How to share "share" in French + Roussillon Book Fair with Mom

bon sang

Jean-Marc, strolling with me through the town of Vacqueras.

I'm just going to steal one more photo ...from the upcoming Cinéma Vérité edition... before I get my act together, and figure out how to temporarily organize myself on my son's new computer after regaining power (and one new PC...) here at the farm. That's my husband, le vigneron(pictured above).  Just two days after he left for a multi-city USA wine tour, we lost all power back here at the grape farm. No electricity! (I knew Jean-Marc was taking the juice with him, but this is ridiculous!) PS: re the ASU t-shirt: I met my husband in 1990, while on an exchange program organized by Arizona State University. This photo was taken three weeks ago.

bon sang (bohn sahn) expression

    : dammit!, for Pete's sake, jeepers, for cryin' out loud....

There are many translations for "bon sang". A Google book search brings up a rainbow of equivalents. Today, I ask you to add your own translations here, in the comments box. Let's make this a big rainbow!


I was driving the kids to school this morning, giving thanks for the sun shining across the fields of vines (we've been without heat since Le Big Fry) and feeling lucky to be on time....

Our conversation was centered on le changement d'horaire,* something for which we were speeding to catch up with ever since, at 6:45 am I learned it was, in fact, 7:45 am!

"I didn't realize the time had changed!" I apologized to the kids.
"Oh, I knew about it," Max said.
"Me, too," his sister added.

Ah bon?* Well, the next time you have insider information like that, would you mind sharing it with me?"

As I looked into the rear-view mirror, to see whether anyone was listening, I noticed that my son was not wearing a seat-belt.
"Max! Put your seat-belt on... for goodness sakes!"

After a bout of silence, my daughter spoke:

"What does "goodness sakes" mean?" Jackie wanted to know.

Our child's question caught me by surprise.
"Goodness... means "something good". That's when it occurred to me that this half of the definition defeated our purpose (we needed to get those seat-belts on lest something bad happen!).

"Goodness sakes is something to say instead of saying a gros mot*!"

"Well, what does it mean?" Max asked, and, for once, I was certain that both kids were listening to me.

Goodness sakes? What, come to think of it, did "sakes" mean anyway? 
"It's like bon sang, I guess!"

I looked into the rear-view mirror and noticed that my son seemed satisfied with the translation, which he quickly shared with his sister, in English: "GOOD BLOOD!"

Well, it wasn't an exact equivalent, but it was exact in other ways, exact enough to make us smile like pirates as we sped forward into the future, leaving our cares farther down the time line.

*     *     *
Corrections, comments, or stories of your own... always welcome in the comments box. Merci d'avance. We love reading your words!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~French Vocabulary~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
le changement d'horaire (m) = time change; ah bon? = oh, really?; le gros mot (m) = cuss word

See hundreds of photos of France at Cinéma Vérité: your gift when you help support this French word journal. Click here to begin!
The first French bike my mom gave me. Can you tell that she borrowed it back? (that's her hat in the basket). Photo © K. Espinasse, from the French Word archives. 


French Clockmaker sign : a reproduction of an old French merchant's sign
Bonne Maman Strawberry Preserves : made with no colorings, artificial preservatives, pulps, purees, juices or concentrates.
In French Music: "Au sourire de l'âme" by Pep's (recommended by my son, Max)

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For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety


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"For goodness sakes!" I've heard it all my life. Spoken with passion/intensity, and maybe un peu fear, sometimes leaving no doubt that a change is imperative. (Seat belts, bien sur!) "Goodness gracious sake's alive!" was an elaboration that I heard (Southern origins, North Carolina)and would respond to, generally with dread mainly thinking: what did I do NOW? The mot "sake" meaning outcome, purpose of...and certainly let it be filled with good(ness). From a Mother's unceasing awareness of her cher bebes' well being, safety and happiness, our blood flows fast with a constant prayer, "For goodness sake." Amen, Sister.


