Être au bout du rouleau

Le mot du jour : “Être au bout du rouleau”
I don’t know if, like me, you have children at home, but mine are completely “au bout du rouleau”.

So what does this mean?

“Être au bout du rouleau” means to be at the end of the roll, so to be exhausted, basically.

This expression has nothing to do with loo roll (even if being at the end of a loo roll can be a problem! 🙂).

It goes back to the Middle Ages, when books were made of sheets glued together side by side and rolled inside a parchment to protect it. So when you were “au bout du rouleau”, then you had nothing left to read.

Over time, the meaning changed into the one today of having no energy, no resources left.

So to all the students out there : Tenez bon, les vacances ne sont pas loin ! (Hold on, the half-term break is not far!)

On n’est pas sorti de l’auberge !

Le mot du jour : “On n’est pas sorti de l’auberge !”

“Une auberge” is an hostel and the whole sentence can be translated by “We have not left the hostel”

I think the closest equivalent in English would be “We are not out of the woods yet”.

But why would leaving an inn be such a difficult thing to do, you might ask. Well, it turns out that in old French slang, “l’auberge” meant the jail. Suddenly the sentence takes a new meaning 😀

We also have a cruder version of that expression, which describes how difficult it is going to be to get your bottom out of the bramble bush, but I am going to spare you the rude words 😉

Anyway, if you feel that you are trapped in a difficult situation, feel free to say : On n’est pas sorti de l’auberge !

Être haut comme trois pommes.

Le mot du jour : “être haut comme trois pommes”

Let’s start the week with a cute expression.

“Être haut comme trois pommes” (to be as high as three apples) means to be small. Believe me, given how short I am, I’ve heard that one a lot when I was a child 🙂

It’s an expression you use when you talk to or about children, in an affectionate way. For example, if you meet a child after a while, it’s very common to say : “Oh la la, la dernière fois que je t’ai vu, tu étais haut comme trois pommes !” (Wow, the last time I saw you, you were very little!)

I don’t know where the idea of comparing children’s size with three apples stacked on one another came from, but I find it quite sweet 😊

La mouche du coche

Le mot du jour : “La mouche du coche”

I learnt a few days ago a new (well, new for me!) English expression : “back seat driver”

It’s apparently someone quite annoying, giving lots of advice and orders without being actually helpful.

Well, in French we would call that kind of people “une mouche du coche”, which means “a stagecoach’s fly”.

Here is the story : in the XVIIth century, Jean de La Fontaine, a famous French fabulist, wrote one of his stories called “The stagecoach and the fly” (Le coche et la mouche). In the story, a small buzzing fly turns around the horses, bites them, annoys them and is sure to be the one making the whole thing works, when actually it has done absolutely nothing useful.

The expression stayed in the French culture and is still used today, long after coaches have disappeared from our lives!

So if you know someone around you who is buzzing a little too much in your ears, you can sigh and say : “Ah, quelle mouche du coche !” 🙂

En faire tout un fromage

Le mot du jour : “en faire tout un fromage”
That expression is quite funny and can be translated by : “to make a whole cheese out of something”

You use it when someone is overreacting, making a big fuss. It is the equivalent of the British expression “to make a mountain out of a molehill”

That expression can be explained by the fact that making cheese is quite a long and delicate process, so it’s a big thing.
Once again, we have to face the fact that food is really central in French life and language 😀

Heureux comme un poisson dans l’eau

Le mot du jour : “Heureux comme un poisson dans l’eau”
“Heureux comme un poisson dans l’eau” means “happy like fish in water”.
It describes someone happy with his/her own situation in life, someone comfortable.

And I think this is exactly the feeling of my daughter at the moment, as she is packing for university with a big smile on her face. I remember feeling the same mix of excitement and anticipation when I left home after my baccalauréat. Good luck to all the young people out there starting something new with their life this year.

Bonne chance et soyez heureux comme des poissons dans l’eau !

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Broyer du noir

Le mot du jour : “Broyer du noir”

Broyer du noir (to crush some black shades) is an expression that comes from the XVI° century and it means to have dark thoughts, to feel blue. Apparently it comes from the painters when they used to crush their pigments to make some paint.

So to all of you people who struggle on Monday mornings, that expression is for you!

Courage! Only 5 days until the next weekend 🙂

La rentrée

Le mot du jour : “La rentrée”
This week, in France as in the UK, children are going back to school. This is a huge event called “la rentrée” (returning, going back in).

Schools in France are free (except if you opt for a private school, of course) and children don’t have to wear a uniform, but you have to buy every notebook, pen and pencil that your child is going to use, and the pencil case and backpack to put everything in it, and the special notebook (cahier de textes) to write all the homework in, and so on…

Some teachers are more demanding than others and you can end up with quite a huge bill at the end.

The supermarkets are filled with all this stuff since the beginning of July. As my daughter said : “La rentrée in France is like Christmas in the UK : much too early!” 🙂

On the day, the news on TV will be full of reports from the schools gates, usually showing little ones (school starts at three years old) crying their eyes out while their parents try to unglue them from their legs.With the pandemic going on, this year is going to be different, but I’m sure the media coverage is still going to be huge.

So once again, I’m going to enjoy the quiet back to school here, where collecting all the pieces of the uniform is still so much easier than all the stationery needed in France! 😀

Bonne rentrée à tous!

Pour des prunes

Le mot du jour : “Pour des prunes”


“Pour des prunes” (for plums) means “for nothing” or “in vain”.

You could say for example : “J’ai travaillé toute la journée, pour des prunes” (I worked all day, all for nothing).

But why would lovely plums be considered so worthless?


Well, it turns out that in July 1148, Crusaders decided to lay siege in front of Damas, a city on the way to Jerusalem, well known for its delicious plums, “les prunes de Damas”.

The siege was a complete disaster and lasted for only four days. The Crusaders didn’t have a choice : they had to go back home, having only captured baskets of plums!

Since then the expression has survived in everyday French and is still very much in use today, even if we don’t always know where it comes from.