Que dalle !

Que dalle !
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Familiar French Expression

Meaning Absolutely nothing! Not a damn thing!
Literally Only paving stone!
Register familiar
Pronunciation [keuh dahl]
IPA   [kə dal]

Usage notes: Que dalle ! is a familiar way of saying "absolutely nothing!" It’s often used on its own, as a response or interjection.

Par exemple…

J’ai cherché une voiture pas chère pendant des heures et qu’est-ce que j’ai trouvé ? Que dalle !   I looked for a cheap car for hours and what did I find? Absolutely nothing!
– Hé ! Michel ! Qu’est-ce que t’as* fait hier ?
– Que dalle !
  – Hey! Michel! What’d you do yesterday?
– Not a damn thing!

* T’as is the informal contraction of tu as.

Que dalle can also be used as a negative pronoun, in place of rien.

Je (ne)** pige que dalle !   I don’t understand a damn thing!
Je (n’)entends que dalle !   I can’t hear a damn thing!

** Ne is generally dropped in informal French.

Related expression: avoir la dalle – to be hungry

Linguistics: Une dalle is a paving stone or slab of concrete, so why does it mean “nothing"? According to Albert Dauzat in L’Argot de la guerre,

 et je cite …

Le synonyme populaire de rien, qui signifiait à l’origine « quelque chose », est aujourd’hui dalle, employé exclusivement, pendant longtemps, sous la forme restrictive : je (n’) y vois que dalle, — la dalle étant le symbole plaisant de l’objet invisible, comme la tringle de l’objet introuvable.

The familiar synonym of rien (nothing), which originally meant "something," is today dalle, long used exclusively in the restrictive form: je (n’) y vois que dalle (I don’t see a damn thing), — the paving stone being the nice symbol of the invisible object, like the rod [holding up] the unfindable object.

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Que dalle !
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