced pler-ay kohm oon mahd-eh-lenn – translates literally to “cry like a Madeleine” which means to sob or cry a lot. 

A similar expression in English might be to cry one’s eyes out, or to cry like a baby. 

The French expression is biblical in origin – it refers to Mary Magdalene, known in the religious text as a former prostitute. In the Bible, there is a scene where Mary Magdalene covered Jesus’ feet in tears as she confessed her sins and received forgiveness. 

French has had many expressions implicating Mary Magdalene, prior to the 19th century, if one was to “faire la Madeleine” (make the Madeleine” that meant to “feign repentance.” In the 19th century, the expression pleurer comme une Madeleine became popular, in part due to its use by the classic writer Balzac. 

Over time, the phrase has come to describe a person whose tears or weeping is considered to be excessive or unjustified, though it can also be used to simply describe someone who is crying a lot.

In the first sense, the expression might be more similar to the English one of “crocodile tears.”

It has nothing to do with the delicious little shell-shaped sponge cake known as a madeleine, although the cake (via the author Marcel Proust) has inspired its own expression une madeleine de proust, which means a taste, smell, sight or sound that brings back a rush of memories or intense emotions.

Use it like this

J’ai dit à ma fille d’arrêter de pleurer comme une madeleine après avoir dû rendre le jouet de son frère qu’elle avait pris sans demander la permission. – I told my daughter to stop crying her eyes out over having to give back her brother’s toy that she had taken without permission.

On ne savait pas si ses larmes étaient authentiques quand elle pleurait comme une madeleine, mais le spectacle a duré longtemps. – We did not know if the tears were authentic when she was sobbing her heart out, but the ordeal went on for a long time.

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FRENCH WORD OF THE DAY

French Expression of the Day: Avoir des idées arrêtées

This type of person knows what they like, and more importantly, what they don't like.

French Expression of the Day: Avoir des idées arrêtées

Why do I need to know avoir des idées arrêtées ?

Because your friend who will only watch certain movie genres might be described this way.

What does it mean?

Avoir des idées arrêtées roughly pronounced ah vwar dayz ee-day arr-eh-tay –  translates precisely to “to have stopped ideas.” 

In its normal usage, the phrase translates more accurately as “to have strong opinions” or “to have fixed ideas” – being uncompromising in your one’s viewpoints. 

Another way to describe this type of person in French might be “catégorique” (or ‘categorical’ in English). 

You might also hear this expression as “des idées bien arrêtées” – meaning someone who has ‘very’ strong opinions. Depending on context, this phrase might have a bit of a negative connotation, particularly if it is being used to portray someone as being stubborn.

Use it like this

Elle a des idées arrêtées sur les films, comme elle refuse de regarder tout autre film que ceux de Marvel. Elle ne veut même pas regarder les films DC. – She has very strong opinions about films, for instance she only watches Marvel movies. She won’t even watch DC movies.

Tout le monde dit qu’il a des opinions arrêtées, mais je l’ai trouvé flexible sur certaines choses… comme le choix d’un restaurant. – Everyone says he is uncompromising, but I find him to be flexible on some things, like choosing a restaurant.

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