French Language Blog

French Slang Expressions with the Letter E Posted by on Jun 11, 2010 in Culture, Vocabulary

In the “E” section of the B.A.-BA de l’Argot, we get to know today four French slang words used rather frequently; j’ai nommé:

– s’Éclater;
– s’Emballer;
– s’Embrouiller;
– s’Engueuler;
– Épingler

* * *

* s’Éclater:
The verb “éclater” means literally “to burst.” But figuratively speaking, its reflexive form, “s’éclater” means “to have an awesome time”, or “to get one’s kicks doing something.” Example: “Mais qu’est-ce qu’on s’éclate avec vous !” (An exclamation which can, in addition to the direct meaning of course, convey a sense of sarcasm, in case you’re bored out of your everloving mind, in the company of people you feel utterly compelled to use this expression…)

* s’Emballer:
As with the different senses of “s’éclater” mentioned above, the verb “emballer” means literally “to pack“,  or “to wrap“. Figuratively, however, its reflexive form, “s’emballer“, means to “get carried away“, or “to go out of control”, as in getting extremely angry. Example: “Pas besoin de s’emballer comme ça !“, when you tell someone that there is no need for them to “fly off the handle” with anger.

Here is a video of an art expo that took place in Paris just last year. As a “double entendre“, its witty title combines both meanings of the verb “semballer” (“wrapping”, that is, with the sense of “getting carried away.”)

Paris “s’emballe”:

* s’Embrouiller:
*Une* embrouille means a “mix-up“, a state of confusion. It can also mean a quarrel, hence the verb “s’embrouiller avec quelqu’un.” Par exemple: “Nous nous sommes embrouillés autour d’une histoire stupide” (“We quarreled over a stupid story.”)
En Belgique (In Belgium), if you evoke the word “embrouille“, you may immediately think of the oddly funny personnage of “François l’Embrouille (of his real name “François Damiens”): For your information, François is a self-anointed “spécialiste belge de la caméra cachée” (“A Belgian specialist of Candid Camera.”) He identifies himself as no less than “le plus grand provocateur de toute la Belgique” ! (

Here is François taking a pass at “ze Inglish” language:

* s’Engueuler:
by itlsef means to yell at someone, to “bawl somebody out”.  But s’engueuler avec quelqu’un means “to have a row with someone.” The corresponding noun is “une enguelade” (a dispute, a row, a bowling out.)
As you may (or may not) remember from a previous post,”Retour au Zoo des Locutions (Back to the Zoo of Idioms), we encountered a rather “fishy-sounding” French slang expression, namely “engueuler quelqu’un comme du poisson pourri“, which we described then as “a (charming) expression meaning to be so mad at you and ‘call you every name under the sun’, even though its literal significance is actually ‘to yell at you like rotten fish'”!

* Épingler:
It comes from the noun “épingle“, “a pin. ” It means to “arrest”, “to nail”, or “to nab” someone. So if you say: les keufs ont épinglé les escrocs en flagrant délit, that would mean that “the cops caught the crooks red-handed.”  In broad ters, “épingler” means “to criticize harshly.”

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