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While going through a French forum I came across the expression être cul-cul. As the case may be, the literal translation did not do it for me. Thought that google will have some lookups on this, but did not find a relevant one to point a finger at!

Having said that, I want to know what it means and also a little into its usage rules which may include the level of politeness, the context and some well known examples.

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4 Answers

up vote 11 down vote accepted

Straight from the TLF

II.− Adj. inv., fam. Niais, un peu ridicule. Être cucu. Le massif de silènes et de myosotis faisait cucu (Colette, Chatte,1933, p. 70).TLF

So vacuous, silly. The wiktionary gives cornyWikt.

This word seems to have a lot of variants, which is not abnormal for a familiar word. I have found so far

  • cul-cul
  • cucul
  • cucu

It is familiar, though I for once don't consider it slang. It sounds somewhat old-fashioned to me, and actually a bit cucu itself.

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+1 pour l'appréciation, cela peut être même gentillet lorsqu'il s'agit par exemple d'un très jeune enfant : sa réponse/réaction est cul-cul, mais elle est tout à fait normale pour son âge : cela devient une marque d'attendrissement. Dans d'autre cas la notion d'étriqué, de maniaquerie peut être sous-entendue. –  cl-r Sep 14 '12 at 13:09
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Can't help wondering where the variant "cucul la praline" came from. –  Joubarc Sep 14 '12 at 13:44
    
@Joubarc: je n'ai vu ton commentaire (et la réponse d'Evpok) qu'après avoir posté ma réponse. Ça m'a pris du temps à rédiger et l'écran n'était pas rafraîchi. Je crois donc t'avoir donné la réponse. –  Laure Sep 14 '12 at 14:18
    
En effet, merci –  Joubarc Sep 15 '12 at 19:23
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try the website www.expressio.fr: it's a gold mine for French expressions. Cucul la praline means someone a bit simple and ridiculous. For my part, I also understand it as someone a bit naive and old-fashioned. Here the link thereto: http://www.expressio.fr/edj.php?id=CSNR935R&exp=EACY647J enjoy it!

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Merci pour le conseil :) je vais surement y aller la prochaine fois quand je vais croiser une expression tel ça . A+ –  Geekasaur Nov 15 '13 at 10:18
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With all respect to the Wikitionnary answer, I feel they do not clearly indicate the true meaning this common word is supposed to imply. In Québec, it has become very common expression nowadays to indicate something as being 'corny', or maybe even better, 'cheesy'.

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I agree corny isn't a good translation for cucul, it takes off the old-fashioned, childish connotation of the word. But it's the type of word that will not be translated exactly and for which you have to find the most suitable equivalent. Maybe goofy or nitwit(ted) could at times be appropriate. Although I said I agreed with you I did not upvote your answer because you are not answering the OP's question but just making a comment. –  Laure Sep 16 '12 at 17:46
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Often spelt cucul. Le Wiktionnaire gives a good definition. Sometimes written out as cucul la praline.

According to the Dictionnaire historique de la langue française cul was commonly used in the 19th century to mean someone rather uncouth and not very bright.

Cucul la praline (or cucul-la-praline) appeared in the XXth century. It's just an intensification of cucul.
Wikipedia will tell you what a praline is. Have a thorough look at what a proper praline is (not the praline belge which is just another name for Belgian chocolates) before you read on.

Still according to the Dictionnaire historique de la langue française the connection between cucul (from cul and praline) was made because of what a praline looks like (pralines can be pink as on Wikepedia's picture but the proper ones are dark brown, the colour of cooked hardened sugar).

I would say it is not considered rude to use it but it is very familiar. Although some writers have used it, I would not use it in formal speech.

Noeud can be used as a synonym of cul when referring to a stupid person. Have a look at meanings 4 & 5 in the Wiktionnaire entry.
So can con as a matter of fact, but I would say con is definitely more derogatory/insulting than the other two. Noeud and cul have a more gentle connotation, as if when using it one would pity those we are talking about.

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Excellente documentation, mais j'utiliserais plutôt neuneu (lui aussi répétition) fr.wiktionary.org/wiki/neuneu pour rester dans le périmètre de la question : Nœud et con ont de très fortes connotations sexuelles qui peuvent vite faire déraper perception de la phrase ; autant neuneu est niais, autant nœud comme synonyme argotique de gland peut être beaucoup plus dégradant. –  cl-r Nov 14 '13 at 14:54
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