We all know the french word ‘grève’ – we hear it often enough – but did you know that grève also means sandbank or pebbly beach and actually comes from Place de Grève, a flat and sandy area on the banks of the River Seine in Paris (now Place de l’Hôtel de Ville)?

Out of work Parisiens would gather there every morning to ‘faire grève‘ in front of the town hall, in the hope of being offered work, maybe loading or unloading boats transporting goods up and down the river.

Today, ‘faire grève‘ refers to stopping work to make a point to the boss and strikes, demos, and protests are part of the French way of life.


Here’s a bit of vocab to make it a little easier to understand what’s going on in the news…

GENERAL

To go on strike – se mettre en/faire grève
A general strike – une grève générale
A (hunger) strike – une grève (de la faim)
A (peaceful)demo – une manifestation (pacifiste)
A go-slow (when vehicles block roads by driving very slowly) – une opération escargot
Strike notice – Un préavis de grève (unions must give 5 days notice before calling a strike)
A march/parade – un défilé
A banner – un étendard/une banderole
A placard – une pancarte
A meeting/gathering – un rassemblement
A demand/claim – une revendication
To demand that – exiger que (+ subjunctive)
To change things – faire bouger les choses
To support… – apporter son soutien à….
A day of action – une journée d’action
A blackleg – un jaune
A leaflet – un tract
Union – un syndicat
Picket line – un piquet de grève
A feeling of) unease – (Un sentiment de) malaise
Social unrest – les troubles sociaux
To solve a conflict – résoudre un conflit
To express one’s concern about… – Exprimer son inquietude concernant…

WHEN TEMPERS FRAY…

To use violence – avoir recours à la violence
A riot – une émeute
A rioter – un émeutier/casseur
An activist – un militant
Riot police – la police anti émeute (les CRS)
To chant – scander
Tear gas – le gaz lacrymogène
A petrol bomb – un cocktail molotov
A water cannon – un canon à eau
To ransack – saccager
To provoke – provoquer
Angry – en colère
To throw projectiles – lancer des projectiles

Gilets Jaunes Le Boulou

THE PEOPLE

A crowd – une foule
A striker – un(e) gréviste
A demonstrator – un(e) manifestant/e
A sympathiser/supporter – un(e) sympathisant
A state representative – un(e) representant de l’etat
A tax payer – un(e) contribuable
A pensioner – un(e) retraité
A union member – un(e) syndicaliste
The police – les forces de l’ordre, la police
A lorry driver – un camionneur

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