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“Hyper-Top” French Phrases You Need to Know

The French language is very pleasant to the ear. Most people would agree it’s among one of the prettiest languages in the world. Many find it appealing because anything can sound seductive en Français. For others, the appeal is in the soft undertones, a relief from the loud and round sounds of English. Whatever it is, French is appealing.

But French is also fascinating. And, sometimes, it is very funny. Here is a list of words and phrases I have happened upon in France, all of which are amusing when viewed from the American context.


1. MDR (mot de rire): this is the French version of LOL, and it roughly translates to word of laughter

2. Ça me gonfle: this is what people say to say something is bothering them or annoying them. What is weird is the translation is that inflates/swells me. Maybe this one is a bit like blowing up or erupting in anger in English? We don’t have an exact equivalent…

3. Very Bad Trip: This is the title of The Hangover in France. Apparently a movie about tripping on acid attracts more moviegoers than our word for the side-effects of a night of alcohol. 

4. Top: this could also be used in English, but it sounds better with a French accent. Top is slang for the best or greatest. Anything along those lines works for this adjective. For example, I could say the food at my favorite restaurant is top.

5. Hyper: The English equivalent of this adjective would be super or uber. Honestly, its interest to me stems from it being a word we also use in English but less cool when we use it. This one, paired with top, makes a fun colloquial French hyperbole. 

6. C’est nul: This phrase means, “it sucks.” Technically nul is empty, void, or, obviously, null

7. Putting baaahhhh before oui or another phrase: This is an emphasis sound that is very pleasing my foreign ears. It is a bit like saying “uuuuhhhh” or “mmmmm.” Again, hard to match with an equivalent in English, but interesting that this was the sound the French went for when they needed emphasis.

8. C’était?: This is used by waiters when it appears that you’ve finished your meal. It translates to “it was?” Sort of like, “Are you finished?” But it also implies that they’re wondering if it was good. This one is mainly funny because it would drive a Francophile crazy due to its simplicity in the face of a beautifully complex and poetic language.


The list could go on and on, but at the risk that my amusement and fascination may offend a francophone, I’ll end it here.

Disclaimer** I am not perfect and the English language has profoundly bizarre idioms and rhetoric. No offense was intended towards my host country and les Français.      


Photos courtesy of:



Isabelle Vail

Wake Forest

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