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Too French for translation…

#9 Fute-fute

This informal turn of phrase is found almost exclusively in the expression, ‘il/elle n’est pas fute-fute’. Deriving from the past participle of the Old French ‘se futer’, meaning ‘to escape, to avoid traps’, the original adjective ‘fûté’ carries positive connotations of mental and physical agility. Fute-fute is used solely in its negative construction to describe, in a gentle manner, a person who is lacking in intelligence.

However, even though fute-fute is an adjective that acknowledges someone as not being very smart, translations such as stupid or idiotic are too harsh and fail to preserve the amicable and almost euphemistic qualities of its French counterpart. The English language only offers idiomatic phrases that convey such sympathetic critique, such as ‘not the sharpest tool in the shed’ or ‘not the brightest bulb on the tree’.

The rock group, Louise Attaque, incorporates the adjective fute-fute into their song entitled “Léa”. Released in 1997, this track describes a Parisian girl presumed to be the singer’s girlfriend. It recounts her various characteristics, most frequently expressed in the negative, one of which being the observation that ‘elle [n’]est pas fute-fute’.  “Léa” formed part of the group’s first album, which sold more than two and a half million copies and reached number one in France.

Listen to the song Léa, by Louise Attaque:


Elle est pas intérimaire
Elle est pas comme ma mère
Elle est passagère
Elle est pacifiste
Elle est pas d’accord
Elle est passionnée
Elle est pas fute-fute
Elle est pathétique
Elle aime pas tous mes tics
Elle est pas solitaire
Elle est pas solidaire
Elle est paresseuse
Elle est pas réciproque
Elle est pas en cloque
Elle est pas d’la région PACA
Elle a qu’à s’envoler


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