Guimbarde? Car? Jew's Harp?

Can someone please tell me how ‘guimbarde’ can be used to describe a car, please?

I was stopped and talked at by a charming elderly gentleman who was admiring my somewhat decrepit elderly 4L while I called for bread in the local village. I suspect he had very poor eyesight…

I think he referred to the car as ‘votre vielle guimbarde’, but I understood guimbarde to be the name of the instrument that’s called a Jew’s harp in English. Did I hear him correctly? If so, what’s the derivation of this (presumably) slang usage?

“old banger” …( or similar…) if said with a smile then it’s not derogatory…

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Thanks, Stella. Do you happen to know the derivation?


I can ask “the boys” tomorrow night… we hear all sorts of strange words/phrases when folk are discussing old cars… and whilst the immediate translation might come across as offensive… it almost never is.

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I asked the question last night, explaining what had been said by “the charming elderly gent”
I’d written the phrase down so there was no misunderstanding my accent… and the paper was handed around.
Some thought it referred to my own old-car and they looked uncomfortable and tried to make light of it.
Many reckoned it would be used to describe a “barn find”… something in dodgy condition, but hopeful of resurrection.
But our Treasurer was very firm… “guimbarde - it’s péjoratif” “not a nice thing to say”.

I pleaded that I was sure the elderly gentleman was not being rude… but that was not accepted…
“Nope… Don’t ever use that word!” I was told quite firmly.

So, I never got around to asking for the origins of the word… sorry about that.
The exchanges got faster and faster and I completely lost the plot…

I still think that if he really was charming… he was probably meaning “good grief, what a load of junk… you are very brave to take on such a project” … and said with a smile, it’s a friendly exchange, not an insult…


Larousse on line

    1. Familier. Vieille voiture, souvent en mauvais état.

Yes, I know how the word translates… just trying to understand the nuances and origins.
Calling someone’s car an “old banger” can be taken as an insult to one’s pride and joy… yet I hear that bandied about in friendly fashion… so not insulting in that context.
Was wondering if guimbarde was similar… but apparrently not!

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Thank you, @Stella .

I think your treasurer was spot on.

My Quatrelle is from the early 70s and while I am well advanced on the mechanical restoration, the bodywork screams ‘guimbarde’! While I’ve been slowly working on the bodywork, some panels are matt/satin versions of the original white while others are in primer. I should add that the car was at one stage adorned with vinyl stickers of yellow and purple sunflowers - which still remain. I may get some new badges made up for it: La Guimbarde rather suits it!

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People can be very touchy - an old schoolfriend, who had clearly done well for himself was on FB

He’d had a few fast cars and had just bought himself an Aston Martin - used but nice nevertheless.

Except that the same car had been featured on TopGear (and so clearly one in the “press fleet”).

I - lightly I thought - quipped I wasn’t sure I’d want a car Clarkson had driven (admittedly I might have also used the phrase “cast off”).

He “unfriended” me instantaneously and we haven’t spoken since :frowning:


I would have probably joked in similar fashion.
Frankly, if folk are going to be tooo touchy about their assets (dogs, cats, cars… whatever) they needn’t invite me to tea. :rofl:

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It sounds as if Aston Martin owners may be sensitive souls compared to we guimbardistes!


Serves you right for using FB :joy:

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One chap didn’t appreciate being told (gently) that his Ferrari was actually a Fiat Dino.
Frosty glares and stormed off muttering French oaths…
But he obviously investigated… because when we next saw him in the crowd, he’d removed all the Ferrari badges/bling and returned the car to its true identity.
He came over and hugged us both… and we’ve been the best of friends now for more than 20 years…


Wait until you point out the most minor vehicular deficiency to a BMW owner, they go off like a Spacehopper filled with old nitroglycerin.

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BMW owners have very thick skin compared to Tesla advocates :fearful::rofl:

It is quite affectionate to call a car a guimbarde, if you think of the noise you can get out of a Jew’s harp it seems quite appropriate (I had one in my early teens and loved playing it).


There you go… I was sure the elderly gent wasn’t being rude… :slight_smile: but OH often tells me I see the best in everyone, regardless

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There’s a real bonus to this approach. The ruder someone is to me, the more polite I become in return. Nine times out of ten, they’re soon on my side :blush: