French Word of the Day: Caramel

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French Word of the Day: Caramel
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

A sweet treat that might also come in handy when watching the Rugby World Cup.


Why do I need to know caramel?

Because if you are a fan of sweets or rugby, you’ll want to know this word.

What does it mean?

The main meaning of caramel roughly pronounced cah-rah-mel in French is the same as in English; caramel, either the hard candy or the soft, sweet sauce that you pour over your crêpes

But in France, the term also has a secondary meaning that has nothing to do with confectionery.


In rugby, caramel is used to describe a big-hitting but legal tackle. As such, you might hear someone scream quelle caramel ! to mean ‘what a tackle!’ as two players collide.

You might also hear people use the term bouchon to refer to a ‘big tackle against an adversary’. More commonly, bouchon is the French term used to describe a traffic jam, and it also means the cork in your bottle of wine. 

As France is currently hosting the Rugby World Cup, we've put together some helpful rugby related vocabulary to help you cheer on your favourite team here.

Use it like this

This is a term most commonly yelled by fans, although you might also hear commentators say it. By far the most common usage is simply 'Quelle caramel !' - What a massive tackle

For a pronunciation guide, check out the chorus of this classic French pop song Paroles Paroles (which is not about rugby).

Caramels, bonbons et chocolats; Par moments, je ne te comprends pas; Merci, pas pour moi mais tu peux bien les offrir à une autre - Caramels, sweets and chocolates; Sometimes I don't understand you; Thank you, not for me, but you can give them to someone else



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