A Few Favorite French Words

french words

( photo by Kevin G. )

I resoluted to improve my French. Hopefully this will also improve my English. I heard a story once where a woman at work would announce her body weight before she started her weekly meeting. Her goal was to loose weight. She felt that by announcing her weight each week, she would be motivated and more diligent with her dieting tactics. We’ve lived in France for five years. Five years of total immersion. You’d think that I would be fluent by now. But I’m not.

french words

Brent’s French is amazing. I know he’ll say he needs more work, but the dude can speak French. I feel more like a toddler. I understand a huge amount. I have conversations with people in French. Yet, I am limited on how I express myself. If you want to talk about what’s going on now or this morning or maybe even last night, I’m on. Talk about tomorrow or last year or that crazy Saturday in June, forget it. Blog in French? No way.

french words

I thought instead of saying I’d like to improve my French, I’d drag you along. Let’s begin with a few of my favorite French words, some of which, they won’t teach you at school.

Poubelle: “poo bell”

This is a trash can. It’s yet another example where everything sounds better in French.

Caca Doigt: “caca dwaht”

Google translate says this means “poo finger,” but every child in France uses it for the color brown. Now which shade of brown? I have no idea. I’ll ask Otto.

Déjà vu: I think you know how to say this one

I love this phrase because it comes up enough in conversation. Someone will say “have you seen this already?” I’ll say, “yes I have,” but it feels like déjà vu, whoa.

Potat: “poh-taht”

Oh sure they’ll teach you “pomme de terre” – “apple of the earth,” but just like “tomate,” so I hear “potate.” Potate – Pomme de Terre, let’s call the whole thing off.

On: “ohn”

This is how most people use “we.” Oh sure they’ll teach you “nous.” I still use “nous.” But you see, “on” is easier to conjugate. It’s quick. The children use it all the time. When I taught dance to small French children, they would use “on” and I had no idea what they were on about. I didn’t even hear it. “Nous” means “we.” You see? I’ve decided to adopt “on” to get more progress with my verbs.

Pain: “pah(n)” or “paing” in the Southwest

On the route to the airport, there is a black sign that swirls in the wind with letters written in white:


I drove by that four times with Brent’s mum. I told her that it was my favorite sign. I told her that it means that they sell bread there. She thought it was a pharmacy. You’ll see “pain” at many small shops that aren’t obviously pain shops. Another favorite is “depot de pain.” The possibilities of a “depot de pain” are only limited by yourself.

french words

Mais bon! Allez. Bon jour a tous! Je m’appelle Jean ( comme Jeans ). Je suis Américain. J’ai quatre enfants et je déteste la nouvelle chanson de Lady Gaga “Do What You Want.” Parce que c’est bizarre!

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6 thoughts on “A Few Favorite French Words

  1. cecilia says:

    Sister Jane de Valois taught me French at my convent high school. By the fifth form, she threw a great hissy fit.. coughed.. (she was very old) and threw me out of the class saying teaching me french was like teaching ‘greek to the pagans’… I still have NO IDEA what she meant. The Nun in the classroom down the hall popped her head out and beckoned me in and for the rest of the term I helped her teach English to the third formers .. Much better. c

    • Jean Curtis says:

      Yeah, we just talked with France about that. If your nationality is American, the nationality is feminine. On the “stay here long time” card. You are right, I should have used feminine for myself as well. I learned a lot today!

  2. grasspunk says:

    I think it is “patate”.

    Personal fave word is “emmerdement”. Murphy’s Law translates to “la loi de l’emmerdement maximum” or the law of maximum immersion in poop.

  3. Jean Curtis says:

    I love it that the internet is wrong. I should do this more often, very good for learning French.

    I forgot Emmerdement! I love that one!

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