Monday, 22 July 2013

Bis - French for "Encore"

Bis, Encore, French, Music, Dance, Electronica, Techno
Daft Punk: I really don't think these guys will mind either way.
(photo by Juicy Rai)


Adverb. Early 17th century.
[French & Italian, from Latin bis twice.]

Encore; again; twice; specifically as a direction in a musical score indicating that a passage is to be repeated.

The next time you're Paris, planning an enchanting evening of classical music and culture, you must remember this post to avoid a thoroughly mortifying faux pas fran├žais: the French do not uncouthly shout "Encore!" like neanderthals when they want an encore. Rather, the Frenchman of taste will shout "Bis!"

Or so I've always been lead to believe; that it's one of those peculiar quirks of English's linguistic promiscuity, adopting a French word that sounds cultured and cosmopolitan, whereas to French ears encore used in this sense sounds distinctly odd. And authoritative references back this up: bis is defined as encore after all, and the OED's entry for encore plainly states that, in French, it is not used in the English sense.

These things are fickle, however, and I've had more than one Frenchman protest that they do indeed say "Encore!" when they want a bis, together with "Une autre!" when they want an encore, which is all frightfully confusing. If you want the advice of someone that doesn't speak French and has never been to a classical concert in France, then I would suggest just going along with the crowd (unless they're rioting, of course). And really, if a thousand people are chanting "Bis! Bis! Bis!" and one lone voice lets slip an encore, is anyone going to notice, let alone mind?

Or maybe they will. I don't know. This is France, after all. I think I might just go and see Daft Punk instead. Good luck, mes amis

Can you shed any light on the French use of bis?

What do you call at the end of the performance when you want an encore?

Do please tell below.


  1. In Belgium, we call "bis", too. It's a proper word in Dutch, whereas "encore" isn't. I don't know how or why this came to be, but as with a lot of things over here, it was probably something the French started and we just went along with.

  2. So encore doesn't mean encore? Ed, honestly, what is going on? Can't somebody with some sort of clout sort this sort of thing out for the rest of us?

    Bookmakers don't, whales aren't fish (apparently), Omega 3 oils AREN'T good for you, and now this. I'm hugely frustrated and disillusioned with it all.

    Why are they not fish? They swim, like fish. They live in the sea, like fish. They eat fish, like fish. They look quite like, if we're all honest with ourselves, fish. But they don't lay eggs, so they can't be fish? If you laid an egg, and I think you probably could if you concentrated, I still wouldn't go around saying 'ed's a fish.'

    I like to blend-in at parties - I suppose that makes me some sort of moth.


    1. No, C! Encore does mean encore in English, but in France they don't say encore when they want an encore - they say bis (apparently).

      And listen ... you might want to sit down for this ... did you know that a peanut isn't a nut? It's not even anything *like* a nut! Isn't that amazing? C? Isn't it? Hello? C? Ceeeeeeeeee!!????

  3. Peanuts aren't ......!? Next you'll be telling me the name 'London' has it's roots in ancient Welsh, and that dolphins, and this might finish me off completely, aren't fish either!

  4. ....I mean what idiot, or nut if you will, had the liguistic-dyspepsia to call something a peaNUT, when it is palpably neither pea nor nut. Probably the same genius that classified whales as mammals. I'm going to bed for a very long time, and when I wake up I want this entire mess cleared up.

  5. So if I was to sing a song for someone "Anonymous" and said Shut Up ( hypothetically ) a few times,
    And other people chanted again! Again!
    Would that suffice as an"Encore"?

    1. I suppose it would depend on whether they were asking for you to sing again or for the anonymous heckler to tell you to shut up again.

    2. "anonymous" is clueless, and I'm fairly sure terminators can't sing.