Why have we chosen it?
You'll hear this punchy expression quite often (hopefully) but it's one of those phrases that you just need to know in order to understand it. Guessing won't be of any use with this one…
So, what does it mean?
The reason why it's tricky is because “avoir la patate” literally means “to have a potato”.
The French using the “patate” as an informal word for “pomme de terre” meaning “potato”.
But of course the French aren't regularly going around telling people they have a potato.
In fact “avoir la patate” (in its infinitive form) is more to do with beans than spuds because it means to be full of them, in other words be on great form or in a great mood.
So, you'll hear people in France telling each other “j'ai la patate” when they are really up for it. And you can also use it in the negative form when you want to say you are not really on form – “je n'ai pas le patate”.
It's one of those colloquial expressions that brings a smile to people's faces and will make you sound very French if you use it.
Some sources date this expression to the beginning of the 20th century due to the fact that the potato has a round shape, like a person's head, it came to mean that someone has a healthy head and by extension is on good form.
1. Elle avait la patate jusqu'au coup de téléphone de sa banque.
She was feeling great until the bank called.
2. Pauvre Jacques, il n'a pas la patate aujourd'hui.
Poor Jacques, he's not feeling too great, he's a bit down today.
Other versions of this expression are “avoir la frite” (to have a chip) and “avoir la pêche” (to have a peach) which mean exactly the same thing.