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French expression of the day: Poudre aux yeux

Why would a French person say that someone threw magic dust in your eyes?

French expression of the day: Poudre aux yeux

Why do I need to know poudre aux yeux?

Because if someone tries to throw it at you, you will want to duck.

What does it mean?

Poudre aux yeux is a modern, shorter version of the expression jeter de la poudre aux yeux. Dating back to the 12th century, this expression means “seeking to dazzle someone with an often illusory glow.”

It's a telling description that works for poudre aux yeux too, however a more common translation is simply (political) ‘spin’.

Poudre aux yeux is often used by French people about political gestures they deem flamboyant and unsubstantial.

Teacher’s union representative Francette Popineaux used it when talking to The Local about the government’s recent announcement that it was ready to withdraw the contested ‘pivot age’ from its pension reform plan (read more here). 

C’est de la poudre aux yeux,” Popineau said –  'It’s pure spin’.

Republican party representative Lydia Guirious used the expression about President Emmanuel Macron’s handwritten letter to all French people, published on Monday to conclude the grand débat national.

C’est de la poudre aux yeux, mais les Français ne sont plus dupes,” she said. – ‘It’s all spin, but French people won’t be fooled’.


The expression is not reserved for political use only, but the translation might slightly change – like in this France 5 feature about the hyped-up spice turmeric.


“Turmeric tops the list of foods for people seeking a healthy diet. However its therapeutic benefits are still debated in the scientific community. In a bit, “Turmeric, is it bullshit?”'.

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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.