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French phrase of the Day: C’est pas tes oignons

If someone says this to you then they're not referring to the contents of your salad tray.

French phrase of the Day: C'est pas tes oignons
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

Why do I need to know c'est pas tes oignons?

If you're got a friend, neighbour or colleague who just won't butt out then you may need this. 

What does it mean?

Its literal translation is 'it's not your onions' but its actual meaning is to tell someone that it's none of their business.

It's a slangy phrase so maybe a better translation would be something like 'mind your own' 'get your nose out' or  'it's none of your beeswax'.

So if you're looking for something casual, then telling someone Occupe-toi de tes oignons – mind your own business – or C'est pas tes oignons – it's none of your business – is perfect.


Que contenait ce colis d'Ann Summers qui vous a été livré? C'est pas tes oignons – What was in that Ann Summers package that was delivered for you? None of your business. 

J'ai revu les voisins promener leur chien – la troisième fois aujourd'hui. Occupe-toi de tes oignons! – I saw the neighbours walking their dog again – that's the third time today. Mind your own business!

There isn't really polite way to tell someone to stop sticking their nose in, but the more formal way to tell someone to butt out in French is Ce n'est pas votre affaire – it's none of your business.

That said there's nothing intrinsically offensive about the phrase and you could happily say it in front of grandmas, priests and small children.

Which is somewhat surprising when you consider its origins.

The French online dictionary l'Internaute explains that in the 19th century oigne was a slang term for buttocks, so telling someone to mind their onions is in fact telling them to take care of their own ass.

The slightly more family-friendly alternative is that in certain regions of central France, women of certain means were allowed to cultivate their own corner of the garden and grow onions, which they would sell at the market to earn some extra cash. So telling someone to 'mind their onions' is the equivalent of telling them to tend to their own affairs.


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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.