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French Word of the Day: Coquecigrue

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French Word of the Day: Coquecigrue

It sounds a lot like a nonsense word … which is handy, really.

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Why do I need to know coquecigrue?

Because it’s a high-French literary way to describe something as absurd.

What does it mean?

The delightful word coquecigrue – pronounced something like cock-see-groo – means, as we’ve already indicated, nonsense, absurdity.

But it’s not so much the definition, or the magnificent way it rolls off the tongue – though they matter – as much as its hi-falutin’ literary history that makes coquecigrue such a great, if somewhat old-fashioned word.

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It describes a mythical creature, similar to a chimera, that is part cockerel, part crane and part stork.

And it was coined by long-standing scourge of French literature students and, arguably, one of the world’s first modern novelists, François Rabelais, in his 1534 work Gargantua – in which an exiled king is told by a witch that his kingdom will be restored ‘when the coquecigrues returned’.

These days it can be used to describe anything absurd or unlikely, although it's definitely one that is more used by older people. 

Use it like this

Ils ne peuvent s’empêcher de raconter des coquecigrues - They can’t help but tell nonsensical stories

La coquecigrue du développement durable - The absurdity of sustainable development

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