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French Expression of the Day: Enculer les mouches

You do what to the flies??

French Expression of the Day: Enculer les mouches
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

Why do I need to know enculer les mouches?

Because you might want to use this French expression to complain about your friend who cannot resist correcting your grammar.

What does it mean?

Enculer les mouches roughly pronounced ahn koo lay lay moosh – is a French expression that is certainly colloquial, and slightly profane, so you might want to be careful who you use it around.

It essentially means to be overly attentive to detail or fussy – in English we might say nit-picking or in the weeds – but it translates precisely to “sodomise the flies.” You might also hear it as enculer des mouches.

Interestingly, French is not the only language to have a profane way of describing the person who loves to correct their friends’ grammar. The Dutch expression also has to do with being sexually aggressive toward insects, while the Finns talks about ‘comma fuckers’. 

The word enculer in normal conversation is extremely strong, but used as part of the phrase enculer les mouches it becomes less offensive – although it’s probably not one to wheel out in front of in-laws or your kids’ teachers. 

If you are looking for a softer alternative, you could say that someone is “pointilleux” or “tatillon” instead.

Use it like this

J’ai légèrement mal prononcé le nom de l’acteur français et, tout à coup, toutes les personnes présentes à la table ont sauté pour me corriger. Ce sont tous des enculeurs des mouches. – I just barely mispronounced the French actor’s name, and all of a sudden, everyone at the table jumped to correct me. They are all so nit-picky.

La prof est vraiment tatillon. Elle demande que toutes les compositions soient soumises avec une taille des caractères et des marges parfaites, et que le nombre de mots soit exact.  – The professor is really fussy. She demands that all essays be submitted with perfect font size and margins, and that the word count be accurate. 

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French Expression of the Day: Robin des bois

He's the legendary Englishman who is surprisingly relevant to French political discourse.

French Expression of the Day: Robin des bois

Why do I need to know Robin des bois?

Because you might be wondering why the French reference this English outlaw during protest movements 

What does it mean?

Robin des bois roughly pronounced roe-bahn day bwah – is the French version of “Robin Hood” – the legendary outlaw who stole from the rich and gave to the poor. 

Robin Hood is part of English folklore, with the first references to him occurring sometime during the 13th or 14th century. He did not become Robin des bois for some time – as the legend did not spread to the majority of French people until at least the 18th or 19th century. 

Robin des bois most likely made his big entrance on the French stage in the 19th century when the novel Ivanhoe (1819), which tells tales of medieval England, was translated into French. 

The fabled outlaw was welcomed by the French, particularly romantic writers and thinkers of the time who saw him as a symbol of the fight against the aristocracy. 

But the French had their own versions of Robin Hood before the English legend made its way to l’Hexagone – like the “Louis Mandrin” who supposedly rebelled against corrupt tax collectors during the Ancien Regime. 

Over the years, the French – particularly those on the political left – have evoked “Robin des bois” during strikes and protests, and it’s relatively common to see protest movements or direct action groups name themselves after Robin Hood.

The English outlaw also had his own French television series between 1963 and 1966 – though this time he was called “Thierry La Fronde” and he lived in France during the Hundred Years’ War.

Use it like this

Nous devons nous attaquer aux actions de Robin des Bois afin d’aider la classe ouvrière à payer leurs factures d’énergie, a déclaré le syndicat dans un communiqué de presse. – We must take action like Robin Hood to help the working class pay for their energy bills, the union said in a flyer. 

Le restaurateur était un véritable Robin des Bois – il avait tendance à surfacturer les tables des riches et à sous-facturer celles de la classe populaire. – The restaurant owner was a real Robin Hood – he had a tendency of overcharging tables of rich people and under-charging those of poor folks.