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Waste Not, Want Not

Let’s talk garbage! While it’s not something on everyone’s mind around the dinner table, it bears thinking about. France’s environmental concerns are real, and responsible citizens are looking for ways to safely and responsibly dispose of their garbage and unwanted goods. So, let’s embark on this dirty subject and look at some interesting vocabulary surrounding garbage and its disposal.


Let’s start with les ordures (garbage/trash/rubbish) and les détritus (scraps). In the video below, the speaker explains that seagulls are avid consumers of both:


Bah, c'est des oiseaux basiques qui volent au-dessus de l'eau et qui souvent uivent ne serait-ce que les détritus et les ordures.

Anyway, they're just regular birds that fly above the water and that often go after anything, even if it's just scraps and garbage.

Captions 24-25, Jean-Marc La plage - Part 1

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Détritus can sometimes mean “litter,” as there is no specific term for that type of waste:


On peut voir sur cette plage qui est très propre, elle est équipée comme il faut pour tout ce qui est détritus.

We can see on this beach, which is very clean, it's set up the way it should be for everything concerning litter.

Captions 26-27, Jean-Marc La plage - Part 2

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Though it mainly refers to garbage, ordure can also be used as an insult:


T'es vraiment la dernière des ordures.

You're really the worst scumbag ever.

Caption 59, Le Jour où tout a basculé À l'audience - Arnaque en couple ? - Part 3

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The best way to deal with détritus and (non-human) ordures is to dispose of it in poubelles (garbage cans):


On a des belles poubelles qui sont vertes, une très bonne initiative d'ailleurs.

We have some nice green garbage cans, a very good initiative by the way.

Caption 28, Jean-Marc La plage - Part 2

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The contents of the poubelles will end up in a déchetterie/déchèterie (waste collection center):


On dispose des objets dans une déchetterie.

Items are disposed of in a waste collection center.


Responsible citizens showing genuine concern for the planet may wonder what to do with their organic waste, such as old Christmas trees, which les ordures ménagères (household waste collection) won’t accept:


Nombreux sont ceux qui ne savent jamais quoi faire de leur sapin après Noël puisque les ordures ménagères n'en veulent pas toujours.

There are many who never know what to do with their fir trees after Christmas since household waste collections don't always want them.

Captions 14-15, TV Tours Une seconde vie pour vos sapins de Noël?

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Unfortunately, many Christmas trees end up being dumped illegally in des décharges sauvages (illegal dumps):


Un petit peu partout, euh... des décharges un petit peu sauvages.

A little bit all over, uh... dumping that is somewhat uncontrolled.

Caption 18, TV Tours Une seconde vie pour vos sapins de Noël?

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In Brittany, some people turn their déchets (waste) into “gold” by starting une filière de compostage (a composting stream):


Certaines tentent même de valoriser ces déchets dans une filière de compostage.

Some are even trying to capitalize on this waste in a composting stream.

Caption 33, Le Journal Marée verte en Bretagne

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In addition, French people are becoming more and more creative at finding ingenious solutions to reduce mounting waste by setting up des ressourceries (upcycling centers):


Aujourd'hui, c'est l'inauguration de la ressourcerie du vingtième arrondissement

Today is the inauguration of the upcycling center of the twentieth arrondissement

Captions 2-3, Actu Vingtième Le bleu dans les yeux, recyclerie de Belleville

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Others try to extend the life of their devices by repairing them:


On est censé faire réparer des objets qui ont quelques problèmes.

We're supposed to bring items that have some problems for repair.

Caption 2, Actus Quartier Repair Café

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Repairing objects instead of les jeter (throwing them away) prevents faire du gâchis (creating waste):


C'est important d'essayer de conserver les objets le plus longtemps possible au lieu de faire du gâchis.

It's important to try to keep objects for as long as possible instead of creating waste.

Captions 6-7, Actus Quartier Repair Café

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C'est d'inciter les gens à dépanner eux-mêmes, à chercher avant de jeter.

It's to incite people to fix things themselves, to try before throwing away.

Captions 47-48, Actus Quartier Repair Café

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Not only is it best to avoid throwing away manufactured goods, it’s also important to avoid gaspillage (squandering/wasting) natural resources such as water:


On va construire et opérer des usines de nourriture partout à travers le monde, et cela sans utiliser aucun produit de pesticide et aucun gaspillage d'eau.

We're going to build and operate food factories all over the world, and this without using any pesticide product or any wasting of water.

Captions 20-21, Agriculture verticale TerraSphere

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And what should we do with les eaux usées (waste water)? Clean it of course!


Mais on peut lui demander des tas d'autres choses, comme nettoyer les eaux usées, manger les déchets.

But we can request loads of other things from it, such as cleaning waste water, eating waste.

Captions 20-22, Il était une fois: Notre Terre 25. Technologies - Part 7

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So il n’y a pas de temps à perdre (there is no time to waste)! Now that you have expanded your vocabulary surrounding waste—déchets, gaspillage, ordures, eaux usées, gâchis—and are more aware of solutions such as déchetteries, ressourceries, and compostage, you will be better equipped to follow our Yabla videos on the subject, and maybe…help save the planet. 


Je craque! – The Verb Craquer

The verb craquer (to crack)—not to be confused with croquer (to crunch/bite)—is an interesting word as it can be used in a variety of ways, often in situations that involve strong emotions, either positive or negative. When used informally, craquer has many meanings that range from “breaking down” to “falling in love."




