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Oh la barbe! Posted by on Aug 23, 2016 in Culture, Vocabulary

Nous avons reçu la visite de mes beaux-parents et de notre tante récemment. (We recently had a visit from my in-laws and our aunt.)  Ne me demandez pas comment (Don’t ask me how/why) but somehow we ended up talking about beards!

Oh la barbe / I am so bored! ;-)

Oh la barbe / I am so bored! 😉

French has many great expressions that incorporate the word “barbe” or that incorporate beards/facial hair in some way. One of my favorites is the title of this week’s blog. The expression “la barbe” (or “oh la barbe”) is a classic French expression of – depending on your tone and the context – everything from boredom to full on disgust! It can be translated as “how boring” to “enough already!”. It even has its own gesture (if you are talking to your French friends and you see one of them rubbing their cheek with the outside of their fingers . . . beware!).

Here are some other useful related expressions:

Au nez et à la barbe de quelqu’un / at the nose and beard of someone – to do something right in front of them that you simply don’t care if they see . . . even if it might be annoying or bad for them

Parler dans sa barbe / to talk in one’s beard – means to talk under one’s breath, to grumble or speak ill of someone so they can’t hear it

Rire dans sa barbe / to laugh in one’s beard – like above, to mock or make fun of someone behind their back or out of earshot of them

And some other expressions you might encounter:

“La barbe ne fait pas le philosophe” / The beard doesn’t make the philosopher. (Similarly “L’habit ne fait pas le moine” / The clothes don’t make the monk)

“Si la barbe suffisait à la sagesse, un bouc voudrait Platon.” / If a beard where all it took to be wise, a goat would equal Plato.

And finally, here’s a little comptine (nursery rhyme) that you can sing and play with little kids next time you’re in France.

Je te tiens, tu me tiens, par la barbichette; / I’ve got you (I hold you), you’ve got me (I hold you), by the chin hairs;

Le premier de nous deux qui rira* aura une tapette! / The first of us who laughs, will get a slap on the cheek!

Tenir / to hold

Je tiens I hold Nous tenons We hold
Tu tiens You hold Vous tenez You hold
Il/elle/on tient He/she/one holds Ils/elles tiennent They hold

Rire / to laugh

Je rirai I will laugh Nous rirons We will laugh
Tu riras You will laugh Vous rirez You will laugh
Il/elle/on rira He/she/one will laughs Ils/elles riront They will laugh

# rira is the future of the verb “to laugh”, but in this context we would translate it in English as simply “laughs”.

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About the Author: Tim Hildreth

Lise: Maybe not always. Paris has ways of making people forget. / Jerry: Paris? No, not this city. It's too real and too beautiful. It never lets you forget anything. It reaches in and opens you wide, and you stay that way. / An American in Paris


  1. Svaneska:

    Please can you clarify ….

    Vous ries = You laugh

    but my dictionary says this means : You PRAY ??
    reiz = laugh

    is this correct? or is it interchangeable spelling??

    • Tim Hildreth:

      @Svaneska Good catch, Svaneska! And thanks for reminding me that I meant to include the future conjugation of “rire”. Check out the updates.

  2. Svaneska:

    Thank you for your kind reply.