French Language Blog

Potpourri * Posted by on Jun 28, 2016 in Culture, Vocabulary

La semaine dernière (last week)**, we talked about changes in the French school week. Most notably about the change in the status of le mercredi. Once upone a time, Wednesday’s for younger children were filled with organized activities outside of school. For many older kids, Wednesday afternoons were filled with a trip to the movies, Wednesday being the traditional sortie (release) of new movies. [Up until 1937 movies in France came out on Fridays to allow movie theaters time to work out any technical issues ahead of the Sunday crowds (Sunday being the only day off back then). When Saturday was added to le week-end***, movies moved to Thursdays to give theaters time before the new, longer weekend. Since 1972 though, when Wednesday became the official day off for students all new movies (with rare exceptions) come out in France le mercredi.]


And speaking of movies, I thought I’d add two more to my list of films to see. I couldn’t include them in my previous post, because they didn’t quite fit the theme, but they are two very fun and very French movies to enjoy. Both feature the very funny Theirry Lhermitte, a fixture of French comedy since the 1970s and his time with Le Splendid, a French comic theater troupe that went on to film stardom with such films as Les Bronzés, Les Bronzés font du ski, and Le Père Noel est une ordure (all worth seeing! They are: “The suntanned”, “The suntanned go skiing”, and “Santa Claus is a piece of garbage”).

Le dîner des cons (remade in English as Dinner for Schmucks … but trust me, the original is funnier!) has a little something for everyone . . . from le football to the French tax code. Some may find it a tiny bit mean-spirited, but it is really a study in getting what you deserve.

Le Placard is a coming-out story of sorts, but with a definite twist. Really it is just the story of a working dad trying to get by, but how he does it is really quite ingenious. It’s a little risqué, so definitely one for the adults out there, but really just charming!

And now for something new: To keep up with my French and the goings on in France, I read a lot. Sometimes I still come across words that I find I don’t quite know the exact meanings of. In coming blogs, I’m going to share them with you. So without further ado, I give you random mots de vocabulaire pour la semaine (words of the week)!

Do you know the difference between un bâtiment and un immeuble ? Un immeuble is un bâtiment . . . but not every bâtiment is un immeuble. Both are buildings to be sure, but its more complicated than that. Un bâtiment is the generic term for any kind of building intended for people, animals, or things. Bâtiment can also refer to a large ship. And people will also talk of “le bâtiment” to refer to “construction” as an industry. Il travaille dans le bâtiment. / He works in construction. Un immeuble on the other hand is a specific kind of bâtiment, one with plusieurs étages (multiple stories), and that houses offices or apartments (so, you might translate immeuble as either “office building” or “apartment building” depending on the context.)

And finally, en parlant de bâtiments (speaking of buildings), check out what’s coming to the French skyline! I’m not sure at all what I think about this. I’m generally a fan of mixing the old and the new. When it’s done well (like la Pyramide du Louvre) it’s amazing. But for every Pyramide, there’s a Tour Montparnasse!

By Benh LIEU SONG (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

* This word which we got from French meaning a mix of things (usually dried flowers or herbs, but more generally any mix of things) literally means “rotten pot” (from pot / pot + pourri / rotten, decayed, lousy)

** La semaine dernière I also translated un crème as coffee. It was the easiest thing to do for song lyrics, but in the interest of accuracy, I refer you here for a great list of sorts of things you might order at un café.

***  Or if you prefer le weekend since, as of the recent application of French spelling reforms originally passed way back in 1990, both are now acceptable!

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About the Author: Tim Hildreth

Since my first trip to France at 16, I have been a passionate francophile. I love the language, food, music, art, people, and more that make France and la Francophonie in general such an amazing part of our global community. Having lived in France and studied the language and culture for over 35 years, it is my great pleasure to be able to share a little bit of my deep love with you through this blog.