Common Clichés in French Journalism

Salut !

Newspapers and online journalism are a great way to improve your French – but some expressions like these come back frequently. Once fresh and powerful, they’ve been overused and turned into clichés like « Deafening silences », « dark hours »… and others.

Today I’ll show you some of the most common journalistic/newspaper cliches examples.

Et toi ?
Where have you read these clichés?
Have you noticed others that crop up regularly?
Which cliché in your own language do you especially dislike? Why?

Bonne journée!


Join the conversation!

    • Hi Robin!
      “Les Bisounours” are the French for the cartoon “Care Bears.” (They used “Bisou” = a cute kiss + “ours” = a bear)

      “On n’est pas au pays des Bisounours” or even using “Bisounours” is indeed a cliché of French journalism! Except it doesn’t really mean “the situation has changed drastically.”

      No, “Bisounours” (or referencing them) is more commonly used to mean “filled with good intentions and optimism, but blind to the harshful realities of the world.” It’s often used to dismiss arguments that rely on people being good – but it wouldn’t work in the real world where some people are bad, according to the journalist using that expression.

      Have a great day,

      – Arthur, writer for Comme une Française

  • Le clip ne marche pas. J’ai recu un message d’erreur. C’etait inclu dans le challenge de comprehension parmi d’autres “links”

    • Hi Amy!

      What happened? When you tried to click on the video, it didn’t start?
      It works fine for me, so I’m intrigued.

      Maybe it will work better with the YouTube video directly?

      By the way, “a link / links” = “un lien / des liens” 🙂

      – Arthur, writer for Comme une Française

  • Moi aussi, j’aime bien apprendre des mots nouvels. Pendent les deux semaines dernier, le mot “unprecedented” est trop souvent utiliser. Ce n’est pas un poncif (encore) mais j’espere de jamais l’ecouter encore! Je m’excuse de ne pas avoir les accents ici.

  • I hate
    Tidak ada asap tanpa api
    There is no smoke with no fire.

    Its a viscious way to justify judgement.

    • We kind of say “C’est pas sorcier”. It’s not the exact translation but this is the expression I’d use.
      We have a science program of the same name.

  • Tous les poncifs anglais qu’on a déjà dit mais aussi les phrases de gestion comme ‘going forward’, ‘step up to the plate’ (phrase américaine du jeu de baseball??), ‘blue sky thinking’ et trop d’autres à mentionner.

  • Je n’ai pas compris ce que veut dire l’expression “le pays des Teletubbies”. Géraldine, aurais-tu la gentillesse de me l’expliquer?
    Merci! 🙂

  • Les heures les plus sombres ……..

    Here in London, in Carlton House Terrace which
    is just up off of Pall Mall, there is a statue of
    Charles de Gaulle. His statue is just across the
    road from the building in which the Free French
    under de Gaulle had their headquarters in London
    during that period of 1940 to 1944. On the wall is a
    plaque, written in French, to commemorate de Gaulle’s
    leadership of the Free French during that time.
    It reminds me of the time I crossed onto the centre
    of l’Étoile in Paris to stand under l’Arc de Triomphe
    from where you can look down l’Avenue de la Grande
    Armée .. it’s one of Paris’s very impressive sights that’s
    worth seeing. And there of course is the tomb of the
    unknown soldier, along with the speech that de Gaulle
    made to the people of France in 1940 as a rallying call,
    and to tell them that all was not lost. It’s very moving ..

    France and England have such a long mix of a history as neighbours but, I hope, we’re old friends as well. For any
    English speaker who learns to speak French it is fascinating to discover just how much of the vocabulary of modern
    English originally comes from French .. “1066 and all that”.
    Now there’s a cliché for you 🙂

    I read somewhere once that every person has two
    countries in their life .. their own native country and
    la France. That really struck a chord with me, and it
    still resonates. I think it’s what we’re all doing here ..

    merci Géraldine

    John 🙂

  • One cliché that I find especially annoying in English is “think outside the box.” While the idea is a good one (meaning to be creative and think about nontraditional solutions to a problem), it feels ridiculous to use a cliché to mean something that almost means don’t be a cliché. 😉 And when people use it, they almost always sound as though they think they’re being so clever and creative. We need to come up with a new way to say this!

  • C’est étrange – hier matin, je me suis dit : “Il faut que je commence à lire régulièrement des journaux français pour apprendre”… et puis, j’ai trouvé ta nouvelle vidéo. 🙂 Encore une fois : merci pour ton travail, il est énormément utile !

  • The English phrase which pops up on a daily basis in the media which grates on me is ‘at the end of the day’. It is just so overused it’s really got tedious. ‘Absolutely’ as a verbal tick type of positive response to a question is annoying too.

    The thing I notice about French newspapers is that their level of assumed knowledge is much higher than a British or Australian newspaper. I mostly read provincial newspapers, so it may be worse with them. The journalists frequently assume you know the back story from years ago (often quite obscure). Most noticeable is the assumption that the reader knows where something is — whole articles about for example, about a new memorial, with no mention anywhere of where exactly it is, except the name of the town. Another not uncommon occurence is to have a promotional article about an upcoming event without mentioning the date and/or time it will be on. This is especially common when the event is annual, and I assume that as a local you are just supposed to know.

  • Bonjour Geraldine!
    The cliches “The ball is in his court”, “Deafening silence”, “wind in his sails” and “the icing on the cake” are commonly used in English too, to the extent that they could be considered cliches as well. That Camus gave us “deafening silence” is most interesting.
    In New Zealand cliches include “He spat the dummy”, meaning he had a tantrum like a baby in a cot spitting out his dummy (pacifier). Also, “It was a game of two halves”, annoyingly used almost every time a sports team, often a Rugby team, came back from losing to win the game, or vice-versa. There are many others.

  • I don’t think it’s a cliche, but I often read in the newspapers about ‘un fin de non recevoir.’ Coming from English, this seemed a double negative, but I believe it means the opposite – refusing to consider something. Anyway, I guess it remains a confusing expression for me!

  • I’ve got a 10-year-old granddaughter, and I was surprised to find out that CareBears are back in vogue. (Is “back in vogue” a cliché?) Gotta love the French trademark though, Bisounours.

    I’ll bet you could do a whole segment on the translation of trademarks/product names and of book and movie titles which are far from word-for-word. (KFC in Quebec is PFK, for example.)

    • Sounds like a funny episode! 😀 The differences between Quebec and France on these matters are always very interesting.

      • LOL. The whole Québécois joual v French in France would take an entire new blog. ????

        But Paul over at LangFocus did an interesting blog post on the downside of Quebec’s French sign laws for businesses.

  • Bonjour,
    Two l hate to hear are- ‘it’s a no brainier’ and ‘what’s there not to like’
    Both are very condescending and usually used by someone trying to sound clever.
    I hope there are not French equivalents!

  • Bonjour Geraldine,
    merci de cet episode. A propos “derapage”, ca me rappelle un entretiens avec Cecilia Attias pendant les troubles Sarkozy-Attias-Bruni, ou son interlocuteur l’a demande, comment etait-il cette periode-la? et elle lui a repondu : “Et la, ca a ete l’enfer, ou tout a derape…” (‘Oh my God that was pure Hell, everything fell apart/everything was out of control’) en parlant de l’inondation des medias dans sa vie.

  • I loved this video! Especially “On n’est pas au pays des Bisounours.” Thank you for this terrific compilation. With the upcoming elections in the US, we are seeing an abundance of clichés in the news. It’s great to have some to use in French!

  • Je trouve souvent dans les journaux le poncif « dialogue de sourds. » C’est à dire, quand les parties d’une négociation parlent mais n’entendent pas, ou ne se comprennent pas l’un l’autre.

    Avec ton exemple, Géraldine, si « les syndicats ont donné leurs propositions à la Ministre » et la Ministre a répondu avec ses propres propositions sans regarder les propositions des syndicats, c’est un dialogue de sourds.

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