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I heard the expression in a YouTube video, spoken by a French native (a teacher) to describe the state of his English. I understand the meaning to be "it's a bit rusty". I had never seen the expression before, so I searched around the Internet and found a comment saying it would not normally be used, even in informal French.

I have 2 questions:

  1. Is this really an expression that is used in colloquial French?
  2. Why is "rouillé" (rusty) not used rather than "oxidised"?

I look forward to your comments.

1 Answer 1

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I would bet on a joking intent: the guy was just using a more "technical" word instead of using the more common rouillé, which totally exists in French in this context.

Mon anglais est un peu rouillé car je ne l'ai pas beaucoup parlé depuis le collège.

The sentence above is perfectly acceptable.

Some might even go as far as to say that the teacher was intentionally using the wrong word to emphasize the fact that his English was indeed a bit rusty, because he wasn't able to translate the expression properly. That would make it a subtle "double joke".

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  • I don't think he involuntarily used a wrong word. "Rouillé" and "oxydé" are interchangeable in this context, and they are understood as synonyms. The latter is a little less common, used mostly by people who have a background in science.
    – Adrien
    Jun 2, 2020 at 8:09
  • When I said "wrong word", I meant it as "not the usual word for this expression". I agree that "rouillé" and "oxydé" are synonyms.
    – Reyedy
    Jun 2, 2020 at 8:36

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