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How’s It Waxing? – Silly French Slang Posted by on Jun 13, 2019 in Culture, Vocabulary

Words can unintentional sound funny when switching between le français et l’anglais (French and English). Les faux amis (false friends) like raisin juice are fun on their own, but when a perfectly normal word in one language sounds like a more cheeky word in  the other, the effect is greatly amplified.

Image from Pixabay. Licensed under CC0.

I recently learned un nouvel argot (a new slang word) when mon collègue (my coworker) was feeling a bit goofy and greeted me in a way I had never heard before:

Salut John ! Ça farte ?
Hi John! How’s it farting?

I could understand the idea of saying something else for “Ça va ?” (How’s it going?) and sometime hear people play around with Ça roule ?” (How’s it rolling?), but this seemed a little too farfetched.

Salut ? Ça va…
Hi? I’m fine…

Being first thing in the morning, I didn’t want to deal with trying to figure out why he was being borderline rude and decided to focus on mon café (my coffee) as I turned on l’ordinateur (the computer).

Salut John ! Ça farte ?

When it happened again a few weeks later, I thought about les petits yeux (the little eyes) and other expressions that had flown over my head. Maybe there was more here than just silly office pleasantries?

Not wanting to cause a scene, I didn’t ask about it. I did however decide it was time to look up the confusing word and see if this really was a case of an unfortunate faux ami. Sure enough, I was wrong and there was nothing inappropriate about what mon collègue had said.

It turns out there really is un mot français normal (a normal French word) that will makes les anglophones (English speakers) giggle:

Le fart – Ski wax

It’s then easy to understand le verbe (the verb) and other connected words

Farter – To wax skies
Le fartage – Waxing skies

D’accord (alright), it wasn’t a naughty word, but I still hadn’t found the connection between le fart et l’argot (the ski wax and the slang).

After researching some more, it turns out “Ça farte ?” really is a somewhat dated slangy way to say “Ça va ?”

The silly version of the simple greeting was popularized by the 2005 film, Brice de Nice. The entire plot is completely au sécond degré (sarcastic) and the main character, played by the famous Jean Dujardin, is a parody of Patrick Swayze’s character in Point Break.

The stereotypical surfer speaks in a rather strange way, including liberal use of:

Ça farte ?
How’s it waxing?
How’s it going dude?

While confusing at first, I quickly understood what I felt while learning le nouveau mot (the new word) must be what les francophones (French speakers) feel when they learn about the English word, pet.

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About the Author: John Bauer

John Bauer is an enthusiast for all things language and travel. He currently lives in France where he's doing his Master's. John came to France four years ago knowing nothing about the language or the country, but through all the mistakes over the years, he's started figuring things out.


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