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French expression of the day: Avoir des casseroles (au cul)

Why some French politicians have saucepans dangling from their butt.

French expression of the day: Avoir des casseroles (au cul)
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

Why do I need to know avoir des casseroles (au cul)?

Because, although it sounds completely nuts, French people actually use this expression quite a lot.

What does it mean?

Avoir des casseroles means ‘having pans’.

French people tend to complete the expression by au cul with means ‘in the arse’. (Cul is more colloquial than fesses, which means ‘butt’).

Avoir des casseroles au cul does not however refer to someone literally having kitchenware near their rear end.

French people use it about people (often politicians) who have had their reputation tarnished by scandal. 

You don't need to say au cul, just avoir des casseroles is enough (the hanging-from-the-butt thing is implied).

A synonym is avoir un cadavre dans le placard – 'having a skeleton in the closet'.

Why pans?

Pans make a lot of noise. The expression is inspired by the image of children tying metal objects around the tail of a dog so that, when the dog moves, it make a lot of noise. 

No matter how hard the person tries, they can't escape the “bang-bang-bang” of the thing they did once that everyone now associate them with.

Let's say you're Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the French former IMF director who turned world famous after he was escorted out near-naked by police from a hotel in New York after an alleged sex attack.

Even if he was never convicted of anything, now il a des casseroles collés au cul – He has pans glued to his arse.

That means that whenever DSK speaks up, even if it's on the most boring economic topic imaginable, the metaphorical saucepans start banging together and people think “handcuffs! Prostitutes! Naked!”.

And so it goes for most politicians with a blemished record.

The cartoon below shows an old couple observing far right French politician Marine Le Pen pretending to act like everything is perfectly fine while two saucepans – referring to two scandals she was involved in – clatter away. 

The man says:

Elle a des casseroles comme tout le monde – She's smeared by scandals like everyone else

Ni plus ni moins – neither less nor more, the woman responds .



Il a des casseroles qui lui collent aux fesses – he has pans stuck to his butt

Avoir des scandales au cul – having scandals up your arse

Trainer des casseroles – dragging pans 


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French Expression of the Day: Faire trempette

You'll definitely need this phrase as the temperature rises.

French Expression of the Day: Faire trempette

Why do I need to know faire trempette?

Because you might need this phrase to describe that urge to jump in the water once the temperature hits a certain degree this summer.

What does it mean?

Faire trempette – usually pronounced fair trahm-pet – literally means ‘to make dipping sauce’ because the word ‘trempette’ is actually a condiment, or a dip, typically used for raw vegetables. In Canada, the dip is popular, and quite similar to Ranch dressing – a great addition to your crudités (vegetable snacks). 

But this phrase does not have anything to do with your healthy finger-food – in the colloquial sense, the phrase faire trempette actually means to take a dip – as in to go swimming.  

The way the expression came to become about swimming and not eating is pretty logical – in the 1600s a ‘trempette’ was a slice of bread dipped in liquid. As time went on people started to say ‘faire la trempette’ to describe the action of dipping food in liquid – like bread into wine – prior to taking a bite.

It became the metaphorical way of talking about taking a very short bath in the 19th century and now it’s the best way to reference the urge to  splash around for a second before heading back to the lounge chairs to tan. 

While you may  not have heard of this phrase before, you’ve definitely heard its synonym: the verb ‘se baigner’ (‘to bathe,’ but more so used as ‘to swim’). 

Use it like this

Comme la température augmente, je suis encore plus tentée d’aller faire trempette dans le canal. – As the temperature gets higher, I am even more tempted to go take a dip in the canal. 

Je pense que je vais faire trempette et ensuite m’allonger pour bronzer au soleil pendant un moment. – I think I will take a dip and then lay out to tan for a bit.