C’est pas bête, ça!
say pah BETT, sah! Click below to hear the audio file.
This is about as typically French as you can get! It doesn’t really say That’s brilliant at all. It says That’s not dumb! And that’s actually very high praise in France.
You see, the French are a lot like Americans: We don’t want to admit that someone else came up with a cleverer idea than we did ourselves. So the praise sounds grudging. But before you criticize this attitude, think about the American NIH attitude: Not Invented Here. If it wasn’t my idea, it can’t possibly be any good.
Besides, this way of expressing oneself is not confined to opinions of someone else’s work. How about these?
Il (ne) fait pas beau! (ee fay pah BOW!) = It’s not nice out! = What horrible weather!
Ça (ne) va pas vite! (sah vah pah VEET!) = It’s not going fast! = This line is moving like molasses in January!
Ce n’est pas (c’est pas) bon marché! (say PAH baw maar-SHAY!)= That’s not cheap! = That costs an arm and a leg!
Note that there is a tendance to omit the ne from the negative. This is casual talk.