It's one of those expressions where the literal meaning conveys little sense of what we actually mean when we say it. When we say it, we are exasperated that someone has done or failed to do something they obviously (to the speaker) should or shouldn't have done without anyone mentioning it! Or a situation occurs and you are just incredulous that it could have happened, and it was probably caused by someone doing or failing to do something he obviously should or shouldn't have. So maybe we are saying that it would have been done differently if everyone involved has behaved with sufficient goodness. Then somehow, we have changed it to goodness sakes, plural, which really is ungrammatical, but c'est comme ça, that's just how it is. A definite challenge to explain to non-English speakers! But interesting to those budding linguists in your house.


I always understood it as "for goodness' sakes" as in for the sake of all that is good. In this case, the literal translation should make sense. Comme "pour l'amour du ciel!", n'est-ce pas?


I've always known "for goodness' sake(s)" as a euphemistic way of saying "for God's sake" -- one of many profanity-avoidance expressions like the British "bloody" (by Our Lady), the 16th or 17th century "zounds" (God's wounds); or the American "for Pete's sake" (for God's sake" and "Jiminy Cricket"(Jesus Christ) ... and so on.

Bill Lloyd en Libye

Bonjour! Bon sang! ca m'interesse parce qu'au-jourd'hui un de mes etudiants m'a demande "Why is bloody considered so bad by the British?" As I learned it, it is a corruption of the epithet "By our lady," a reference to the mother of Christ, and perhaps the origin of "Bloody Mary?" Or was that the Scots queen? Okay, bon, way off the course for French, je sais, mais c'est interessant comme nous utilisons le sang dans les expressions, n'est-ce pas?
Alors, une question pour Leslie (et les autres): How do you insert diacritical marks (cedille, accents etc.) in this comments box?
A bientot,

Debbie Chavers

Umm...well, more oft than not I usually say "Good Molly!!!" with exasperation. I haven't clue where this came from since I have never met anyone named Molly and no one else in my family is known to say this.
I am glad that everything is up and running at your house. I love the bike picture, I just told my husband I needed to get out my bike for a jaunt about the park :)

Happy trails

Franklin Levin

During the very early phase of our courtship I once exclaimed, "for goodness sake," to the woman who would be come my wife. She claimed that I was referencing her and replied, "that would be me!." Who was I to argue? She now wears a necklace with the letters OMG which people often ask if it means, "Oh, my God." I have always believed that goodness substituted for God in the phrases where it was used. (As does Passante , above)


I like 'smile like pirates'


I'm sure that all who note that goodness=god are right. Bill, I use a mac and type the accents the way I do in any application, with the option key, option + c = ç, for example. But here is a web page that tells you how to do it with n'importe quel computer.

Diane Onofrey

I equate "bon sang!", which my grandmother was ever-so-fond of using, as in, "mais bon sang, aie un peu d'idée!" with "good grief!"
Both the French and English convey the same sense of contradiction. Considering the context in which it's used, "sang" is not really meant as a "good" thing, just as grief is rarely good in any situation.

Chris Golding

re the ASU t-shirt: Is it really 19 years old? Or just commemorating an event 19 years ago?!

Sandy Maberly

Bill, try the following to allow your computer to make "foreign" diacritical marks in any document.

Go to the control panel on your computer (find it my clicking on the little "windows" picture in the lower left of your computer screen).
Click on "Regional and Languages"
Click on the tab that says, "keyboards and languages"
Click on "add"
Search down the list for "United States"
Make a check mark on the option for US-International.
Click OK.
You will now have a miniature keyboard showing either at the bottom right of your screen (usually) where all the little icons are shown, or sometimes at the top. When you want to type in any foreign language just click on the little keyboard and the options will open up for either US or US-international. Click on US International and you are set to go.
You can find directions for using the keyboard if you do a search on the web for "using the international keyboard". I keep a copy of the instructions (for French) taped to my laptop.

Mike Hardcastle

Both languages seem to be full of ways to invoke the help or the wrath of God without actually using the word. I have always thought that Goodness' sake (no plural in England) equated to God's sake and presumably the sang in Bon Sang refers to the blood of Christ. There is another word which follows the pattern which is the cockney blimey, a corruption of (God) blind me, usually followed by, 'if I'm not telling the truth', or something similar.


