It’s Not All “Ooh La La!”


Americans seem to think the phrase “Ooh la la” is very French — a perfect expression used to describe something unusually sexy or beautiful, like “Ooh la la! What a gorgeous engagement ring!” That couldn’t be farther from the truth.

First of all, the expression is not actually “Ooh la la” at all.  It’s “OH la la.” Parisians use this expression all the time, but only to describe something negative. I’ve never heard a French person use it to describe something positive. It’s always used for an unpleasant surprise. What a great expression it is, though! You hear it all the time in Paris – from absolutely everyone. Oh la la! when someone trips or falls. Oh la la! when a person drops something. Oh la la! when you hear bad news. It is used constantly.

I cannot tell you how adorable it is to see a grown man in a business suit calling out “Oh la la!” in a high voice when he realizes he’s about to step in dog poop. It’s hilarious.

It’s so cute, in fact, that it magically softens the blow of whatever just happened. And these days, it is my favorite expression.

“Oh la la!”

2 thoughts on “It’s Not All “Ooh La La!”

  1. Since I’ve started picking up more French from movies and native speakers I wondered about this! I used it the other day as a negative exclamation and then doubted myself because of the American association we have for this phrase. Glad to hear I was correct in my use 🙂 Thanks for posting!


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