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French Vocabulary

French Smoking Vocabulary & Expressions

Steve Oswald By Steve Oswald on July 17, 2018
cigarette smoking french vocabulary

Tu veux te tirer une sĂšche ? Learn the French smoking vocabulary as well as slang words to talk about cigarets and smoking in French + cultural notes. I’ll also explain three dumbfounding smoking expressions.

1 – French Tobacco Vocabulary

  1. le tabac (c silent) – tobacco
  2. le tabagisme – fancy formal word to talk about smoking… In the news, you’ll find sentences like “les problĂšmes du tabagisme en France”…
  3. un fumeur / une fumeuse – a smoker
  4. une cigarette – cigarette
  5. une cigarette blonde – light tobacco cigarette
  6. avec ou sans filtre – with or without filter
  7. la nicotine – nicotine
  8. un patch – a patch
  9. une clope, une sĂšche, une cibiche – cigarette, familiar: ciggy, smoke
  10. une cigarette Ă©lĂ©ctronique – e-cigarette
  11. vapoter – to smoke an e-cigarette
  12. un vapoteur / une vapoteuse – person who smokes e-cigarettes
  13. un cigar – cigar
  14. un cigarillo – smaller kind of cigar
  15. un joint – joint
  16. rouler un joint – to roll a joint
  17. la marijuana, la marijane – marijuana
  18. un briquet – lighter
  19. une allumette – match
  20. un cendrier – ashtray
  21. un mĂ©got – butt
  22. la cendre – ash
  23. la fumĂ©e – smoke
  24. fumer – to smoke (verb)
  25. se griller une clope – to smoke, familiar
  26. crapoter – to smoke without inhaling fully the smoke
  27. un paquet de cigarette – pack
  28. une taffe – a puff
  29. la zone fumeur / la zone non-fumeur – smoking/ non-smoking section
  30. un bar-tabac = where you can buy tobacco. It’s usually part of a bar and has a large sign that says “tabac”.

cigarette smoking french vocabulary

2 – Smoking in France

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The French smoke a lot. It’s been changing a bit lately, but still, its’ a real nuisance.

Smoking is allowed in the streets, and most of the time on the patio of French restaurants, bars… So, think twice about seating “en terrace” if you are a non-smoker. It’s the smokers’ territory and they do feel entitled to smoke there.

If someone smokes and it bothers you, you may try to say: “excusezmoi: est-ce que vous auriez la gentillesse de ne pas fumer. Ça me dĂ©range beaucoup / je suis allergique Ă  la fumĂ©e” – sorry, would you be kind enough as not to smoke. It bothers me a lot / I’m allergic to smoke. Good luck to you though, since this is not customary in France…

And if you are a polite smoker, you may ask: “est-ce que ça vous dĂ©range si je fume” – do you mind if I smoke?

2 – Meaning of the French Smoking Expression “Casser Sa Pipe”

Au cours d’une conversation avec un ami, vous posez une question Ă  propos de la santĂ© d’une ancienne collĂšgue et la rĂ©ponse est quelque chose comme « Je suis dĂ©solĂ©, mais elle a cassĂ© sa pipe il y a deux mois. » Savez-vous ce que ça veut dire, ou vous demandez-vous pourquoi votre connaissance, elle, aurait commencĂ© Ă  fumer une pipe ?

During the course of a conversation with a friend, you ask a question about the health of a former co-worker and the response is something like, “I am sorry, but she a cassĂ© sa pipe two months ago.“ Do you know what that means, or are you wondering why your acquaintance would take up smoking a pipe?

TrĂšs simplement, l’expression casser sa pipe est un idiome français qui signifie mourir. L’origine de cette expression n’est pas Ă©vidente et il y a plusieurs explications sur internet. On trouve Casser sa pipe au XVIIe siĂšcle dans les mazarinades, qui Ă©taient des Ă©crits satiriques contre le gouvernement, ou plus prĂ©cisĂ©ment, les politiques du Cardinal Mazarin, le Premier ministre de Louis XIV lorsque le roi Ă©tait encore un enfant. À cette Ă©poque-lĂ , l’expression casser sa pipe signifiait “se mettre en colĂšre”.

Very simply, the expression casser sa pipe is a French idiom that means to die. The origin of this expression is not clear and there are several explanations on the internet. Casser sa pipe was found in the 17th century in les mazarinades which were satirical writings against the government, or more precisely, the policies of Cardinal Mazarin, the Prime Minister of Louis XIV when the King was still a child. At that time, the expression casser sa pipe meant to be angry.

