C’est un soi-disant expert en géologie.
say uh swa-dee-zah ex-pay rah zhay-oh-loh-ZHEE. Click below to hear this.*
He’s a self-proclaimed expert in geology.
In other words, he has no credentials, no official standing in the world of geologists. It doesn’t mean he knows nothing. It doesn’t mean he has rocks in his head. But it does mean that he considers himself an expert, as opposed to being recognized as such by others. He is a soi-disant expert–a self-saying one.
Soi is the free-standing version of the third-person singular pronoun. It stands for on, which has no gender or number. It can mean one, people, they, a person, you, and other undefined individuals.
As for disant, it’s a present participle, the same as the -ing form in English. Since verbs have no gender, and neither does soi, it follows that the combination soi-disant has no gender either. So if I want to call myself an expert on something, I would be une soi-disant experte. And you would not have to believe a word I say.
*Some mobile phones, such as Blackberries, won’t display the audio player. If no player appears, here’s an alternative link to the audio file: