French Language Blog

Street French II – Food Posted by on Jun 18, 2009 in Vocabulary

French argot (slang) can be difficult to understand, but it’s really quite fun.  So, today, we’ll talk about some expressions involving food that don’t have so much to do with food really, but might be useful to know.  For example, if you want to say that you are a bit down in the dumps, you could say “J’en ai gros sur la patate” because ‘patate‘ although it really means ‘(potato) spud’ in English, is often used to refer to many other things when using French slang.  So, be careful, because ‘patate’ can also mean ‘idiot’ as in “Il est vraiment une patate”.  Or if you want to say that you have a friend who parties all night because he has a lot of energy or stamina, you could say “Il a la patate” or if you are wondering how you can get your energy back when you are sick with a cold, for example, you could ask “Qu’est-ce que je dois prendre pour avoir la patate?”.  If you’ve been overloaded with information and your head is going to explode, you could say “J’ai la tête comme une patate!“.  If you want to encourage someone by telling them to hang in there and not give up, you can say “Lâche pas la patate!” and although we could go on and on with the spuds (the French do grow 20 different varieties and perhaps for this reason, they seem to love using the word) finally, “patati patata” means ‘blah, blah, blah…’.
Moving on to sausages… If someone calls you “une andouille”, don’t thank them as they are calling you ‘a fool’.  If your mother or someone else tells you “Fais pas l’andouille!”, they are telling you not to be silly (or, rather, not to do silly things).
As for other foods, a really bad movie is referred to as un navet” (a turnip). “Chou” (cabbage) can mean ‘honey’, ‘sweatheart’, ‘granny’ and ‘love’ when talking about another person.  “Bête comme chou” refers to something that is really easy or ‘easy as pie’.  “Faire chou blanc” means to ‘draw a blank’.
And just to throw a few fruits in, ‘”une poire” (a pear) or even “une pomme” (an apple) can mean ‘a sucker’ as in someone who is gullible and falls for anything.  “Avoir la pêche” (peach) means to feel great and energetic just like “avoir la patate” above.
Well, I’m starting to get hungry, so until next time, je m’en vais (I’m outta here)!

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  1. Adam:

    I follow Transparent French on Twitter and I’m often bored by the words taught, that most students learn within their first few months of studying a language.

    I wish more of the Tweets included more in depth phrases that beginners are not familiar with, such as this comprehensive and interesting article. 🙂

  2. Chanda:

    Hi Adam,
    Thanks for your comment and thanks for following us! Believe me, these types of articles are more fun to write too, but since there are so many people that follow the tweets and blog, there has to be a variety of content to try to meet as many needs as possible. Merci de nouveau!

  3. Kate:

    There are other expressions about food in France.
    You have something like “Manger les pissenlits par les racines”, that can be translated as eating dandelions by the roots. It means being dead.
    Or, “arrete de raconter des salades”, stop telling salads => stop telling craps !
    Or, “etre prise pour une poire”, when someone think you’re a “good pear”. It means being too nice/stupide with someone.