French expression of the day: Poudre aux yeux

French expression of the day: Poudre aux yeux
Why would a French person say that someone threw magic dust in your eyes?

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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