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Je m'arrête au café du coin boire un jus.

When you hear "boire un jus", do you tend to imagine "coffee" or "juice of fruit"? Can it be both, depending on a context?

  • It basically means anything that you can drink, juice, coffee, tea, alcohol etc. But apparently it depends on the place, some idioms are very local. – stbr Jun 28 at 12:01
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    @stbr I strongly disagree.I never heard it for alcohol or tea. A jus is either coffee or (fruit) juice. – jlliagre Jun 28 at 12:05
  • @jlliagre How can you disagree if you don't even know my location as I said it depends on it ? In le Haut-doubs (Franche-comté) we use it the same way as said above, I specifically said it depends on the place to avoid this kind of comment... – stbr Jun 28 at 12:56
  • @stbr I disagreed with the initial statement. Your last sentence wasn't yet there when I wrote my comment. Using it for "anything you can drink" would be indeed very regional if used for anything but coffee or fruit juice. I do not question your experience, I'm just surprised of it. – jlliagre Jun 28 at 13:08
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    @jlliagre Indeed you're right, I updated it a few minutes after posting my comment and probably meanwhile you were writing yours :) – stbr Jun 28 at 13:33
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From as long as I spoke french (~20 years) I never heard someone say boire un jus to say anything else than jus de fruits/légumes/quelque chose (-> fruit/vegetables/anything juice).

I think in some certain context, some people would use it to say drink alcohol but with the sentence s'enfiler un jus instead of boire un jus but as I said, some people in some context.

However, it seems that jus means café in a military slang. I found it there.

I also found on several forums / articles that jus was a word used to design café during the war (the first World-War)

Jus n.m.
Café en argot.
«Près du bivouac passe une rivière boueuse, on prend l'eau, on fait le jus, on aurait dit du café au lait tellement l'eau était sale.» Lettre de combattants, Le Figaro, 30 novembre 1914

  • J'ai la même sensation, mais étant en Belgique je ne saurais être sûr que cet usage argotique n'est pas plus répandu en France ou dans certaines régions de celle-ci. Personnellement je n'ai jamais employé "jus" à cette fin et ne m'attendrait pas à être compris si je le faisais... – Laurent S. Jun 28 at 10:21
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    Je suis en Franche-Comté, et on utilise assez régulièrement "boire un jus" pour "boire un café". Ca doit sûrement dépendre de la région, effectivement. – Lyzvaleska Jun 28 at 11:31
  • Je suis aussi de Franche-comté et on utilise jus pour parler de n'importe quel liquide "buvable". Mais je viens du doubs (du haut doubs même), cela doit sûrement varier. – stbr Jun 28 at 12:02
  • @Lyzvaleska Pas seulement en Franche-Comté, je l'ai entendu ailleurs. – Laure Jun 28 at 12:08
  • Pour expliciter ma position, je suis du sud de la France (nord de l'Occitanie et Pyrénées-Atlantiques pour mes études). J'ai travaillé dans un bar/café mais je n'ai jamais entendu l'expression. – JackRed Jun 28 at 12:09
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Jus can have a lot of non conventional senses all deriving from its primary meaning, i.e. the liquid extracted from a plant. If no further context boire/prendre un jus means boire/prendre un café. The Dictionnaire culturel en langue française dates the use of jus as meaning café to 1884. The Dictionnaire du français non conventionnel gives this example:

– Hé, hé, ils boivent le café, fit-il remarquer.
– On dit le jus, retifie l'homme-pie. (H. Barbusse, Le Feu, 1916)

It says the word was adopted as early as 1890 by soldiers who started saying Au jus ! to call for morning coffee.

But it is no way restricted to military use, lots of people (at least in the older generations and in France) will aller prendre un jus where there's no ambiguity as to the type of liquid involved. When used outside the military I would say it is colloquial rather than slang and I would think not used by the younger generations.

The TLF gives an example from Raymond Queneau:

Il est maintenant devant un jus bouillant sur un zinc (Queneau, Pierrot,1942, p. 55).

A blog about a make of coffee maker (2016):

Bon, t'es où qu'on aille boire un jus ?

