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FRENCH WORD OF THE DAY

French Expression of the Day: Monsieur Dupont

Curious who this mystery Frenchman might be and why people keep referencing him?

French Expression of the Day: Monsieur Dupont
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

Why do I need to know Monsieur Dupont?

Because he might not be a real person.

What does it mean?

Monsieur Dupont – roughly pronounced miss-yur doo-ponn – may appear to be the name of a Frenchman, and often it will involve a very real person (for example France’s rugby captain Antoine Dupont). But oftentimes, this name is used by the French press to refer to an unidentified person.

In English, you might see “John or Jane Doe” or “John Smith” while in France you could see Monsieur Dupont.  There are in fact several different ways to refer to an unidentified person – you could also see it written as “Monsieur X” or “Monsieur Durand” or even “Monsieur Tout-le-monde” (Mr Everyone). For women, of course, it would be Madame Dupont.

While not the most common surname in France, Dupont is still quite prevalent. It is often paired with the first name Jean – which was very common in the 20th century – to function similarly to “John Doe.”

When government agencies release images of specimen documents like driver’s licences or ID cards, they will often use the name Dupont for the dummy card.

Sometimes, when describing an average citizen, the French will use the word “Lambda” as an adjective. So you could say a “conducteur lambda” (an average driver) for example.

And the most common surname in France? That’s Martin, according to national statistics body Insee.

Use it like this

C’est un homme d’affaires anonyme qui a acheté la peinture. Monsieur Dupont a payé des millions pour ça. – It was an anonymous businessman who bought the painting. John Doe paid millions for it.

Le dossier a juste répertorié la victime sous le nom de Monsieur X parce que la police ne pouvait pas déterminer son identité. – The case just listed the victim as John Doe because the police could not figure out his identity.

Le citoyen lambda n’a ni le temps ni l’argent pour voyager plusieurs semaines par an. – The average person does not have time or money to travel several weeks out of the year.

Member comments

  1. Perhaps related to Adam Ant’s claim that Young Parisians are all called ‘DuBois’ (and ride on the metro and all speak French not like you and me).

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FRENCH WORD OF THE DAY

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.

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