French Expression of the Day: être chocolat

If you haven't come across the French expression 'être chocolat', you might (understandably) be surprised to find out that 'being chocolate' is not used in a positive way in France.

French Expression of the Day: être chocolat
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Why do I need to know what être chocolat means?

It's one of those irritating expressions when you understand all the composite parts and yet you're none the wiser about what the expressions means when they're all put together. 

So, what does it mean?

The literal meaning is, of course, 'to be chocolate' but as that doesn't make much sense, it has a different meaning altogether. 

Être chocolat is a slang expression which actually means 'to be had', 'to be taken for a ride' or 'to be duped'. 
So you might say, Je croyais faire une affaire, mais je suis chocolat! — 'I thought I was doing a deal, but I was duped!'
Or, Je croyais que mon chef me donnait un congé demain. Mais non. Je suis chocolat. — 'I thought my boss was giving me a day off tomorrow. But he isn’t. I got taken for a ride.'
The expression is not particularly commonplace but it's a good one to say every now and then if you'd like to show off your excellent knowledge of French expressions. 
But how does 'being chocolate' equate with 'being duped'?
There are a few explanations about where the expression may have originated, with one of the most prominent linking it to the boxing ring. 
Apparently when one of the boxers was knocked out, it would be a choc ('shock' in English) which was then extended to être chocolat, with the expression later evolving to mean 'being duped'. 
Another suggestion is that it came from a 19th century comic book series. 


Member comments

  1. Likely an insult towards blacks. Makes far more sense than the 2 proffered explanations.

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French Expression of the Day: Mettre le holà

This might look like a mix of Spanish and French, but it is definitely not Franish.

French Expression of the Day: Mettre le holà

Why do I need to know mettre le holà?

Because you might need to do this if your friends go from laughing with you to laughing at you. 

What does it mean?

Mettre le holà – pronounced meh-truh luh oh-la – literally means to put the ‘holà’ on something. You might be thinking this must be some clever mix of Spanish and French, but ‘holà’ actually has nothing to do with the Spanish greeting. 

This expression is a way to say that’s enough – or to ‘put the brakes on something.’

If a situation appears to be agitated, and you feel the need to intervene in order to help calm things down, then this might be the expression you would use. Another way of saying it in English might be to ‘put the kibosh on it.’

While the origins of ‘kibosh’ appear to be unknown, ‘holà’ goes back to the 14th century in France. Back then, people would shout “Ho! Qui va là?” (Oh, who goes there?) as an interjection to call someone out or challenge them. 

Over time this transformed into the simple holà, which you might hear on the streets, particularly if you engage in some risky jaywalking. 

A French synonym for this expression is ‘freiner’ – which literally means ‘to break’ or ‘put the brakes on,’ and can be used figuratively as well as literally. 

Use it like this

Tu aurais dû mettre le holà tout de suite. Cette conversation a duré bien trop longtemps, et il était si offensif. – You should have put a stop to that immediately. That conversation went on for too long, and he was so offensive. 

J’ai essayé de mettre le holà à la blague sur ma mère, mais ils étaient sans pitié. – I tried to put a stop to the joke about my mother, but they were merciless.