le franc

On a bitterly cold day in February 1846, the French writer Victor Hugo was on his way to work when he saw something that affected him profoundly.

A thin young man with a loaf of bread under his arm was being led away by police. Bystanders said he was being arrested for stealing the loaf. He was dressed in mud-spattered clothes, his bare feet thrust into clogs, his ankles wrapped in bloodied rags in lieu of stockings.

“It made me think,” wrote Hugo. “The man was no longer a man in my eyes but the specter of la misère, of poverty.”

Let Them Eat Bread: The Theft That Helped Inspire ‘Les Miserables’

Illustration by Minnie Phan for NPR

“I Don’t Care” in French

Ça m'est égal: This is the safest way to say “I don’t care in French. It literally means “It’s equal to me”.

Je m’en fiche: This is the phrase that most people use. It is not vulgar, but it carries more power than the first phrase.

Je m’en fous: This phrase is vulgar, equivalent to saying, “I don’t give a shit.”

Je m’en bats les couilles: This is vulgar, and stronger than the previous. However, this is a bit long and unnecessary, and most people use “Je m’en fous” instead.

J’en ai rien à foutre: This is vulgar, and the same rules apply as the last.