In French, when you don't know what the hell a word means that's just been mentioned, instead of flat-out asking “What is that?” we have an informal expression “Hmmm, ça se mange?” (Litterally, “can it be eaten?”). It makes obvious the fact that you're missing something. Alternatively, you could also say “À tes souhaits” (“bless you”), trying to pretend you took that uttered word for a sneeze.

Is there anything a similar, common phrase I could use in English?


In a similar spirit to ça se mange?, some people in the UK (especially my parents) would say "that's easy for you to say". This refers to a 1970s comedy TV show, the Morecambe and Wise Show, but most people would understand the joke even if they hadn't heard it before.


It isn't common here in Australia, but the expression what's that when it's at home? fits the bill.


Informally, I've heard "Come again?" and "Say what now?" when someone either doesn't understand the word or phrase or isn't sure they heard correctly.

Formally, "Pardon me? can be used if you wish the person to repeat themselves or if you don't understand a word, you can say, "I'm not familiar with that word. Would you mind explaining that?"


The only close relation, which might not be common anymore is the supposed first question in a 20 question game about the unknown word:

Is it bigger than a bread box?


“That’s interesting. Can you expand on that?”

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