11 Mots Merveilleux Recently Added to the French Dictionary

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Every year the publishers of one of the most popular French dictionaries, Le Petit Robert, release a list of the new words to be included in their next edition. For the 2014 edition, the words which will be making their dictionary début include recently coined terms from politics, sciences, and the arts, along with a sizeable helping of slang. The list reliably provokes indignant complaints about the decline of standards and ruination of the language, but detractors need not worry. The list actually shows how French remains robust, alive, and in step with the times. Here are 11 mots merveilleux from the new Le Petit Robert.

1. galoche, galocher

A galoche is a French kiss, and galocher is the verb "to French kiss." It may be surprising that the French didn't already have a word for this. In fact, they have always had various phrasal expressions for the kiss they supposedly invented, but now it's captured in a single word. It's not clear how the galoche, or boot of an ice skate (related to the English "galoshes"), got attached to this activity, but another term for French kissing, rouler un patin, also refers to ice skates, so … something about sliding around?

2. gnagnagna

This fabulous onomatopoeia is pronounced approximately "nya nya nya" and contains just as much derision, though of a slightly different kind. While we say "nya nya nya" to mock someone that we've somehow gotten the best of, gnagnagna means roughly "blah, blah, blah" or "yadda, yadda, yadda" and is used to express that I so don't care what you're blabbing on about…

3. clasher

This verb borrows from the English "clash," but refers more specifically to a type of feud or "beef" between two people or factions, especially rappers. (There's even a French genre called "clash rap"). You can clasher someone by dissing their looks, their style, or even their mother. Clashez avec prudence!

4. kéké

When you faire le kéké you impress no one. A kéké is an open-shirted fool, a poseur, a tacky showoff. It's usually used for a guy trying to impress the "laaaadiiiieeezzz!!!" but the feminine version, kékée, is not unheard of. Here's an full illustration of the concept from comedian Franck Dubosc's sketch "Le Kéké des plages":

5. chelou

There's a language game in France, sort of like Pig Latin, called verlan, where parts of words get reversed or rearranged. Verlan itself is a verlanization of l'envers or "the inverse" (pronounced lan-ver, it becomes ver-lan). Chelou is the verlan version of louche (shifty, unsavory), and is used to talk about creepy or suspicious characters.

6. hénaurme

A playful spelling of énorme (enormous), spoken with an exaggerated pronunciation. It's a humorous way to say really, really enormous. I guess that makes it the "ginormous" of French.

7. palmé

Last year, oscariser, "to win an Oscar," made the list, making it easier to say things like "Titanic is the most oscarized film of all time." It seems only fair then, that now there is a word for winners of the Cannes Festival Palme d'Or: "palmed." Now it's every director's dream to be oscarized and palmed.

8. texter

Though the Académie Française would rather you say "envoie-moi un message" (send me a message), the kids are already using texte-moi and don't seem likely to stop.

9. patenteux

This term is specific to Québécois French and describes a certain type of resourceful person who can fix your sink or repair your carburetor with nothing but the lint in his pocket and a stick of gum. A MacGyver, if you will.

10. chialage

Another Québécois word, this one comes from the verb chialer, meaning "to cry" or "whimper," but has taken on the meaning of "bitching and moaning." Chialage is a handy noun form you can use to say "stop yer bitchin' and moanin'!" Arrete ton chialage!

11. plan cul

Let's just say this one is "booty call" and whatever that means to you.

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May 31, 2013 - 11:35am
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