Lesson One – Merde en France

France needs immigrants to fill jobs in the hotel, restaurant and catering sector. The country that invented gourmet food just hasn’t got enough people to serve it. The country’s building industry is also crying out for workers, and for some reason France doesn’t have enough mathematicians. This is probably because maths is so badly taught in schools that no one in their right mind would want to be a maths teacher. We also need doctors

Naturally, you can’t just hop across the Channel and find work. There are papers to fill, formalities to complete, a DNA sample to give and a 15-minute language test. (Oral and written)

To help you with the language test, I have decided to  teach you French. I’ll try to keep the lessons practical, upbeat and interesting. Naturally, I’m going to teach you all the rude words first, because they’re the ones you all want to know.


This is one you might already know. Merde, (pronounced M-AIR-DE) is the first rude word all French learners learn. The literal translation for Merde is « Shit » or « Shite » depending from which part of Blighty you hail.

Merde does not mean « Shit » all the time. Depending on the intonation, the expression and the circumstances it can mean « crap » or « fuck »

The word Merde might only seem to have one syllable, but the French actually pronounce it with two. Both syllables are stressed, and when pronounced properly, your Merde should sound something like this.


Remember to keep your « R’s » nice and guttural

So, when and how do we use Merde?

It can be said loudly and vehemently, or subtly under one’s breath on a daily basis, in all situations where you would say « Shit » in English

There are of course a variety of expressions with Merde.

C’est de la merde (say de la mair’d)– it’s a load of shit / it’s a load of crap.


Le dernier disque de Johnny c’est de la merde – Johnny Halliday’s last record is shit

Here’s another expression

Tu n’es qu’une merde (too nay kune mair’d) – you’re just a shit

What loving couples may say to one another in the midst of an acrimonious divorce

There are derivatives of Merde

C’est un petit merdeux (set urn pertee maider) – He’s a little shit

This one you might say when referring to someone’s kid who has spent half the night waking up the neighbourhood on his mini motorbike, before tagging your front door and pissing in your garden

Here’s another one

C’est merdique (say mairdeek)– It’s a fucking mess / it’s crap

This can be used when referring to the bad handiwork of an « odd job man » you’ve employed to renovate your farmhouse. It could also be used to qualify your administrative situation when you have not got the right papers.