In a negative context, craquer can mean to crack up, or crack under pressure:


François est dégoûté. Il craque.

François is disgusted. He's cracking up.

Caption 35, Oldelaf - Le monde est beau

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Craquer can also describe something or someone cracking under pressure:


Continue à faire des films aussi flingués et les cités vont craquer.

Continue making gun movies like always and the housing estates are going to crack.

Captions 51-52, Alain Etoundi - Allez tous vous faire enfilmer! - Part 1

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It can also refer to someone "giving in" or "caving":


Bon, j'ai craqué parce que...

Well, I caved because...

Caption 52, Le Jour où tout a basculé - À l'audience - Arnaque en couple ? - Part 3

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While craquer means to crack under pressure, faire craquer quelqu’un means to cause someone to crack or to break someone’s spirit, like the mother in the video below who tried to faire craquer (break down) her son’s girlfriend:


Sa mère voulait me faire craquer.

His mother wanted to break me down.

Caption 34, Le Jour où tout a basculé - Ma mère fait tout pour briser mon couple - Part 3

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At the other end of the spectrum, however, craquer can describe a positive experience. It's slang for “to fall in love." In the example below, the French pianist Christine Ott is asked:


C'est ce qui t'a fait craquer, toi, pour cet instrument?

Is that what made you fall in love with this instrument?

Caption 4, Alsace 20 - Femmes d'exception: Christine Ott

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And the singer Melissa Mars "fell head over heels" for her project "Et Alors!":


Et voilà, donc du coup, ben évidemment j'ai craqué sur ce projet,

And there, so as a result, well of course I fell head over heels for this project,

Caption 23, Melissa Mars - Et Alors!

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In the following example, shoppers "fell" for some Christmas ornaments:


Et ben on a craqué sur des choses un petit peu typiques, euh...

And, well, we fell for things that are a little bit typical, uh...

Caption 10, Alsace 20 - Ouverture du marché de Noël de Colmar

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And, of course, craquer sur also means to fall for a person:


J'avais complètement craqué sur elle

I'd completely fallen for her

Caption 68, Le Jour où tout a basculé - J'ai piégé mon fan - Part 2

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Likewise, faire craquer can mean to make someone fall for someone:


Je pouvais avouer, ouais, qu'elle m'a fait craquer

I could confess, yeah, that she made me fall for her

Captions 32-33, Harmelo - Mets Ton Masque Ft. Jade L x Ghetto

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On a spookier note, craquer can mean to creak, as in the sound the floor makes in this couple’s haunted apartment:


Ah, c'est le plancher qui craque.

Ah, it's the floor that's creaking.

Caption 17, Le Jour où tout a basculé - Notre appartement est hanté - Part 3

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And for a little bit of humor, craquer (to rip) can describe a wardrobe mishap. In this video, Elisa and Mashal look at old photographs, and Mashal remembers when her pants ripped in the middle:


Enfin, quand j'avais dansé mon pantalon qui avait craqué au mil'...

Well, when I'd been dancing, my pants, which had ripped in the mid'...

Caption 82, Elisa et Mashal - Photos

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Or when referring to shoes, you can say that they are sur le point de craquer (about to burst). In "J'aurais bien voulu," the singer of the ska band Babylon Circus talks about his battered ego sagging down to his socks to the point that his godasses (shoes) are sur le point de craquer (about to burst):


J'ai l'ego dans les chaussettes et les godasses sur le point de craquer

My ego's in my socks and my shoes are about to burst

Caption 30, Babylon Circus - J'aurais bien voulu

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There’s another colloquial expression that paints a similar picture, plein à craquer, which means “bursting at the seams” or “overcrowded”:


Les hôpitaux sont pleins à craquer.

The hospitals are completely overcrowded.


Don't confuse craquer with the English loanword cracker, which means "hacker":


Des crackers ont piraté le logiciel.

Some hackers hacked into the software. 


(Un cracker can also be of the edible kind… a cracker!).


The noun un craque doesn’t refer to "cracking" at all. It's slang for un mensonge (a lie):


Mais si tous mes craques t'indiffèrent

But if all my lies leave you indifferent

Caption 28, Mademoiselle K (avec Zazie) - Me taire te plaire

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The English noun “crack,” as in a crack in the wall, is une fissure in French, and the verb is fissurer (to crack), as mentioned in this video about the Liverdun Church during the Second World War:


Parce qu'elle a été fissurée pendant la dernière Guerre mondiale.

Because it was cracked during the last World War.

Caption 76, Lionel - L'église de Liverdun - Part 2

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There are other instances when “crack” doesn’t translate as craquer in French. For example, “to crack a joke” is simply raconter une blague (to tell a joke), Lionel’s specialty in his Yabla videos:


Lionel adore raconter des blagues sur Yabla.

Lionel loves telling jokes on Yabla.


And when you "crack up" at a joke, you éclater de rire (burst out laughing):


Les blagues de Lionel me font toujours éclater de rire.

Lionel's jokes always crack me up.


One last thing you can do with craquer in French is craquer une allumette (strike a match):


On peut craquer une allumette pour voir dans le noir.

We can strike a match to see in the dark.

Nous espérons que vous avez craqué sur cette leçon (We hope you fell for this lesson)!