Non, mais c’est pas possible! Learning some Parisian street-talk will help you understand Parisians a little better.
Technically putain means prostitute but it also serves as a handy exclamation of rage, frustration, disgust, joy, surprise, excitement and more rage. ‘Putain, ça pue!‘ is particularly useful to know when around unpleasant odors.
2. Ça schlingue!
To schlinguer is to stink. So, if you want to really emphasise the malodorousness of your surrounding environment (and you probably will at some point), let rip with a ‘Putain, ça schlingue!‘
3. Non, mais, c’est pas possible!
Some places are known for having a yes culture but Paris is not one of them. Whether you’re at the bank, in a café or anywhere else you might expect some kind of helpful service client when you really need it, you’re more likely to hear ‘non, mais, ce n’est pas possible’ than a friendly ‘oui, sans probleme’. Don’t lose hope, however, just keep asking politely but firmly until you get what you want or are at least given a reasonable explanation as to why it isn’t possible (if that genuinely is the case).
4. Crever la dalle
Not uniquely Parisian, but oft overheard in the capital when ‘tu crèves la dalle‘, you’re starving and you’ll either punch someone or faint if you don’t get something to eat soon.
Agreeing with something can be easily expressed with a carefully placed ‘grave‘ after the other person has finished speaking, whether you’re agreeing enthusiastically, in an eyeroll-y kind of way, or aren’t really listening at all.
Literally ‘I’m hallucinating’, this phrase is perfect for creating an over-exaggerated sense of ridiculousness. Technically it’s just a way of expressing surprise, but is often used to turn various molehills into mountains, such as ‘J’hallucine! Il n’a même pas repondu à mon texto!’ if somone doesn’t reply to your text.
7. Rouler une pelle
When you’re kissing with tongues, you roule une pelle. Rouler means to roll, and une pelle is a shovel, an uncomfortable metaphor for a tongue. It sounds gross but makes a surprising amount of sense when you think about it.
A very informal word for ‘woman’ that will cause offence when used haphazardly among elderly relatives or professional superiors. Grannies, bosses or anyone you usually feel the need to vouvoyer (use the formal vous) are not meufs.
Running late? Nobody needs know, especially if they’re waiting for you. When asked about your whereabouts answer with a quick ‘j’arrive’ to let them know you’re on your way. Literally it means ‘I’m arriving’ but anyone who says it, especially if they’re on the metro, definitely isn’t.
10. Non, mais, WTF quoi
If you ever find yourself in a Parisian office environment, you’ll notice adding anglicisms to French sentences tends to happen all the time. It’s weird but a super helpful tactic when you’ve forgotten the French word for something. ‘What the f— quoi’ is a particular favourite, as is ‘c’est hype‘ and ‘je suis dans le rush, j’arrive’.
Originally from Devon in the UK, Kathy has spent the last six years as a student, a babysitter and writer in Paris, as well as a pizza connoisseur and writeronlocation for a year in New York City. She has a thing for pine trees, and enjoys drinking too much coffee, especially if it’s in a really big cup. Thumbnail credit: Demi-Brooke.