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Three favourite Belgian phrases sneaking into the French language

From Belgian French, Flemish and Wallon, listen out for these linguistic interlopers as they might not mean what you think

Manneken Pis (Little man Pee) Brussels

If it about to rain in France, you can borrow a Belgian phrase Pic: Anibal Trejo / Shutterstock

We often address in this column the encroaching anglicisms that so irritate the defenders of pure French (namely the Académie Française) but in the interests of blame-game fairness how about influences from other languages on France's everyday vocabulary?

Read more: Franglais ou Frenglish? The history of French resistance to English

Read more: Comment: Why French institutions must stop their daft use of franglais

Belgium is among France's closest neighbours, linguistically speaking, so it's hardly surprising that 'belgicismes' (Belgianisms?) are fairly commonplace – especially, obviously, in the north-easternmost reaches of France.

Let us not forget that the Hexagon is also bordered by Luxembourg, Germany, Switzerland, Italy, Spain and Andorra 

Read more: Foreign tourists to France still down but EU neighbours are visiting

And even if you are just planning a visit to Belgium, it's handy to train your ear to some of their more evocative sayings.

Some evolved from either regional varieties of Belgian French, Flemish (they might be called "flandricisms") or from Wallon ("wallonisms"). 

The latter is a Romance language spoken in much of Wallonia and, to a lesser extent, in the capital, Brussels.

Among our Belgian favourites are "passer la nuit à l’amigo" which – beware! – does not mean "to spend the night with a friend" (ie. as per Spanish word amigo) but rather, spending the night at the police station. 

The "amigo" was the name that the people of Brussels gave to the dungeon when the region belonged to the Spanish Netherlands (in the 17th century).

More potential confusion to avoid – for some Belgians, dîner is just as likely to refer to lunch as dinner, much as regional or class variations of lunch, tea, dinner, supper, etc are rife across the UK.

Finally, if it looks like heavy rain is imminent, listen out for "il va dracher".


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