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C’est Du Peu Au Jus – French Expression For Counting Down Posted by on Feb 21, 2019 in Vocabulary

Les expressions françaises (French expressions) have a funny way of sneaking into conversations and making what should be a simple sentence suddenly impossible to understand. It can feel strange to have no problem recognizing every word, but struggle to find any meaning in how they are put together!

Image from Pixabay. Licensed under CC0.

I was surprised when mon collègue (my coworker) used an expression with the word jus (juice), il y a quelques mois (a few months ago):

Staying In The Juice – Useful French Expressions

After dealing with the learning about how l’expression is used and why se tenir au jus came to mean to keep someone in the loop, I thought I was done with being confused by the fruity word.

Cependant (however), I recently stumbled across another expression that uses le jus, but for something entirely different. The lesson suddenly came while talking about le travail (work) with mon patron (my boss):

Tu as terminé le truc dont je t’ai parlé ?
Pas encore.
Il faut pas tarder. C’est du peu au jus.
Merci ! Dis-moi s’il y a plus d’information.
Tu ne m’as pas compris… Il nous reste peu de temps.
Ah, d’accord ! Je le ferai aujourd’hui alors !
Merci.

Have finished the thing I talked to you about?
Not yet.
Don’t put it off. There’s not a lot of time before it ends.
Thanks! Let me know if there’s any more information.
You didn’t understand me… We don’t have a lot of time.
Ah, alright! I’ll do it today then!
Thanks.

It was easy to clear up, but my initial confusion came from misunderstanding l’expression. When mon patron first used it, I immediately thought of se tenir au jus and it kind of made sense in the context of our conversation. My mistake was thinking of it like this:

Il faut pas tarder. Je te tiens au jus.
Don’t put it off. I’ll keep you updated.

When I realized I had made a mistake and tried to figure out what mon patron meant, directly translating l’expression didn’t help at all either.

C’est ‘du peu au jus.
It’s a little in juice.

Heureusement (luckily), it was quickly cleared up and I could understand the real meaning of l’expression:

C’est du peu au jus.
There’s not a lot of time before it ends.

I wanted to learn more about cette nouvelle expression (this new expression) and decided to find out where it comes from and why it uses le jus.

It turns out, c’est du peu au jus originates in military slang. People would use it as a way to counting down until they finished their service and it was usually combined with a numbe:

Quatre au jus – Four days until the end of one’s military service

The most famous of these being:

Zéro au jus – The end of one’s military service.

Le jus in the expression refers to le café (coffee), which refers to breakfast, which refers to un jour (a day).

Mais le jus et le café sont deux choses différentes…
But juice and coffee two different things…

Le jus in the expression actually refers to le jus de chique (chewing tabacco) or le jus de chausette (sock juice, slang for bad coffee). The course black look of ces jus brings up thoughts of the bad café you’re likely to find in a barracks.

At the end of the day, the conversation was a fun way to learn how le jus can be used to mean something entirely new. It was also an important lesson in avoiding sock juice.

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About the Author:John Bauer

John Bauer is an enthusiast for all things language and travel. He currently lives in France where he's doing his Master's. John came to France four years ago knowing nothing about the language or the country, but through all the mistakes over the years, he's started figuring things out.


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