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French expression of the day: Habillé comme l’as de pique

It doesn’t seem like it, but the ace of spades actually wears clothes. Or that’s what French people pretend at least.

French expression of the day: Habillé comme l’as de pique

Why do I need to know habillé comme l’as de pique?

Because Parisians might not forgive you your lack of fashion sense.  

What does it mean?

Être habillé comme l’as de pique – to be dressed like the ace of spades – is used colloquially to describe someone wearing clothes that, to put it kindly, aren't easy on the eye. 

So, next time you see someone displaying questionable fashion tastes, you might say il/elle est habillé/e comme l’as de pique


No one really knows where and when the expression originated, but according to the writer Delphine Gaston it comes from uncanny resemblance of the shape of the ace of spades to a hen’s rump.

The spade has traditionally been seen as the weakest colour of the cards in France and is often associated with bad luck or negative outcomes.

Molière, the classic French playwright, used “ace of spades” as a synonym for idiot in his play Le dépit amoureux.


Fagoté comme l’as de pique – an outdated version of habillé comme l’as de pique.

Fagoter means to twirl branches and twigs together until they become a fagot (brushwood). In other words French people used to compare poorly dressed people with shoddy brushwood. 

Être mal sapé – saper is a colloquial word meaning “to be dressed”. Therefore, être mal sapé means “to be badly dressed” 

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French Expression of the Day: Avoir l’estomac dans les talons

A sensation you might feel around midi after skipping your morning croissant.

French Expression of the Day: Avoir l'estomac dans les talons

Why do I need to know avoir l’estomac dans les talons?

Because you might want to inform your friend waiting in the long restaurant line with you about just how hungry you actually are.

What does it mean?

Avoir l’estomac dans les talons usually pronounced ah-vwar leh-sto-mack dahn lay tah-lonn – literally means to have the stomach in the heels, but it really just means that you are extremely hungry. A British-English equivalent might be ‘my stomach thinks my throat’s been cut’.

As with saying ‘I’m starving’ you wouldn’t use this to talk about people who are genuinely at risk of starvation, it’s just a phrase to complain about being hungry and wanting something to eat.

The expression probably originated around the end of the 19th century, and there are a couple of different ideas about how it came to be.

The first is that it’s intended to paint a picture of your stomach narrowing so much that it goes all the way down to your heels. The second idea proposes that since ‘les talons’ (heels) is a homonym with ‘l’étalon’ (stallion), the phrase might actually be referring to horse meat. You might be so hungry that the only thing that could possibly satiate your empty stomach is a hearty portion of horse meat.

Finally, there’s simply the idea that a person walking a long distance would have severe pain in his heels (or feet), and his hunger is so intense that it is as bad as the pain from walking a long distance.

Regardless of where it comes from, this expression is a sure-fire way to communicate your need for nourishment (or perhaps a nice helping of horse).

 Use it like this

Je ne peux pas attendre plus longtemps dans cette longue file, j’ai l’estomac dans les talons. – I cannot wait in this long line much longer, I’m starving.

Je n’ai pas mangé le déjeuner hier et à 17h, j’avais l’estomac dans les talons. Tout le monde dans le bureau pouvait entendre mon estomac faire du bruit ! – I skipped lunch yesterday and by 5pm I was starving! Everyone in the office could hear my stomach making noise.