French Lessons: Oh, la vache!
So drawing une vache is admittedly far more complicated than un trombone, but in my continued effort to teach you words while I practice my Illustrator skills, I went for it (and I’m not trying to deny using an image to help trace my cow – it still wasn’t easy). Maybe one day I’ll be skilled enough to give him an eye, but for now, he – or rather she (the word ‘cow’ is feminine en français) – is what she is, Oh, la vache! This has quickly become one of my favorite French phrases. Une vache is literally a cow, and c’est la vache would mean, “it’s a cow.” But Oh, la vache is this wonderful phrase which I suppose would mean “Holy Cow!” but unlike that phrase which feels like it was popular when I was in 4th grade, Oh, la vache is something you’ll hear regularly come out of the mouths of Frenchies of all ages. It could be used in a situation where you’d say “Oh my god!” but it also has a bit of a more mundane essence to it as in “my, oh, my.”
Today in Paris it’d be fair to say, “Oh, la vache! This weather SUCKS!”.
April 17, 2012 at 12:24 pm //
Nice cow Anne, and thanks for the lesson. ;)
April 17, 2012 at 12:34 pm //
Ha, good one! Just heard my colleague say it!
April 17, 2012 at 1:11 pm //
Definitely one of my fav’s.
April 17, 2012 at 2:46 pm //
Ha, I love this! Oh, la vache!
Buckle Button Zip
April 17, 2012 at 4:00 pm //
Any phrase in French sounds better. I wonder how they say, “WTF” or the equivalent? Just curious.
Prêt à Voyager
April 17, 2012 at 4:02 pm //
Laura, Merde or Putain will work for WTF. Or Oh la, vache! really.
Here’s a fun video all about “putain” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GSeaDQ6sPs0
April 18, 2012 at 1:22 am //
haha it’s so funny when my French friends say “HHoh la vaaaache!” with the H before the Oh!
very stylish cow :) Excited for next week’s French word!!
April 28, 2012 at 6:16 pm //
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May 8, 2012 at 11:32 pm //
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February 23, 2013 at 10:22 am //
You can also have ‘vachement’ as an informal synonym for ‘ vraiment’, as in ‘il est vachement beau, ce mec’. (That guy’s really good looking)
February 23, 2013 at 10:34 am //
Thanks for the great tip, Bristol! … Franchement is another word that makes me laugh, and just feels so French… I do hope I meet a “mec qui est vachement beau bientôt!” :)
April 25, 2014 at 9:42 am //
✯ Thank you very much ✯
I really wanted to know what my collegues were going on and on about, as I am currently working in Angers, which is near Nantes. ♥
Actually, I read that the expression derives from a woman washing her clothes and one of them falling into the bassin again, upon which she shouted “Au Lavache!”. Is that true?
Check out my blog: ✿ http://you-may-be.blogspot.fr/ ✿
January 15, 2015 at 3:36 pm //
Just heard someone say this on RTL!
November 30, 2016 at 7:29 am //
I had the feeling when I heard someone react with “Oh, la vache” to an assertion by a third person, that it was as if to say “Oh that’s a big one (as in ‘a big lie’). Is it possible in that context that “Oh, la vache” could be used that way?
April 3, 2017 at 6:47 pm //
Casse-toi is currently my favorite, parceque raisons.
Robert Pierson (student of French History - Sorbonne Diploma
July 19, 2020 at 7:30 am //
Much nonsense spoken about this term – all too folksy.
The saying “Oh la vache” comes from the Franco-Prussian War 1870/2.
The word vache, in this context, is a mistranslation and a distortion from the German “Wache”. How did this arise? Well, the Prussians set up check points around Paris which were called watches (as in watch tower). French people, referring to these would call them Vaches…which was, also, pejorative and led to the expression becoming a kind of expletive.
This has nothing whatsoever to do with “Holy Cow”.
August 3, 2020 at 7:47 am //
Thanks for the background intel! I was not attempting to share the history of the word, yet to share the closest parallel to those who hear the word in conversation.