Cependant, au XIXe siĂšcle, au temps des guerres napolĂ©oniennes, le sens de cette expression a changĂ© pour dĂ©signer l’acte de mourir. L’explication la plus courante donne Ă  peu prĂšs ça : sur les champs de batailles, si un chirurgien militaire soignait un soldat griĂšvement blessĂ© et qu’il fallait amputer une jambe ou un bras, l’opĂ©ration avait lieu sans aucune anesthĂ©sie, sauf peut-ĂȘtre une boisson alcoolisĂ©e. (En Occident, jusqu’en 1846,la chirurgie ne se faisait pas sous anesthĂ©sie gĂ©nĂ©rale !) Selon la lĂ©gende, le mĂ©decin plaçait une pipe dans la bouche du soldat pour qu’il la morde pour empĂȘcher le soldat de hurler. Cependant, si le patient mourait pendant l’opĂ©ration, la pipe tombait par terre et se cassait. Qu’en pensez-vous ? Peut-ĂȘtre une explication trop tirĂ©e par les cheveux pour vous (un idiome qui veut dire far-fetched) ?

However, by the 19th century, at the time of the Napoleonic Wars, the meaning of this expression had changed to mean the act of dying. The most common explanation goes like this: on the battlefield, if a military surgeon was caring for a gravely wounded soldier and amputation of a leg or arm was necessary, the operation took place without any anesthesia, except maybe a drink of alcohol. (Surgery in the western hemisphere was not done under general anesthesia until 1846!). According to legend, the doctor would put a pipe in the mouth of the soldier to bite on to prevent the soldier from screaming. However, if the soldier died during the operation, the pipe fell to the ground and broke. What do you think? Maybe an explanation too far-fetched for you?

En anglais il y a d’autres expressions qui signifient l’acte de mourir comme mordre la poussiĂšre, donner un coup de pied dans le sceau, abandonner le fantĂŽme, ou acheter la ferme. Pouvez-vous imaginer l’origine de ces expressions familiĂšres ?

In English, there are other expressions that mean the act of dying such as: to bite the dust, to kick the bucket, to give up the ghost, or to buy the farm. Can you imagine the origin of these colloquial expressions?

cigarette smoking french vocabulary

3 – Meaning of the French Tobacco Expression “Fumer Comme un Pompier”

Je soupçonne que cette expression, la deuxiĂšme dans notre sĂ©rie d’expressions françaises autour du thĂšme fumer, est moins obscure pour vous que la premiĂšre, casser sa pipe. Certainement vous comprenez que toutes les pompiĂšres et tous les pompiers ne consomment pas de tabac, et que cette expression est une mĂ©taphore qui fait donc allusion aux personnes qui fument excessivement.

I suspect that this expression, the second in our series of French expressions, theme smoking, is less obscure for you than the first one, casser sa pipe. Certainly, you understand that not all men and women firefighters consume tobacco and that this expression is a metaphor that refers to people who smoke excessively.

Cette expression tient probablement son origine Ă  la fin du XVIIIe siĂšcle et au dĂ©but du XIXe siĂšcle. Le mot pompier a dĂ©rivĂ© d’une personne qui manipule la pompe Ă  eau pour intervenir dans un incendie. Avant le dĂ©veloppement des vĂȘtements ignifuges, un pompier portait souvent des vĂȘtements en laine ou mĂȘme en coton. Un vĂȘtement en laine lourde lui fournissait peu de protection contre la chaleur d’un incendie.

This expression probably had its origin at the end of the 18th and beginning of the 19th centuries. The word pompier was derived from a person who operated the water pump to intervene in a fire. Before the development of fireproof clothing, a firefighter often wore wool or even cotton clothing. A garment of heavy wool would have provided him with little protection against the heat of a fire.

Comme vous pouvez l’imaginer, ces fringues s’embrasaient rapidement au contact des flammes. Du coup, pour ajouter un niveau de protection supplĂ©mentaire, les vĂȘtements Ă©taient gĂ©nĂ©reusement arrosĂ©s avec de l’eau, ou selon plusieurs rĂ©fĂ©rences, aspergĂ©s de graisse.

As you can imagine, this type of clothing would be rapidly ignited upon contact with the flames. Therefore, to add an extra level of protection, the clothing was generously sprayed with water, or according to several references, they were sprayed with grease.

Au contact de la chaleur forte, l’eau se transformait en vapeur. Lorsque les pompiers sortaient du feu, leurs vĂȘtements explusaient de la vapeur. Cela donnait l’impression que la fumĂ©e s’échappait du corps des pompiers. Cette image est devenue dĂšs lors, associĂ©e aux fumeurs invĂ©tĂ©rĂ©s. Quant Ă  la graisse : la chaleur forte la faisait cuire, crĂ©ant de la fumĂ©e autour du pompier en sortant d’un incendie.

After contact with intense heat, the water was transformed into steam. When the firefighters exited the fire, their clothing was emanating steam. That gave the impression that smoke was coming from the bodies of the firefighters. This image became linked to inveterate smokers. As for the grease, the strong heat would have cooked it and the smoke would also have emanated from the firefighters upon exiting the fire.

