Bijou, Caillou, Chou, Genou, Hibou, Joujou, Pou: a Twist to a Month of French Idioms From A to Z

Unless you know of a French idiom starting with the letter X, I must give a twist to the expression-du-jour.

I owe the idea to my husband. He masters the French language like a French native and finds a solution to any problem like an American. Merci, thank you, for letting me off the hook with this suggestion.


The majority of French nouns mark their plural with the letter S, matching the English most common way. However, like irregular plurals in English, there are some exceptions in French, too.



The most notorious are seven nouns that as a child I learned by heart, in alphabetical order, almost like a short poem.








JOUJOU: TOY (a small toy, or a babyish way to name a toy)



These seven nouns ending with the letters O and U don’t mark their plural with an S but an X: Bijoux, Cailloux, Choux, Genoux, Hiboux, Joujoux, Poux.


Now, I’m asking my French friends:

Do kids still learn them the same way? Les enfants français apprennent-ils encore ces pluriels irréguliers par cœur?


Promise, I’m returning to the French Idioms series tomorrow!


A to Z Challenge



  1. So, underneath the different covers of language, we tend to learn/teach things the same way. I remember many little rhymes from childhood to cue me into correct spelling, even though the eXceptions to those rules often got me into trouble. I am surprised to see Bijou meaning Jewel since it was often associated with movie theaters here in the states (early in the 20th century).

    You are almost there Evelyne – hang on.

    • We all got small spelling tricks that our teachers gave us. Besides the seven French irregular plurals, one of my English teachers gave us this small tip: Left in English is Gauche in French and Right is Droite. Both Left and Gauche don’t have a R, while Right and Droite do have an R. Since I’m direction-challenged, it has been very helpful to me!
      Bijou and other French words are used in so many funny ways here in the US.
      You’re right: only two more letters! Not sure if I kept the best for the end, though…

  2. I think the X is a remnant from Latin. We have some English nouns that take and X ending also, but all of them have Latin roots.

  3. Extra challenging, eh? 🙂 –Curt

    • Extra, extra! Right, Curt. But I’m happy to have been able to provide one idiom per letter so far. This post is teaching a little bit of French grammar, which is a real pain. Even for native speakers! Thank you in any case for your visit. Only two more letters…

  4. Love this. A great way to remember these. My husband learned a lot of rhymes and “poems” when learning French when he was young… Lisa, co-host AtoZ 2015, @

    • Thank you, Lisa. I had forgotten about this series of irregular plurals. So I guess my husband and yours are equally helpful! We are almost at the end of the challenge but it gave me an idea for my blog. More to come later…

  5. Chou is one my favorite words in French.
    Nice solution to a tough problem. I think many people had to really think on this one.

    • Chou is first a cabbage, but if we had ‘petit’ it becomes a pastry. And of if we had ‘mon’ it is an sweet way to call anyone special.
      And you are 100% right about the letter of the day. X was a tough one.
      Thank you, Ula, for stopping by.

  6. So does “X marks the spot” qualify as an English idiom? 😉 It’s in the idioms dictionary online. Maybe it does.

    • Ha! That’s a good one. I had to look it up before replying to your comment. Since my goal was to provide French idioms I didn’t go the other way. That’s why I gave this mini grammatical lesson. But thank you for adding this English idiom, Susanna.

  7. Oh, that’s wonderful! I was at a loss and almost took one of these “x” plurals for my “X” post, but I really cheated and used “eXpresso” instead 🙂

  8. It is fun to learn with patterns and phrases. French words sound so, well, Frnch with the x at the end.
    It is late. Time for some zzzzzzz’s.

    • So glad you’ve enjoyed the series, Claire. Always funny for me to read that French is a cool language. When it’s your mother tongue this is more ordinary. See you!

  9. Elsa Lescoumeres says:

    Oui nous les apprenons tels quels!
    ou ainsi : “viens mon chou, mon bijou, mon joujou, sur mes genoux, et jette des cailloux à ce hibou plein de poux”

  10. My both children learnt French in French school in Helsinki. I learnt French by translating ten books with my dictionary. After them, I use dictionary very seldom. In my home I have about 1500 books in French.



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