Belgium doesn’t have its very own language; indeed ‘le Belge’ doesn’t exist…
Maybe that’s why Belgium has not just one but three official languages: French, Dutch and German (easy, no?).
However, it is French and Dutch that are the most widely spoken in Belgium.
This multilingualism leads to the creation of new expressions, called “Belgicismes” commonly used in everyday life. Some of these belgicismes differ according to the regions and provinces and you can often find a mix between Dutch and French in a single expression!
Here are 15 famous and funny belgicismes that you will certainly hear if you ever visit Belgium.
- A tantôt
o We use this word at least 10 times a day! For French people, it is a really old expression used by older people. It means “See you soon”.
- Un baraki
o This is a really funny one, it’s used in the Walloon Region to describe a person perceived as vulgar, unintelligent, and without any taste for etiquette or good manners.
- Quel binamé
o This is one of the kindest terms that we have: it means someone who’s nice and friendly.
- Quel klet ce pey(e)
o The entire expression means in “good French”: quel idiot ce type! (This guy is such an idiot). We don’t do things by half in Belgium, but if you want you can split this expression and use its words separately: ‘Quel klet’ means ‘an idiot’ and ‘ce pey(e)’ means ‘this guy’.
- Un cuistax
o In Belgium it rains a lot (not as much as in Ireland though)… So when we’re able to go to the beach, we hit the road straight away! As a real Belgian, when you are at the seaside you rent a cuistax with your friends. For sure, you will enjoy it… We use the word cuistax (yes I know it is a weird one) for a quadracycle. The origin of the word comes from the fact that you need to make an effort to pedal to move the machine: ‘Cuis’ for ‘cuisse’ – that means thigh, and ‘tax’ for ‘tasser’ which means ‘press’.
- Non peut-être
o This is an illogical expression that we have. Indeed, we use ‘non peut-être’ (translated by ‘no maybe’) for ‘yes, of course’. On top of that, we use ‘oui peut-être’ for ‘no, for sure’…
- Une fois
o This one is a little bit weird, I use it but I don’t really know why! It’s a stereotypical representation that Belgians add ‘une fois’. It comes from the Flemish that use ‘eens’ (once) in a lot of expressions. It also means ‘a little’: ‘tu m’en redonnes une fois’ (give me more please). Different people will give you different meanings for this expression, but we are all certainly ‘Belge une fois’!
- Berdeller / Babeller
o I like this expression ‘berdeller’ meaning that you talk for the sake of talking (and usually to complain). Whereas we use ‘babeller’ for ‘Chew the fat’.
o We use this expression so often that I didn’t even know that it was a belgicisme! It means that something is bad quality or has no real value.
o This word comes from Brussels and literally means ‘junk, useless stuff’.
o Here is a well-known word used in gymnastics class that means somersault.
- Il drache!
o The most famous: ‘dracher ‘ means ‘to rain cats and dogs’. We can use also ‘pleuvoir comme vache qui pisse’ or ‘pleuvoir des cordes’.
o If you travel in Belgium, you will see chip vans almost everywhere! We have a specific word for this: Fritkot. ‘Frit’ for ‘frites’ – ‘chips’, and ‘Kot’ for ‘student accommodation’, in this context, it means ‘small place’; in other words, it is a small place where you can buy (French) fries!
o If you use this word, you’re the perfect ‘Brusseleir’! Stoumelinks is used when you do something in secret, discreetly.
- Brosser les cours!
o We all do it at least once: ‘brosser les cours’, literally ‘to brush the classes’! This expression means ‘to skip school’ (but shhhh!).
So, are you ready to practice ‘le Belge’?
Aurélie is an intern at Alliance Française de Cork September-December 2016. She got her degree in Information and Communication with a specialisation in work organization at Université Saint-Louis in Brussels (Belgium). She is now doing a Master’s Degree in cultural management at the Université Libre of Brussels.