Lockdown lingo

As France spends its second week in Lockdown II, let’s look at some of the technical terms that we’ve all had to become familiar with.

Attestation – This word (certificate) – already crucial to France’s true religion of bureaucracy – became central to life during Lockdown I. Une attestation de déplacement dérogatoire was required for every trip out. The word is commonly used in many other situations for example: une attestation du travail proves that you are in work while une attestation de domicile is proof of where you live.

Demeurant – The attestation form introduced us to some rather formal French vocabulary including demeurant. It simply means where you live ie your address.

Déclaration sur l’honneur – The attestation form does not require any supporting proof, so it is relying on you to tell the truth about where you are going. However the fact that you declare it is true and sign it makes it a déclaration sur l’honneur (declaration on your honour, more usually translated as an affadavit) which gives it a legal standing.

Déconfinement – Is scheduled for early December but no one really believes it’ll be the official end of lockdown (le confinement). You  can use it as a verb too – déconfiner.

Non-respect du confinement – Some have been breaking lockdown rules resulting in Lockdown II. Violation du confinement means the same thing.

Amende – If you get any of France’s lockdown rules wrong you are liable to une amende de €135 – a €135 fine. This ramps up steeply for repeat offenders leading to prison confinement.

Cluster – Borrowed from the English, this term has been used from the beginning of the epidemic to talk about the infection outbreaks. You may also hear about foyers de contamination.

Geste barrière – This refers to all those habits and social distancing measures that we’ve had to get used to to protect ourselves and others: wearing a mask, sneezing into your elbow, washing hands regularly, etc.

Télétravail – Everyone in France who can is currently on télétravail, and will probably continue to remain so for quite some time. I can tell you that it’s absolutely not the same as pretending to work while lolling around watching daytime television.

Dépistage – There has been a certain amount of controversy in the press over France’s coronavirus testing strategy, currently available at many of the medical laboratories. Pretty much every town has at least one.

TousAntiCovid –  This is the new contact-tracing app, previously named StopCovid, that the government relaunched in October. Aside from using Bluetooth to alert those who have come in contact with a confirmed case of coronavirus, it also provides basic information on symptoms, case numbers and where you can get tested. And, yes I have downloaded the app.

Deuxième vague – France is firmly in the grip of a second wave of the coronavirus that is very different to the one experienced in March.

Réa – Short for lits de réanimation (intensive care beds), you may seen headlines talking about les paitents de Covid-19 rempliront les réas – Covid-19 patients are filling up intensive care beds. We’re up to about 85% at the moment.

Protocole sanitaire – All establishments, such as schools and shops, have had to follow a protocole sanitaire (health protocol) to stop the transmission of the virus. These are constantly changing. For example in schools, safety measures have been tightened and children above the age of six are now required to wear a mask, while only essential shops are now open.

Reconfinement – The ‘re’ prefix is incredibly useful in the French language: it can be added to create a completely new word to indicate repetition. However, reconfinement is not one the French were looking forward to adding to their vocabulary, seeing as what’s repeated here is the strict, nationwide lockdown that the country already experienced this spring.

But it’s not just the practical details that have had an impact, some (not us) have also needed to navigate some more subtle social codes during a highly stressful situation while trying not to tuer les voisins (kill the neighbours).

Bruit – Particularly applicable to those spending the lockdown in apartment blocks where a noisy neighbour can make your life a misery. If you have been a culprit, try a désolé pour le bruit (sorry about the noise) while if you need to make a polite request to shut up, use pourriez-vous réduire le bruit, s’il vous plâit (could you lower the noise please) on the first time of asking.

Egoïste – If you wish to mutter darkly about neighbours you believe to be breaking the rules, you could describe them as un connard égoïste – a selfish dickhead or une connasse égoïste – a selfish bitch.

Grosse balance – If you want to go further than muttering, you could report rule-breakers to the police. But you run the risk of being denounced as a grass. Balancer is the verb used for denouncing or exposing someone – as in balance ton porc (expose your pig) which is the equivalent of the Me Too hashtag in France. So if you suspect someone of sneaking, you could say tu es une grosse balance – you’re a big snitch.

I’m happy to report that our neighbours are delightful and have been following the recommended guidelines to the letter. Consequently, I’ve restarted my delivery of goody parcels, because many of my neighbours are:-

Personnes vulnérables – ‘Vulnerable persons’ are those who are elderly and those with pre-existing conditions that make them at risk of becoming seriously ill from the virus. They are also known as les personnes fragiles. Fortunately we’re neither.

But it’s not all been hatred and spying, for many lockdown has re-established what is truly important in life.

Les proches – If somebody has died you will frequently hear mes sincères condoléances aux familles et aux proches – my sincere condolences to the families and loved ones. Proche literally means close so in this content it means ‘those close to’ but better translates as loved ones. During the lockdown we have seen a lot of advice on most people’s main concern comment garder contact avec vos proches – how to keep in touch with your loved ones.

Apéro – Another great French love which we’ve truly embraced is the apéritif or pre-dinner drinks ritual. This has now moved indoors and online as an apéro Skype or apéro Zoom. In Lockdown II we’ve also moved onto dîner Zoom.

Rester en forme – While the Germans cheerfully coined a word to describe the weight gained during the first lockdown (coronaspeck – corona lard) the French media saw a proliferation of articles on how to restez chez vous, rester en forme – stay home but stay in shape. We’re still following their excellent advice.

Les sextos – I’m reliably informed that dating has become slightly tricky during lockdown so many are resorting to technology based-courting rituals instead. You will hear either le sexting or les sextos for the practice of sending saucy snaps by text message or other messaging platforms.

But much as I may like to pretend it’s all been reading Proust, sipping wine and sexting the hot neighbours, many have taken up a less glamourous – but highly French – hobby during lockdown. Complaining.

Râler – France understandably has a lot of words for complaining including the formal se plaindre which is the most frequently used, but you also have rouspéter, ronchonner, grommeler, grogner and maugréer which are variously equivalent of to moan, to grouse, to grumble or to bitch.

Ras-le-bol – When you have watched eveything on Netflix, read every book in the house and rearranged your sock drawer twice then you can exclaim J’en ai ras-le-bol de le confinement ! – I’m fed up of lockdown!


22 Comments on “Lockdown lingo

  1. Thanks for the useful compendium of French vocabulary for the lockdown.


  2. Some history + science person here pointed out that the US corona pattern is, so far, EXACTLY mimicking the pattern and mortality rate of 2018 pandemic, which had 3 major waves over 2 years. I’m not expecting a return to normal any time soon.

    What’s different about the 2nd lockdown?

    Here in Los Angeles county, we never got very far out of 1st lockdown. So while other areas are freaking out about thongs closing again, many of ours never opened. But we’re not yet back to full lockdown and I think there’s a strong chance that’s coming soon. I live alone and just emerged from 3yrs of illness and depression which caused me to isolate. I thought I’d be desperate to socialize but I actually miss the peace, quiet, and safety* that came with full lockdown.

    *I felt safe sitting on my porch steps in the middle of the night. Now I fear the random people who are out & about at those hours.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Pingback: Live in the Time of Coronavirus: Pt 19: Reblog-Lockdown Lingo – e-Quips

  4. Great post Sheree! Is there any differences between the first lockdown and the second, or are they basically the same? So far no lockdown here, things are quiet, yet just 2 hours west of us it is full lockdown and things are really bad. Take care and stay safe Sheree!

    Liked by 1 person

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