Deconstruct a French Word: La Vache

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la vache | “lah vash” | int. | damn; shit

Literally, la vache is a cow. Said after stubbing one’s toe, falling in love with an outfit that costs more than one month’s rent or after hearing some pretty gross story from a friend, though, turns it into something of a “swear word.” Use it in place of putain or merde, essentially, to convey a similar feeling with a slightly softer tone.

Ex., Ton mec a dépensé 600 euros sur ses baskets? La vache! Il est con!

Featured image of the Dictionnaire Larousse from Camilla Hoel on flickr.

Deconstruct a French Word: archi

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archi | “ahr-shee” | adv. | super; very; “hella”

Add archi before any adjective to add emphasis and, basically, sound like the cool middle schoolers I taught a year ago in Alfortville.

Ex., Le nouveau kebab près de chez moi…c’est archi-bon. Je l’ai mangé trois fois cette semaine!

C’est archi-bon, la nouvelle saison d’Orange is the New Black

While it’s normally found in front of the word “bon,” archi can precede adjective you want, really. It only makes it that much more intense.

Mon emploi de temps est archi-fou ce semestre. 20 heures de cours par semaine, plus 20 heures de travail et du baby-sitting à côté…je ne me repose jamais.

Featured image of the Dictionnaire Larousse from Camilla Hoel on flickr.

Deconstruct a French Word: N’importe Quoi

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n’importe quoi | “num-por-tuh kwoh” | whatever; anything; nonsense or silliness; bullshit

N’importe quoi is absolutely one whose common meaning you won’t find in your French textbook. Literally, it means “anything,” but the way most people use the phrase is to say that something is nonsense – and it tends to carry a negative connotation.

Ex., Il faut faire attention à ce que tu dis à ton professeur. Tu ne peux pas dire n’importe quoi! Sois poli!

Il fait n’importe quoi dans la salle de classe. Il sait pas comment se comporter.

You can use it to describe any non-satisfactory situation, really. Think about exceptionally poor service in a restaurant or a friend of yours mouthing off to someone without cause. Either of those things would be, essentially, n’importe quoi.

Ex., Je suis arrivée il y a 50 minutes et je n’ai toujours pas reçu ma commande. C’est du n’importe quoi! Je ne reviens jamais dans ce resto.

Elle n’a rien fait! Crie pas à elle! C’est n’importe quoi, ta reaction…

Featured image of the Dictionnaire Larousse from Camilla Hoel on flickr.

Deconstruct a French Word: ouf

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ouf | “oof” | “phew!”; crazy

Ouf can simply be a sound, an utterance that means “phew, that was close!” or “glad that’s done.” You know, the kind of thing you let out at the gym (or, if you’re me, after climbing the stairs to your apartment with your arms full of groceries).

Ex. Ouf! Je deteste monter chez moi avec quatre sacs de courses. Je suis vraiment fatiguée là!

Looking at it from the verlan point of view, “ouf” can be used to talk about a crazy person – in the form of a noun or an adjective

Il est un ouf, ce mec. Il vient de boire 5 shots de Jack tout seul…

Il est ouf! Il se lève a 3h du matin pour cuisiner un repas de steak frites.

Featured image of the Dictionnaire Larousse from Camilla Hoel on flickr.