On another blog (2013):

le café ce sont des mélanges destinés surtout aux professionnels et j'aimerais bien tomber sur des clients de Brasilia quand je vais boire un jus au bistrot ce sont des cafés autour de 4€ le paquet moins la remise gentiment accordée il ne faut pas s'attendre non plus à des miracles pour un peu plus de 3 balles

  • The most recent of your examples is almost 80 years old and I wasn't able myself to find a recent exemple. Would you have any source proving this is still of use with that meaning nowadays ? – Laurent S. Jun 28 at 10:55
  • @LaurentS. If anyone tells me "On va se prendre un jus" I would not understand anything else than coffee. If not they would say jus de whatever it is. But as I say, it is probably a generation thing, I can't imagine a young person (a lot younger than me, that is) saying it. – Laure Jun 28 at 11:44
  • @LaurentS. « Après avoir acheté son fromage, Alain va boire un "jus » au café -hôtel-restaurant, de l'autre côté de la route. (2014) ». If you look at the picture it's easy to tell which one is Alain, the three others boivent un verre, jus means "coffe", just as verre (unspecified) means "wine". – Laure Jun 28 at 11:52
  • Well I'm 40 so not that young, but it could be used by yet an older generation indeed. Note that the quotes around "jus" denote that it's not necessarily that obvious. But I'm all ok to accept this is commonly understood, maybe in some other regions/countries, maybe by other generations than mine. Or maybe just not by me (I don't drink coffee, this might explain that). Thanks for the recent exemples though :-) – Laurent S. Jun 28 at 14:17
  • "not restricted to military" => it should be noted that most men born before 1979 were conscripted for a few years to a few months (end documented here). When coming back from this mandatory conscription, they are likely to have brought back military slang with them. – Matthieu M. Jun 30 at 17:29
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If it is a very low quality drink or something with bad taste to wake up in the morning the expression "boire un jus de chaussette" ("drink sock juice") can be used.

Sometimes it is shortened into "boire un jus".

So it will depend of the context.

Jus de chaussette

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    Chaussette est traduit en "sock", not "socket" qui est assez différent – Laurent S. Jun 28 at 10:17
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    @LaurentS. Si on prend du jus ça peut passer de la socket à la chaussette ! ;-) – Laure Jun 28 at 10:20
  • @LaurentS. En effet pardon, je modifie ça, merci pour la remarque – Baptiste Gavalda Jun 28 at 10:21
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    The origin of jus de chaussette is said to be that during the war of 1870, soldiers had to be creative to get their coffee, and part of it was filtering the brewed concoction with (hopefully cleanish) socks. The result was indeed of low quality, which would explain why "jus de chaussette" still means low quality coffee-like drink. – Matthieu M. Jun 30 at 17:34
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Boire un jus is rarely used alone nowadays, but (according to my experience) the few people doing it often mean boire un café indeed.

Example of modern usage seen on a forum:

envoyé le 11/11/2013 16:51
[...]
Depuis je me limite à deux "vrai" cafés par jour, le matin et à la pause de 10h00, le reste en décaféiné. Pour la consommation après le repas on m'a dit la même chose, dans l'idéal il faudrait attendre 45 minutes après la fin du repas pour boire un jus...ce que je ne respecte que très rarement...

This expression might come from un jus de chaussette ("socks juice") which is a pejorative name for a bad coffee, originating from the 1870 war military slang.

When referring to a fruit juice, either the kind of juice is stated "boire un jus d'orange, de pomme" or the generic "boire un jus de fruit" is used. I have never heard je vais boire un jus alone to mean I'm going to drink a fruit juice although I wouldn't be surprised to hear it if the context makes clear a café isn't a possible meaning, for example in a fresh fruit juice shop or at a kids party.

Another reply mention jus can refer to alcoholic beverages, that's the first time I heard that usage.

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    If you asked a child what they wanted to order and there is no way it could be misconstrued as "café", you could ask them : "Tu veux boire un jus?", I think. – petitrien Jun 28 at 11:50
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    @petitrien I would definitely ask tu veux un jus de fruit, but maybe because I'm too old... ;-) – jlliagre Jun 28 at 12:00
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    You might be right. Something to be watching on the terrasses this summer! – petitrien Jun 28 at 12:06
  • Seems really to be a generation/regional thing... If anybody proposed me a "jus", I would always accept and expect some fruit juice... I'll be carefull from now on :-) – Laurent S. Jun 28 at 14:20
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Larousse en ligne consigne une acception de jus pour café noir (d'emploi populaire ; ou familier au Wiktionnaire). Je ne la connais pas, mais j'aurais compris soit de manière humoristique au bureau le matin avec le possessif mon pour jus de caféine, soit par référence à ce qui donne du jus (de l'énergie) soit par comparaison anti-conformiste avec la tendance pour les fruits/légumes dans un contexte où d'autres personnes boiraient du jus.

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