Avez-vous dĂ©jĂ  entendu parler de ces autres expressions : « fumer comme une locomotive » ou « fumer comme une cheminĂ©e » qui Ă©voquent une image semblable et qui font aussi rĂ©fĂ©rence Ă  quelqu’un qui fume excessivement ? Certainement.

You have heard of these other expressions: “smoke like a locomotive” or “smoke like a chimney” which evoke a similar image and also refer to someone who smokes excessively.

cigarette smoking french vocabulary

3 – Meaning of the French Smoking Expression “Fumer La Moquette”

Cette expression, la derniĂšre de notre sĂ©rie, a une origine beaucoup plus rĂ©cente que les autres. En effet, cette expression a Ă©mergĂ© au XXe siĂšcle, probablement pendant la seconde moitiĂ© du siĂšcle. L’expression dĂ©signe quelqu’un qui dit n’importe quoi, une personne qui est dans un Ă©tat de dĂ©lire, quelqu’un qui raconte des bĂȘtises, qui n’a plus toute sa tĂȘte, comme si cette personne Ă©tait sous l’influence de la drogue.

This expression, the third in our series of French idioms about smoking, has an origin much more recent that the others. Indeed, this expression emerged during the 20th century, probably during the second half of the century. The expression refers to someone who is speaking nonsense, a person who is in a state of delirium, someone who is blathering on, who no longer has all his marbles, as if this person was under the influence of drugs.

L’étymologie de cette expression a quelque chose Ă  voir avec ceux qui fument de la marijuana ou de l’herbe. La marijuana est une plante naturelle qui, comme le chanvre**, Ă©tait utilisĂ©e dans le passĂ© pour la fabrication des cordes et mĂȘmes des tapis. Puisque les mots tapis et moquette peuvent ĂȘtre considĂ©rĂ©s comme synonymes, on peut dire fumer la moquette pour signifier quelqu’un qui est dĂ©foncĂ© comme s’il avait fumĂ© de l’herbe, ou peut-ĂȘtre sa moquette en chanvre.

The etymology of this expression has something to do with those who smoke marijuana or grass. Marijuana is a natural plant that, as hemp**, was utilized in the past to fabricate ropes and even rugs. Since the words tapis and moquette can be considered synonyms, we can say fumer la moquette to mean someone who is high as if he had smoked grass, or maybe his carpet made of hemp.

Il y aurait une autre explication qui est moins scientifique. Pour une personne qui fume rĂ©guliĂšrement de l’herbe, le manque de marijuana dans sa rĂ©serve personnelle peut ĂȘtre une catastrophe. Dans ce cas, le fumeur peut se mettre Ă  quatre pattes, en espĂ©rant trouver dans la moquette des petits morceaux de cannabis qui seraient tombĂ©s sur la moquette en roulant un joint, rĂ©coltant peut-ĂȘtre aussi au passage, un peu des poils de tapis eux-mĂȘmes. Ou, peut-ĂȘtre, dans leur dĂ©sespoir, ils ont tout simplement dĂ©cidĂ© de substituer des poils de moquette Ă  la marijuana.

There might be another explanation that is less scientific. For a person who regularly smokes grass, the absence of marijuana in his personal reserve can be a catastrophe. In that case, the smoker can get on all fours, hoping to find small bits of cannabis in the carpet that would have fallen onto the carpet while rolling a joint, collecting maybe incidentally a little of the carpet fibers themselves. Or, maybe in their desperation, they quite simply decided to substitute some carpet fibers for the marijuana.

La moquette moderne ne contient pas de chanvre et elle est fabriquĂ©e en produits synthĂ©tiques. Et qui connaĂźt les rĂ©percussions de l’inhalation de la fumĂ©e des produits synthĂ©tiques ? Qu’en pensez-vous ? Est-ce que vous pensez que ces explications sont logiques ou est-ce que vous croyez que l’auteur de cet article a fumĂ© la moquette ?

Modern carpet does not contain hemp and it’s produced with synthetic materials. And who knows the repercussions of inhaling the smoke of synthetic products? What do you think? Do you think these explanations make sense or do you think that the author of this article “a fumĂ© la moquette”?

** Le chanvre et la marijuana sont dĂ©rivĂ©s de la mĂȘme plante botanique de l’espĂšce, Cannabis sativa. La variĂ©tĂ© qui est utilisĂ©e pour sa fibre vĂ©gĂ©tale a Ă©tĂ© cultivĂ©e pour avoir une teneur faible en THC et autres cannabinoĂŻdes.

** Hemp and marijuana are derived from the same botanical plant of genus and species, Cannabis sativa. The variety that is use for its plant fiber has been cultivated to have a weak content of THC and other cannabinoids

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