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Bouche bée

French expressions analyzed and explained

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Elle est bouche bée
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Expression: Bouche bée

Pronunciation: [boosh bay]

Meaning: open-mouthed, gaping

Literal translation: mouth open

Register: normal*

Notes: The French expression bouche bée indicates tremendous surprise, either good or bad: the person is so astonished that s/he is standing open-mouthed and staring at the source of the surprise. Bouche bée is usually used with the verbs être or rester, and has numerous possible translations:
  • to be flabbergasted
  • to be lost in wonder
  • to be stunned
  • to drop one's jaw
  • to stand gaping
  • to stand open-mouthed
Another verb to use is regarder: regarder (quelqu'un / quelque chose) bouche bée = to gape, to stare in amazement at (someone / something)

Examples

   J'en suis bouche bée !
   I'm flabbergasted (about it)!

   Bouche bée, il a regardé fixement le tableau étonnant pendant dix minutes.
   He stared, gaping, at the astonishing painting for ten minutes.

*The word bée is the feminine past participle of the literary verb béer - to be wide open. The expression bouche bée a bit old-fashioned, so you shouldn't use it all the time - étonné and sans voix are more common and can be used for both good and bad surprises. Other synonyms for bouche bée include sidéré (informal), stupéfié, and ahuri, but they are stronger and tend to be used for only negative surprises.


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