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when i keyed in "rush hour" i got the former so i assume it's more common for commuting.  but is the latter more common when speaking about other situations?  example: the busy periods in a resto.  in the US "rush hour" is only used for the period of commuting on a work day.    

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Hi Alan.

There is no difference between “heure de pointe” et “heure d'affluence”. You can use the one instead of the other, even if it's concerning the american “rush hour”.

I add something today because I think that could be interesting for everybody.

In restaurants, the staff also says : “le coup de feu”.

It means exactly : “l'heure d'affluence/ l'heure de pointe” during the work time.

This idiomatic expression is passed for a long time in the common language. So, you can use it for all pressed moments.

Well for my part I never use "heure d'affluence" it's a little bit too sophisticated for everyday life.

But if for example you are writing a study for the town on traffic conditions, you will use the second.

"Heure de pointe" = common spoken language

"Heure d'affluence (maximale)" = written language

Also, Stevo is 100% right about the "coup de feu" ;)

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