There is “proper” French language. There is “vulgar” French language (swear words and such.)
And then, there’s the middle ground: popular language, common everyday slang.
They’re neither proper nor rude, but they’re the words we actually use the most: French for everyday life!
Today I want to show you a few of these most common words.
Bonjour I’m Géraldine, your French teacher. Welcome to Comme une Française.
Today, like every Tuesday, I’ll help you get better at speaking and understanding everyday French.
C’est parti !
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0) Lesson Summary
1. La bouffe (= food)
2. Le fric (= money)
3. Le boulot (= work)
4. Un mec (= a guy)
5. Se casser (= to leave)
6. Les fringues (= clothes)
7. Une godasse (= a shoe)
8. Une bagnole (= a car)
9. Une baraque (= a house)
10. Un machin (= a thingy)
1) La bouffe
“La bouffe” is French slang for “la nourriture,” which means food.
It’s technically slang, but it’s a very popular word in French!
In verb form, it becomes bouffer (= manger in correct French = “to eat”.)
We don’t use it for fine dining, but rather for meals with no frills; occasions where what matters isn’t the quality of the food, but rather the act of eating, preferably with plenty of people around.
We also have the slang word une bouffe (= un repas in correct French = a meal.)
“Une bouffe” is typically a meal with friends or people you want to connect with informally. A cliché of French networking is in the sentence:
« On s’appelle, on se fait une bouffe ? »
= literally, “We call each other and we make a meal?”
= figuratively, “Let’s get in touch and have a meal some time soon, OK?”
2) Le fric
“Le fric” is popular slang for “l’argent,” money.
French slang has a lot of different words for “money,” but “fric” is especially ubiquitous. Another common slang synonym is la thune / des thunes.
3) Le boulot
“Le boulot” is a very common word for “le travail,” or “work” in general.
J’ai beaucoup de boulot. = J’ai beaucoup de travail. = I have a lot of work (to do.)
Un boulot also means un travail, or “a job.” “Small jobs,” like side-gigs or after-school paid work, are often referred to as les petits boulots, for instance.
This word is so common and accepted that I don’t know if it’s really slang anymore. It’s not considered highbrow, official vocabulary though, but rather it is part of the French language we speak in our everyday lives.
On the same level, “bosser” (familiar French) means “travailler,” (correct French), “to work.”
A popular synonym is le taf / un taf / taffer (= slang for work / a job / to work.) Another related slang word is une boîte (= literally “a box” = slang for une entreprise = a company.)
4) Un mec
Un mec is everyday French for “some guy,” or “un gars.” The proper word would be un garçon (= a boy), or un homme (= a man.)
“Mec” is also used for “a boyfriend.”
« Tu savais que Camille, elle a un nouveau mec ? »
“Did you know that Camille has a new boyfriend?”
(In this example, I used la répétition / la reprise. Learn more about this bit of everyday French grammar in this lesson: Spoken French Grammar – La Reprise.)
The feminine counterpart would simply be une fille, a girl or a daughter. Une meuf (= slang for une petite amie = a girlfriend) is more recent and a bit less proper (more youth slang.) It comes from a type of French slang called “le verlan.”
Michel a une meuf.
= slang for “Michel has a girlfriend.”
Michel a une fille.
= correct French for “Michel has a daughter.”
By the way:
Le verlan is a kind of French slang where we create new words by putting the syllables à l’envers (= in the reverse order.)
l’envers → l’en-vers → vers-l’en → verlan
The word “Verlan” is itself verlan for “à l’envers” !
Just like “slang” is itself shortened language for “shortened language.”
5) Se casser
Literally, in correct French, se casser means “to break oneself.” In everyday French slang, though, se casser means partir (= to leave.)
Other synonyms include se barrer (= literally “to bar oneself”) and se tirer (= literally “to pull oneself / to shoot oneself.”)
With the hard “r” sounds and the general associations of the words, these verbs sound a bit abrupt, possibly even confrontational (especially in the imperative!).
A more subtle and less rude synonym is filer (= literally “to weave” = “to sneak out” / “to leave.”) It often implies that you’d like to stay, but you need to go somewhere else.
« Déjà 17 heures ? Oulah, je file. Au revoir ! »
“Is it 5 pm already? Wow, I have to go. Goodbye!”
While we would have something like:
« Déjà 17 heures ? Bon, je me casse / je me tire / je me barre. »
“It’s 5 pm already? Well, I’m finally free to go, so I’m leaving.”
6) Les fringues
“Les fringues” is slang for “les vêtements” (= clothes.) It’s a feminine word, most often used in the plural.
The verb is se fringuer, slang for s’habiller (= to get dressed)
Tu es bien fringuée aujourd’hui !
“Your clothes are lovely today!” / “You’re well-dressed today!”
…Which isn’t actually a compliment.
A synonym is the verb (se) saper. As in:
Je suis désolée chéri mais tu te sapes mal.
I’m sorry dear, but you dress badly.
7) Une godasse
Une godasse is popular French for une chaussure (= a shoe.) It makes us think of heavy sneakers or hiking shoes, rather than high heels. It’s not une déesse (= a goddess!)
Another common synonym is une pompe / des pompes (= literally pumps) which is used in the expression:
Je suis à côté de mes pompes.
(= literally, “I’m standing next to my shoes,”)
(= figuratively, “I’m confused, I’m out to lunch.”)
8) Une bagnole
Une bagnole is slang for une voiture (= a car.)
We also very often use une caisse (= literally “a box”.)
“Sympa, ta caisse !”
= literally, “Nice, your box / your car!”
= figuratively, “That’s a nice car you have.”
9) Une baraque
“Une baraque” is popular French for “une maison” (= a house.)
Il y a dix ans, j’ai acheté une baraque aux Bahamas.
= Ten years ago I bought a house in the Bahamas.
10) Un machin
Un machin is ‘something,’ or quelque chose. It might be une chose (= a thing), or un objet (= an object.) This is especially good to use when you don’t remember the name of the object itself. It’s very common in spoken French!
It can also replace someone’s name that you’ve forgotten, because they’re not that important.
Et tu as pu parler à Machin, là ?
= And did you get to talk with that other guy, over there?
“Machin” is close in meaning to the weird-sounding word le bidule, which is like “a widget.”
Another more common variation is le truc.
Tu me passes le truc ?
= “Can you give me that thing?”
“Le truc” is also an effect, a trick or a secret ploy to fool people.
And finally, it can also be used to denote a personal preference. For instance:
Le saut à l’élastique, c’est pas vraiment mon truc.
“Bungee jumping isn’t really my thing.”
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Et toi ?
Did you know any of these words before?
Which other French popular words could you add to this list?
Which one will you be using first?
Share your answers in the comments below!
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Allez, salut 🙂