French Words: Boui-Boui

December 29, 2015

French Words: Boui-Boui | Alyssa Pacaut

Two years ago the French family was here for the holidays. We spent our days fixing up the house (because that’s what family is for) and our nights enjoying delicious meals that ran on for hours (because that’s what French family is for).

My French was pretty minimal at that point so I spent most my time listening intently and trying to make sense of it all. One word kept popping up so I finally asked what it meant.

Boui-boui is slang for a little place that could be anything from a tiny shop or restaurant to a small café or bar. Though the French use the adjective petit like it’s going out of style, I’ve almost always heard these two paired together (i.e. un petit boui-boui).

The word boui comes from a dialect in the Bresse region and refers to small structure that houses ducks and geese. Some online sources specifically describe it as a place that is inexpensive and mediocre. Think dive bar or a greasy diner.

The best part about boui-boui is the way it is pronounced. You say bwee-bwee with little-to-no pause between the first bwee and the second. It kind of sounds like baby talk, which is what makes it so darn cute and probably why it’s one of my favorite French words ever.

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