Why do I need to know faire la grasse matinée?
This expression can help you explain how you spent your morning, though maybe not to your boss…
What does it mean?
No, faire la grasse matinée (‘do the fat or greasy morning’) doesn’t have anything to do with a full English breakfast. In fact, it means ‘to sleep in’ or ‘to have a lie-in’, depending which side of the Atlantic you’re from.
Note that Faire la grasse matinée is often shortened to faire la grasse mat
As in: On fait toujours la grasse matinée le dimanche. (We always sleep in on Sunday.) Or au lieu d’aller au travail, elle a décidé de faire la grasse matinée (Instead of going to work, she decided to have a lie in)
Or, in the words of celebrated French novelist Emile Zola: La société, sauvée encore une fois, se félicitait, se reposait, faisait la grasse matinée, maintenant qu’un gouvernement fort la protégeait, which means ‘Society, saved once again, congratulated itself, rested, had a lie-in, now that a strong government was protecting it.’
This expression is an old one, going back to at least the XVIth century, when dormir la grasse matinée was used. Despite a popular misconception about the physical effects of staying in bed all morning, linguists believe that the grasse has more to do with the ‘thickness’ or ‘softness’ of deep sleep, according to Le Figaro.
That means that faire la grasse matinée is well entrenched in the French lexicon, so feel free to use it in any situation.
You could just say dormir tard (‘sleep late’), but what fun would that be?