It seems to be slang week here at Languagehat; today, via the eternally prinsessor-smitten Des, the BBC’s Le Français Cool. From the La bouffe/Nosh section:

La barbaque: Bad meat. Old slang word, the origins of which are uncertain. It may come from the Romanian word “berbec”, lamb, that French soldiers brought back to France in 1855. But it may also be of Mexican-Caribbean origins, from the word barbecue. Again, French soldiers didn’t really appreciate meat cooked that way but they brought the word back from Mexico in 1862. Anyway, whatever the exact origins of this word, nowadays it means meat of very poor quality.


  1. Probably just a folk-etemonlogy, but I was always struck by the image. Someone told me that the word “barbaque” came from the French for “from the beard to the tail” referring to how they skewered the animal over a fire…

  2. funny, i was trying to find the word for barbeque amongst some French friends and i said something like, “Bon, on va faire la barbaqué ce soir” and did they ever howl. it sure is a funny word.

  3. Hmm… On checking my Dictionary of Modern Colloquial French I find that barbaque also has the meaning ‘low-class prostitute,’ which may have added to your friends’ amusement.

  4. This has dire ramifications for my attempts at grilling.

  5. Did I tell you about the barbequing of Bobby Seale? I tell as many people as possible about it. Because it just amuses me. Hell, you can watch video of BobbyQueing on the Internet. Screw that Human Genome Project thing!
    (And just note the various forms of the word: “BobbyQueing,” “Barbeque’n,” ” barbe-que’n,” “barbequing,” “qued down to the bone” (not to mention “pit-quing”)….

  6. And not to mention “‘cue-be-rab’ (barbecuing backwards)”! Great stuff – thanks!

  7. My nickname at school is “Hickey”. Is there a way to say “hickey” in French?

  8. If you mean in the sense of ‘lovebite,’ it’s suçon.

  9. i live in china, i got a part-time job as an interpreter in a trade fair, a foreigner( i dont know him at all) he came to ask who i ate my sunday bruch with. so what did he mean?

  10. “Berbec” is Romanian for “ram,” not “lamb”; so “carne de berbec” is mutton.

  11. How do I say “junk food” in French?

  12. La malbouffe.

  13. atticmouse says

    I’ve read that the translation of the french word “drague” is exclusively used by gay men as a term that describes searching for partners. I’ve been living in France for the past two months and I’ve heard the expression used several times in everyday conversation. Is there another meaning for this word?

  14. What would the best translation of the following sentence be – “A-t-il raison de mepriser ce brouet a la sauce marketing?” the literal translation being something to do with gruel!! Any help would be appreciated

  15. That’s what brouet means, all right, but it also has the extended meaning of ‘wretched cooked-up stuff,’ as in un noir brouet ‘a foul brew.’ Hope that helps.

  16. How do the French say no thank you commonly, as if talking to a friend or commrade?

  17. Would you spit-roast a barbaque?

  18. Lauren Graham says

    Can anyone help me with how to say “to break in a pair of shoes?”

  19. anyone know what “elle dit qu tu n’ est pas une bombe.” means in all its slangarity

  20. The sentence sounds strange and more context’d be needed. However, when applied to a person, “bombe” belongs to sexist “catcalling” slang:
    “une fille (or meuf, which is verlan for “femme”) canon” is a “hot gal”. “Bombe” (or, in my high school experience, “bombe atomique”) is the superlative form, the next level:
    – “Téma (from “mate” = “look”) la meuf, là-bas, trop canon, quoi !”
    – “T’es fou ? C’est carrément une bombe atomique, tu veux dire ! Eh, Mademoiselle… !” (etc.).
    Now, in the context of cultural consumption, “bombe” (or “beubon”) means “great”, “cool”, etc. (something like “it’s a riot” or “dope”, “ill”, as far as I can tell):
    – “‘Tain, j’ai acheté l’dernier NTM (“Nique Ta Mère”, a successful rap duo of the 90s), ch’te jure, c’est trop d’la bombe, sérieux !”
    In this instance, “bombe” is a synonym for “balle” (ball/bullet), though with a different syntax:
    – On a été voir le film avec Eminem : ben, c’était d’la balle, tavu.
    Jean-Pierre Goudailler could certainly tell you more.

  21. In other words, MrBobo’s sentence means something like ‘She says you’re not all that’ (or, in the parlance of an earlier generation, ‘not God’s gift’).

  22. though with a different syntax
    The syntax is actually the same in my example. I was thinking of an other use of “bombe”: you can say (of a record, a movie, an event) “c’est une bombe”, while *”c’est une balle” would be improper.
    – “c’est d’la bombe” or “c’est une bombe”;
    – “c’est d’la balle”.
    (some also say “c’est une tuerie”, but I gotta get goin’.)

  23. Yes, LH, I wouldn’t have found it by myself, but I think ‘She says you’re not all that’ is on point for the meaning (though less ‘slangish’ and more ‘polite’, perhaps).

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