The mystery. The myth. The confusion.
According to Wiki statistics, the phrase “ooh la la” has been given to;
- 4 Albums
- 29+ Songs
According to a search query, it can be spelled numerous ways;
- Ouh là là
- Oooh là là
- Ooo là là
- Oh là là
When querying a Parisian, it is said to be spelled;
“Ooh là là là là”
“Ouh là là”
Depending on which Parisian you asked.
What it means when a Parisian says “Ooh là là là là.”
“Oooh wow wow wow wow.”
And for the American audience, a little…
Notions abound regarding what Parisians say, how they say it, and what they mean by what they just said. The French language has been around for a while so the depth and breadth of colloquialisms, nuances, and vernacular is sizeable.
“Ooh là là” is an actual phrase used by the French.
Usually, four to six là-s are included, and the way the “L” in “là” is pronounced is a little different than the straight “L” is pronounced in English.
This is where it gets a bit technical. In the English/American “L” sound, the tongue’s position allows some air to escape from the sides of the mouth and the tip of the tongue is pointed and touching the space right behind the front teeth. The way the “L” is pronounced in the French way to say “Ooh là là”, the tongue is shaped almost cup-like at the roof of the mouth in such a way that no air escapes. It’s a more full, resonant sounding “là là.”
I’ve heard it used by a Parisian when a box of pastries was opened. Another time when a particularly strong-smelling fromage’s wrapper was peeled away. Once when ogling some TV eye candy. Yet another time when a group of twenty-somethings were playing a hand-clapping game and one of them slapped the wrong palm. The Ooh là là là là was followed by laughter and a good-natured embrace.
There are words in French language that sound exactly the same with very different meanings, and sometimes with more alike meanings too, and when trying to speak French as a newbie, what may sound like the correct ‘sound’ of a word or letter to a non-French speaker, is invariably going to be given the ‘I just smelled something extremely stinky‘ by a Parisian listener.
Somehow, Parisians just seem to understand the context of every way to say something, no matter how subtle the difference may be. The most patient Parisians will try to explain these subtleties of context to you but it truly takes a fair amount of time to comprehend (and French lessons just to get the basics of the incredibly confusing verb conjugation couldn’t hurt).
That’s why Ooh là là là là is the safe and fun way to speak a little bit of French…like the French.
Don’t be afraid to throw in a fun-loving “Ooh là là là là!” when someone has made your favorite dish for dinner. A little “Ooh là là là là!” goes a long way when your honey goes that extra
kilometer mile and ties on a tie to look even more handsome for date-night. Heck, a well-timed “Ooh là là là là!” can’t be beat when someone cuts you off in traffic. Go ahead and add a few extra là là là làs to the usual “Ooh là là là là!” the next time someone you know tries a new hairstyle. It doesn’t mean you think it looks good, it doesn’t mean you think it looks not-so-good. It means Ooh là là là.
It is an extremely effective phrase for most anything. It’s a bit like a verbal exclamation mark.
Not all Ooh là là là làs are expressions of frustration or negativity. Some are expressions of elation, surprise or woah but with a pinch of contextual zoinks! The context lies exclusively in the situation so go ahead make that “Ooh là là là là” work for you.