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Laura K. Lawless

French expression: Oh là là

By September 2, 2013

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You don't know how to use the French expression oh là là? Oh dear! You'd better click to learn all about it here.
More: French expressions

Comments

April 23, 2010 at 9:43 am
(1) Paul Mackin says:

Laura,
J’aime bien votre analyse d’une telle phrase: le fait que les ‘là’ viennent en pairs, le ton, l’hésitation, les exemples de la vie courante–tout cela me fait entendre dans ma tête les conversations où je l’ai remarquée aussi. Un autre exemple: Kevin Kline le fait dans le film ‘French Kiss’ quand il rencontre le ex-fiancé de Meg Ryan (une série de 6!)
Merci,
PM

April 23, 2010 at 12:20 pm
(2) Brenda says:

We often heard people in Paris using this expression when walking their little dogs and finding their pet getting into some mischief — chewing on something or getting wrapped up in their leashes. But our favorite incident was sitting in a café late one warm evening when one of the waiters, relaxing with a glass of wine after his shift, caught sight of a beautiful woman walking past on the street. He exclaimed, with great feeling, for all to hear: “Oh là là, Oh là là là là là là, qu’elle est belle!

April 23, 2010 at 1:52 pm
(3) Tom says:

Used it during the spectacle at the Lido in Paris but probably more ooo’s

April 24, 2010 at 9:32 am
(4) Shadow Countess says:

My French teacher enjoys using this phrase, going ‘oh la la’ whenever we do something weird or not know how to answer a question. Is it a phrase Poirot often used? Anyways, I’d like to thank you for all the notes and stuff on French grammar and all you’ve put up on this site! It is a must-read for me before every French exam and it teaches me grammar better than my teacher! The language is clear cut and easy to understand, and I love the way you use English. It’s really easy for me to know what you’re referring to unlike the broken, often wrong, English my teacher uses. Oh well, can’t blame him for he is French, but your stuff are great!

April 24, 2010 at 11:14 am
(5) Linda says:

About 35 years ago when I was a teen touring Paris with my parents, I remember some road construction workers commenting to me as I walked past, “Oh, la, la, la, la, la, … ” (I don’t remember how many “la”s but a surprising number) It was funny and a nice complement.

April 25, 2010 at 4:37 am
(6) Rebecca says:

I’m surprised by the idea that the “la” only comes in pairs. I took a French class in Paris for a few months and the students were all saying “mon dieu” over and over. I distinctly remember my teacher telling us to say “Oh la” instead. Then he said he said we could add an extra “la” if we wanted to. I never got the impression that they should come in pairs.

April 25, 2010 at 7:27 am
(7) lal ji says:

bonjour madame je suis de l’Inde, je pass mon beaucoup de temps à lire votre nouveau lecon,et je suis satisfait et heureux. vos tous expression sont beaucoup utile pour parler francais, et Oh là là est aussi pure et belle expression. au revoir.

April 28, 2010 at 1:12 pm
(8) Mônica says:

J’ai entendu aussi : AH lá lá!

May 11, 2010 at 1:37 pm
(9) Couillon says:

Just wanted to add that in South Louisiana, an equivalent may be something like “poo yaille” or “ye yaille”.

May 7, 2012 at 11:33 am
(10) PAUL M says:

Ye yaille, cher (pronounced shar), mais oui (pronounced way) in the Louisiana bayous and Breaux Bridge, origin of crawfish etouffe. ou la la!

December 30, 2010 at 8:59 pm
(11) nathalie says:

I was looking for the etymology of this expression and wondering why any foreigner would think we ( french people ) keep saying oh là là all the time .
The thing is I ‘ve only heard children using this expression . When we have a real big worry we might tend to say ” Ah là là ” and I’ve never heard any adult use oh là là except foregners who thought that was french !!!
Mind you I don’t live in Paris , went there quite a few times but never noticed any oh là là except at the lido ( which is actually a trap for tourists ) . But it might be a parisian expression , I sincerely don’t know . But please , stop teaching it as typical french ! when we do use it , it is with a lovely english accent to gently take the mickey out of tourists …

May 22, 2011 at 2:58 pm
(12) Marie says:

I’m a french native girl, and I say “oh la la” all the time! And I think people say it, at least my friends and family do! ^^

January 11, 2011 at 11:22 am
(13) hawaiidreamcondo says:

My funniest story was being a svelte and ripe 22 year old and walking down the sidewalk in my new Hermes boots and mini skirt near a Paris fish restaurant, where men sat outside shucking oysters, and such. Being somewhat accustomed to attention and whistles from construction workers, when I heard “Oh,lala” uttered under a man’s breath just as I was passing by, I couldn’t resist turning to catch sight of my admirerer. To my surprised amusement, he had not noticed me at all, but instead was appreciatively commenting on the urchin in his hand that he had just sliced open and found to be chock full of roe! Touche, my ripeness and eggs had gone unnoticed!

September 3, 2011 at 1:46 pm
(14) Monica says:

I lived in the Allier region for a year, and I heard people use “oh lo” as an expression of dismay, commiseration, or disapproval. I have never heard anyone say oh la la, but I’m guessing it’s a regional thing.

February 11, 2012 at 2:48 pm
(15) Elle says:

When my husband proposed to me on a quiet Parisian street in the middle of the night, a woman walked by and said oh la la as my husband was on bended knee :-)

March 26, 2012 at 9:02 am
(16) CrunchyBean says:

I’m in the francophone part of Switzerland and they use ah là là also.

July 9, 2012 at 4:41 am
(17) Fred says:

I’m not French, but well native french speaker, from Belgium. And here we do use oh la la quite often. And it is popping out in really many kinds of context. May be surprise, marvel, disappointment or even sudden fear mixed with surprise (like when the plane you would be in would be suddenly shivering down,, up, left and right in a few seconds then the “secure your life belt” is lightening, followed by a few passengers reactions (like oh la la..), then a biiiig silence, and the pilote to say a few words about temporary problems… ooooh la la). In fact, one may need to hear it “in real life” to really understand when it does apply or not. But beware, it may turn addictive.. ;) My late wife, at one moment, realized she was using it even in her native language when she was back in her genuine country, even though there are local equivalents (“o le le”, “o boje”). She had taken it really quick. And though she was using it much “correctly” (in the kind of contexts it is used), it sounded a bit “strange” or even much “posh” to some. She had even to make efforts to not let it pop out in very inappropriate places. Especially at work, when the light “on air” was working, as she was at that moment the host of radio shows on a public national radio… So beware ;)

December 28, 2012 at 11:47 am
(18) Patrick says:

Non-french speaker here. A number of years ago I was enjoying a thanksgiving dinner with friends that had invited a newly married couple to join. The bride was french, very attractive, and spoke english quite well. After dinner we all were enjoying viewing the wedding album they had brought along. When I came across one photo that was particularly stunning of her I exclaimed (in my best exaggerated french accent) oh la la – to which she roared with laughter and later said she felt quite complimented by it.

December 31, 2012 at 6:39 am
(19) Zwarte Schaap says:

It is said that the word olala comes from the spanish word ojala wich comes from the muslim word ”insjallah” or ”wa sallah”. Portuguese oxalá. Also Maltese “jalla”.

http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/ojal%C3%A1

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arabic_language_influence_on_the_Spanish_language

February 24, 2014 at 3:47 pm
(20) laurent says:

You can also hear “oh là !”, a sort of quicker, milder and subtler “oh là là”. There’s a slight difference.

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