Tag Archives: French

It’s Anything

There are certain French phrases that have taken hold and stuck in my mind as tenaciously as the taste of Camembert cheese on a baguette eaten somewhere along the banks of the Rhone River.

Say, like somewhere here:

One of these phrases is “N’importe quoi!” or “C’est du n’importe quoi!” which seems to be uttered in situations of great frustration, surprise, or simple resignation.

The expression is figurative, of course – google translate explains that it means “It’s anything!” while it literally means “No matter!” but actually signifies, as far as I can tell from the facial expressions and raised shoulders, that something most definitely IS the matter. And after 15 months in Lyon, I can tell you that if your French boss would come gesticulating into the office and pointing at your meeting minutes saying “C’est du n’importe quoi!” you had better have the document on his desk early next morning, with all your ‘e’s properly circonflexed (ê) and your past participles all in agreement (purely hypothetical example – my French version of Word is well-equipped with spellchecker, and I’ve never actually had a French boss, but I’ve seen enough of them in action to be properly fearful).

Basically, it can mean ‘anything’ as in ‘everything’ (Michel Delpech sings that ‘for a flirt with you, he’ll do n’importe quoi) but it also means something is a bunch of nonsense or poorly-made/ridiculous (the second meaning is where the raised shoulders and frequently eyebrows come in). (C’est du) n’importe quoi is also the equivalent of our “whatever” and in that last case is accompanied by much shoulder and head shrugging.

All of this to say, last week was a bit of n’importe quoi for me but things seem to be looking up and I will keep posting on anything and everything in the days ahead! Stay tuned.