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French expression of the day: En faire tout un fromage

Unfortunately, this does not mean that you're being offered a cheese plate.

French expression of the day: En faire tout un fromage
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

Why do I need to know en faire tout un fromage?

Because some stereotypes about the French are just true. France being the country of cheese is one of them. 

What does it mean?

France is the country of (many) more types of cheese than there are days in the year, where fromage is an distinguished dish that must feature at any decent dinner party, and where people who don't like cheese are embarrassed to admit it.

Obviously there had to be a French expression involving cheese.

En faire tout un fromage literally means ‘to make a whole cheese about it’.

But it’s used to say that someone is unnecessarily making a big fuss about something. Broadly similar to saying you are making a meal of something.

Arrête d'en faire tout un fromage! – Stop making such a big fuss about it

But why would cheese be stressful? Eating cheese is so relaxing.. 

Yes, but making it isn't. Turning milk into cheese is a major task that requires skill and time.

So, basically, if you're trying to turn milk into cheese when it's not cheese, but milk – you're overreacting. 

On s'est disputé avec ma copine hier soir. Comme d'habitue elle en a fait tout un fromage.. – I fought with my girlfriend last night. As usual she made a huge deal about it.

J'avais oublié de lui rendre son livre et il m'en a fait tout un fromage. – I forgot to give back his book and he made such a fuss about it.

Ca va, on ne va pas en faire tout un fromage? – Come on, we're not going to make a big fuss about this, are we?


There are plenty of French ways to accuse someone of making a fuss:

Pas de quoi fouetter un chat

Faire toute une histoire de

Faire tout un plat

Faire une montagne de

En faire tout un cake

En faire un pataquès

En faire une maladie

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French Expression of the Day: Robin des bois

He's the legendary Englishman who is surprisingly relevant to French political discourse.

French Expression of the Day: Robin des bois

Why do I need to know Robin des bois?

Because you might be wondering why the French reference this English outlaw during protest movements 

What does it mean?

Robin des bois roughly pronounced roe-bahn day bwah – is the French version of “Robin Hood” – the legendary outlaw who stole from the rich and gave to the poor. 

Robin Hood is part of English folklore, with the first references to him occurring sometime during the 13th or 14th century. He did not become Robin des bois for some time – as the legend did not spread to the majority of French people until at least the 18th or 19th century. 

Robin des bois most likely made his big entrance on the French stage in the 19th century when the novel Ivanhoe (1819), which tells tales of medieval England, was translated into French. 

The fabled outlaw was welcomed by the French, particularly romantic writers and thinkers of the time who saw him as a symbol of the fight against the aristocracy. 

But the French had their own versions of Robin Hood before the English legend made its way to l’Hexagone – like the “Louis Mandrin” who supposedly rebelled against corrupt tax collectors during the Ancien Regime. 

Over the years, the French – particularly those on the political left – have evoked “Robin des bois” during strikes and protests, and it’s relatively common to see protest movements or direct action groups name themselves after Robin Hood.

The English outlaw also had his own French television series between 1963 and 1966 – though this time he was called “Thierry La Fronde” and he lived in France during the Hundred Years’ War.

Use it like this

Nous devons nous attaquer aux actions de Robin des Bois afin d’aider la classe ouvrière à payer leurs factures d’énergie, a déclaré le syndicat dans un communiqué de presse. – We must take action like Robin Hood to help the working class pay for their energy bills, the union said in a flyer. 

Le restaurateur était un véritable Robin des Bois – il avait tendance à surfacturer les tables des riches et à sous-facturer celles de la classe populaire. – The restaurant owner was a real Robin Hood – he had a tendency of overcharging tables of rich people and under-charging those of poor folks.