Sandy Maberly

Part two on how to type French accents.....There is a wonderful link....

....that will give you all the instructions on using the international keyboard


Re: The photo of Jean-Marc:

J'aime commes les couleurs in the photo of J-M work together, the maroon sweatshirt, the smooth slice of pink in building to his right; and the rusty reds/pinks of the rough textured building in the background. Then to complete, et le complement couleur--voila! un peu vert, just a touch of a green plant just below the tiles of the roof. Mais, c'est the image of the contemplative-looking bon homme francais, hands behind back, looking out with a "sort-of" smile whose thoughts are... K, this is a lovely picture, and a fitting addition to Le Rouge et Le Vert collection. Merci!

Marianne Rankin

I haven't heard this one before, but I get the tone of it.

How about "Good Grief!" It's an expression I use frequently in English.


The closest in spanish would be:
por el amor de Dios!
(for the love of God!)
In other context you can use also:
Carajo! Caramba! Caray!

Norma in Texas

Don't have a comment that isn't already made by the readers re: today's word. However, do want to thank you for the work you do & to tell you how much I enjoy reading your emails every week. Keep up the good work.

Cynthia in Missouri

I am of the same mind as Norma in Texas. Thank you for all your fanciful writings that brighten my day.

Virginia Scott

This may be my fifth year of getting the French-Word-A-Day emails. I treasure them. Today's comments on "for goodness sake!" and "bon sang" were engaging. I am especially happy to get the directions for accessing the international keyboard.
Thanks, Kristin for your years of keeping me in touch with French.

Virginia in The Bronx


I agree with Sandy in her comment above because the about French site has accent instructions for both PC and Mac, the Mac being more user-friendly, in my opinion.

Michael Armstrong

Hey, Bill on Windows it is easy to select a French keyboard as an alternate and then toggle back and forth with ALT/SHIFT. See:, which is one of the sites that Leslie provided. Hope this helps.


K! So good to meet your JM this past Saturday here in LA....I got some Dentelle and the Mistral, yummy. I brought my Patrick to meet him too...we had fun, he was really busy!
PS I LOVE your bike pic!


@Bill Lloyd en Libye


The other sites only work for the accents aigu and grave. For crying out loud! Why does this German keyboard have to make everything so complicated?


In my area of northern Maine, people use "tabernacle" as a cuss word - in a sense of referring to a sacred place in the Catholic church. I have been told that "bon sang" refers to the blood shed at the cross, again using a holy word in a "taking something in vain" sort of way.


I have always liked Charlie Brown's "good grief!!"
I like "bon sang" for a change although my family will probably interrupt it as "well sung" in which case I may also... smile like a pirate! ;-)


My mother used to say "Holy sufferin' cats!" and "Holy cow!" and to my embarrassment, sometimes they pop out of my mouth now too. :)


Bon sang!!!...I meant "interpret" I was being "interrupted" by my son wanting to know who drank all the cereal milk!! C'est la vie!!


Thank you for restoring the Word-of-the-Day to the top of the post! And now, I'm off to taste wine with Mr. French Word-a-Day!


Question: How often is it (bon sang) used in France, especially by the young. Is it out of date (like "gosh", Holy cow, …)? And if it is somewhat dated, what replaces it?


Since we are on the subject, a few others have come to me in the course of the day since my first post. The first two are obsolete, the third is exclusively British, and the fourth is American and may also be British by now -- it's a long time since I lived there, so I'm out of touch with common usage:

Gadzooks = God's hooks (reference to the nails in the crucifixion)

Odds bodykins = God's body

Gorblimey -- a variant on blimey, which Mike Hardcastle above notes means "God blind me"

Snakes alive = saints alive

All these words eventually become meaningless with repetition and distance from their actual meaning. "That really sucks" has become unremarkable common currency among the young and not-so-young, but because I am older, I find it exceptionally vulgar and shudder every time I hear it.

Times change.


Glad to see JM wearing an ASU t-shirt !! Go
Sun Devils !!!


Today's story reminded me of my first visit to Normandy in the company of my late mother, in October 1993. We were staying at a small inn near Dinard on the weekend. Now, keep in mind that the hours change back on a different date in France than in the US, and we had no idea that it had happened the previous night. We came down to breakfast ready to start our day of sightseeing, to find no coffee, no breakfast table, and no Lady Innkeeper. After wondering why no other guests were about, we knocked on her "private" door.

She came to the door in her robe, obviously very sleepy, and explained in very thinly disguised disgust that it was only 6 am!

Even so, she very shortly had a fine meal ready for us with plenty of coffee - but not another smile until we checked out two hours later!

Jeff C.

«Bon Sang de Bonsoir!» I've been cutting & pasting those for quite a while!! Mille Mercis à tous. btw...Larousse offers 'Damn and blast!' as an idiom.

Jules Greer


KRISTI AND I ARE SHARING MAX'S COMPUTER SINCE THE "BIG FRY". I MISS HAVING MY OWN LAPTOP...THEN I WAS ABLE TO CHECK "COMMENTS" several times a day. I miss all of you, Kristi is busy bossing me around, I have managed to meet three new people out in the vinyards surrounding Kristi's house. One a very handsome FRENCHMAN driving a red tractor - collecting all of the old vine stumps that are no longer alive, I waved him to a halt so I could take photo's of him dumping the stumps in a giant pile. I managed to extend the normal three kisses on the cheek into kisses each time I felt we had a camera shot worthy of a reward...he.he.he.

Kristi wants to lock me in my room. I also met a beautiful woman from Marocco (sp?) out trimming the vines, I have been taking her a hot cup of tea around 10 a.m. each morning, plus some candy I have swiped from Kristi's STASH. Her name is Alise and she has invited me to her village Rasteau---I think this is supposed to be one of the most beautiful villages in France...I will take photo's for all of you and have Kristi post them when I do a little story.

Please pray for me to have the strength to be the MOTHER Kristi needs at this time of her life...




Thanks for the post. I was reading it just as my almost 5 year old angel of a daughter shouted out a gros mot from the kitchen. When I asked her what she had said she yelled to me, "Curses, Mom." It starts early, eh? Thanks for helping me see the lighter side.


Hi Max ....merci beaucoup for letting us ALL use your computer!!! :-)

Mary Pace

Well, I rarely add anything much, but my own Kansas-born grandmother's favorite expression might fit nicely here at the end: Well, forever more!!

Jan Patterson

It was fun to see the ASU shirt (my alma mater as well!) in Vacqueras. Thanks for the story. As always, you brighten my day!

Bob Head

Passante-- I still use 'Gadzooks'-- to the amusement of the family! (I, too, hate that 'sucks' expression.

In northern England, when astonishing news is delivered, they say "well, I'll go to the foot of our stairs".
No........I have NO idea what that means!

Bob Head

Oh..................JM's red ASU top?
We blokes LIKE our old clothes-- in any language, anywhere!


I just have to add...I had a high school teacher in the 1950's who taught both algebra and Spanish (this was in S. Dakota) and she was of Swedish descent). She would send us to the black board in either class, and if we made a mistake, in algebra she would shout "Good Nurse!" If the mistake was in Spanish class her exclamation was always; "por Dios!"

Claudia S.

merci to all for the fascinating derivations of swear words. They seem to reflect a superstitious desire to thwart bad luck for invoking Christ's name while creating a socially acceptable swearword to use in public.

David B.

Love the ASU sweatshirt!


I have absolutely no doubt that you always have and always will be the exact mother that Kristi needs at every time of her life.

Carley P.

Even though there is an ASU (Im an Arizona Wildcat) sweatshirt I love this website - MERCI!!!

Jennifer in OR

Fun post! Glad all's back together over there. Don't lock your mother in her room. :-)

A friend of mine came up with "oh, sugar!" when something went wrong. I loved hearing the variations given by the commenters.

"Good night!" is a common one I hear a lot. It seems like many are oxymorons.

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