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12 phrases to show why ‘cul’ is a pillar of the French language

The word pops up frequently in commonly used French expressions

Cul pops up all over the shop in French; but does not always mean what you think it does Pic: Prostock-Studio / Shutterstock

For a word which translates as bum, ‘cul’ certainly crops up a lot in the French language. 

The ‘cul’ is often used to signify the end of something in French.

It is important to note that lots of these phrases are used in familiar settings, around people you know well, rather than new neighbours or your boss.

Here are some of the varied ways you might hear ‘cul’.

1. Cul-de-sac 

This one we have officially appropriated to Franglais - a cul-de-sac is a street with a dead end, meaning you can not pass through. Its literal translation is the “bottom of the bag or sack”.

2. Cul sec - down in one 

This one has been in the news amid the antics of French president Emmanuel Macron, who was filmed downing a bottle of beer in one. Cul sec literally translates as a ‘dry bottom’ but it also means finishing a drink in one go.

Read also: Six phrases to describe being drunk in French

3. Avoir le cul bordé de nouilles - to be lucky 

Literally, this translates as ‘to have the bottom lined with noodles’ however if you hear someone say this to you, it means they think you are lucky.

Along similar lines, the more simple avoir du cul also signifies being lucky or jammy. 

4. Bouche en cul de poule - pouting 

This refers to the pouty face people often pull when they are having their photo taken, sometimes referred to as a duck face. Literally, this translates to a ‘mouth like a chicken’s bottom’.

5. A se taper le cul par terre - very funny 

This is used to describe something that you found very funny. The phrase derives the image of someone rolling on the floor from laughing. Literally, it translates to ‘the bum hits the floor’.

6. Avoir le cul entre deux chaises - to be stuck in the middle 

Literally translating to ‘having your bottom stuck between two chairs’, this signifies being stuck in the middle, for example between two people arguing, or in a tricky situation when you do not know where to turn.

7. Être comme cul et chemise - to be best friends

This literally translates as ‘to be like the bottom and shirt’, but actually means to be best friends. Just like its French compatriot, the English version, ‘to be as thick as thieves’, is equally nonsensical.

8. Coincé du cul - uptight 

Coincé du cul literally translates to ‘stuck in the bottom’ and is used to refer to someone being uptight. 

Cul pincé is used to say the same thing.

Read also Mind their language: French phrases that kids swear by

9. En avoir plein le cul de quelque chose - to be sick and tired of something 

This means to have had enough of or to be completely sick and tired of something. It literally translates to ‘having a bottom full of it’.

10. Coup de pied au cul - Kick up the backside

If you need to motivate someone, you can give them ‘un coup de pied au cul’, otherwise known as a kick up the backside.

This is perhaps one of the phrases that makes the most sense; with cul being employed in its traditional form.

Botter le cul de quelqu’un can also be used in the same way. However, this phrase has a double meaning and can also be used in the sense of ‘to kick someone’s butt’.

11. Péter plus haut que son cul - to think you are better than others

If someone has got a bit too big for their boots, you can use this to imply that they think they are better than other people. The literal translation reads ‘to fart higher than your bottom’.

12. Se bouger le cul - Let us go/Get moving 

The literal translation would be ‘move your bottom’, so ensure to use this in the correct company and in a light-hearted manner!

The opposite is pose-cul which means sit still or sit down.

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