Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Vachement Fleurs !

The name of this shop in Sainte Maure de Touraine made me laugh. That is because to me, vachement is a word I use in French when if I was speaking English I would use 'bloody'. It's an emphasiser, so if you are translating vachement less vulgarly, you can say it means 'really'. Its literal translation is vache = cow, and the ment ending in French is the equivalent of 'ly' on an English word. So vachement is 'cowly' in English – not a real word, and anyway cows just don't evoke the same connotation in English.

C'est vachement bien !  That's bloody good!
Vachement chouette ! F'ing cool! (literally 'cowly owl'!!...)
La vache !  Holy Cow!

Reverso has some more examples of how you might use vachement in French here.
Botany Club Outing: There is a general botany outing to the area around the hamlet of Vaux near Sainte Maure de Touraine on Sunday 26 May. Meet at 2.30 pm in the Passerelles carpark in Sainte Maure (the former parking des 4 routes).
Loire Valley Nature Updates: The Grizzled Skipper Pyrgus malvae entry has been updated to include links to Roger Gibbons' Pyrgus spp identification pages and illustrated keys.


  1. I would use "cowing" as the translation, rather than the literal "cowly"... cowing is often used oop't'North in the UK instead of bloody...
    Here it would be "Cowing Flowers" as in the response to "What do you sell here?"

    In the far North of Scotland there are numerous Yorkshire and that area expats... "Cowin' good craic" is often to be heard when people... and not just the expats... comment on the latest event at the village hall [doors open at 11pm for a midnight start... usually finishing at the sun's rise... or even later!!]

  2. I'm committing those words and phrases to memory as I type.....!

  3. As somebody who comes from an anglophone country where "bloody" is not used at all except to describe a wound or a bandage, let me ask: isn't "bloody" a very negative intensifier? "Vachement" is not negative at all — au contraire. It's nearly always positive (vachement bien, vachement beau), and sometimes, I guess, neutral (vachement cher). I guess I don't understand "bloody" the way you use it.

    It's funny, because the adjective "vache" (rotten, cruel) and the noun "vacherie" (a dirty trick, a nasty remark) are very negative in French. I think it refers to cows being unpredictable ("traitre"), not too smart, and dangerous (don't get kicked!). Or it might refer back to 19th century Germans...

    If your French is poor and hard to understand, you might be told that you speak French "comme une vache espagnole." That's another thing entirely.

  4. Oh, and I wonder whether the person who named that florist shop is a native French speaker, because "Vachement Fleurs" isn't at all grammatical. You could say a village is "vachement fleuri" and that would be positive, but adverbs normally modify adjectives or other adverbs, not nouns.

  5. Susan... re: Yesterday's bluebells...
    Nick has a "cowin' good" picture of one of the Wayland Wood bluebells at:
    Wayland Wood is a Norfolk Nats. reserve because of it's bluebells and old coppice management... this is a native one!!
    The touch of colour at the top is also apparently an indicator of native north European Bluebells.

  6. How very peculiar!
    I encountered the word vachement last summer. Nicole had explained the meaning to us and the very next day we heard French people using it outside the bar.
    I certainly didn't expect to see it above a florist's !!

  7. Watching Downton Abbey as it starts to rain outside. "Blimey!"' they say. Looked it up. Translation into French: La vache !

  8. Something being 'bloody' good is far from being a is appreciative, just as 'damn' good would be.
    Different usage of English as Ken Broadhurst notes.

    I liked the name of the shop...nice to see inventive use of the French language at last - getting out from under the po faced domination of the purist control freaks.

  9. I've never heard "vachement" used... until yesterday in t'village... I commented that I still had one hundred spuds to plant... the response was...
    "Vachement! Mais c'est un printemps extraordinaire... [something I didn't catch] temps exceptionel[le]!"

    I hope it is... but with a thing on the Beeb's website today about Russia sending an icebreaker to evacuate their Arctic research station and re-locate it to an Arctic island because of the speed that the Arctic ice is melting... and Ken's comment about the Gulf Stream t'other day... it may not be!! Ugh!

  10. Tim: LOL -- 'cowing' is presumably an inspired piece of euphemistic word manipulation. I've never heard it before, but I love it!
    I've been watching the Arctic ice melt maps all year -- very informative. What's driving it all is the shift in the jetstream.

    Ken: Bloody can be positive, negative or neutral.
    Thanks for the extra musings about vache etc -- all useful and interesting. Thanks for the grammar too -- I didn't think it looked right, but couldn't have explained why.
    I was once having a perfectly friendly conversation with one of our elderly neighbours and when a third person joined us she turned to him and informed him that I spoke French like a Spanish cow (she wasn't exactly a model of clarity herself, being prone to patois and 'swallowing' the ends of her words).
    You could substitute 'Crikey!' in English too.

  11. I suppose that it could be loosely translated as "bloody" but it isn't as vulgar. The first time I heard it was in Noumea back in my university days (circa 1973!). Everyone was saying "c'est vachement chouette" so we Aussies used to say everything was "cowly owl" and laugh uproariously. It was new at the time, I think, but today, it's very common.

  12. Fraussie: What would you translate it as then? 'Really' seems too workaday and ordinary, 'tremendously' seems too formal. I think you will have to write one of your excellent posts about it :-)

  13. I'd classify it among the untranslatables. It's used for emphasis as you said. "Il était vachement en retard" just means he was really very late; "il faisait vachement beau" means it was a really sunny day (particularly after the awful weather we've been having). I asked Jean Michel if Vachement fleurs had some hidden meaning I didn't know about and he replied that it was just very lame and didn't mean anything in particular. You should ask the florist about the name!
    The use and etymology of "vache" however, could definitely make an interesting post - I'll have to add it to the list!

  14. I just read your comment about the Spanish cow - I'll use that as the title of my post! That was a bit rude of her ...