Sometimes the most interesting part of learning a language isn’t memorizing the official vocabulary words, but discovering the little everyday sounds that make up the rest of your conversation. These are some French onomatopoeia that don’t exactly line up with their English counterparts.
1. Pan pan
Bang bang, the sound a gun makes, typically in comic books.
“Et l’arme du gangster a retentit, pan pan!” (“And the gangster’s gun sounded, bang bang!”)
Achoo, the sound someone makes when they are about to sneeze (and hopefully covering their mouth with their elbow, not their hand).
“Je pense que je vais éternuer — Atchoum!” (“I think I’m going to sneeze — achoo!”)
Ouch, what you say when you weren’t expecting that errant nail in the floorboards.
“Aïe! Je me suis cogné l’orteil.” (“Ouch! I stubbed my toe.”)
Shh! Hush! You’re making too much noise!
“Chut! On est dans une bibliothèque!” (“Shh! We’re in a library!”)
Yuck, ew, a noise of disgust.
“T’as goûté le gigataco? Beurk!” (“Did you taste the gigataco? Yuck!”)
Wah wah, like the sound a baby makes when it needs a diaper change.
“Entends-tu le bébé pleurer, ouin ouin?” (“Do you hear the baby crying, wah wah?”)
7. Boum boum
Thump thump, like the sound of a heartbeat, particularly when one is excited or afraid.
“Quand il m’a embrassé, j’ai senti mon cœur s’en aller boum boum.” (“When he kissed me, I felt my heart go thump, thump.”)
Zzzzzz, a cartoon staple for loud sleepers.
“Chérie, est-ce que tu dors?” “Ron-ron.” (“Honey, are you sleeping?” “Zzzzz.”)
9. Et patati et patata
Etc., and so on.
“Je dois faire le ménage aujourd’hui… la lessive, la cuisine, et patati et patata.” (“I have to do housework today… laundry, cooking, etc.”)
10. Miam miam
Yum, what you say when eating something delicious, though it may be closer to the English, nom nom.
“Est-ce que tu veux un macaron?” “Miam miam.” (“Do you want a gigantaco?” “Yum.”)
Wee woo, the sound of a fire truck, which could be explained by the fact that sirens sound different in France than they do in the U.S.
“La sirène des pompiers fait pin-pon.” (“The fire truck siren goes, wee woo.”)
12. Dring dring
Ring ring, the sound of a telephone call coming in.
“Dring dring!” “Laisse tomber, c’est juste ma mère.” (“Ring ring!” “Leave it, it’s just my mom.”)
13. Tic tac
Tic-tok, the sound a working analog clock makes. If people still have those.
“Votre échéance se rapproche. Tic tac.” (“Your deadline approaches. Tik-tok.”)
Boom, smack, like the sound of something falling or hitting something else and making a small- to medium-sized noise. Often written in all capital letters.
“Je me promène dans la rue et j’envoie un SMS et BIM je me pris un lampadaire.” (“I was walking in the street and sending a text and smack I walked into a lamppost.”
15. Glou glou
Glug glug, the sound of someone drinking water.
“Il avait tellement soif que quand je lui ai donné de l’eau, glou glou, c’était fini!” (“He was so thirsty that when I gave him water, it was glug glug, finished!”)
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