French phrase of the Day: Parigot tête de veau

Want to join in with a lively discussion on the manners of Parisians? We have just the phrase.

Why do I need to know Parigot tête de veau?

OK, need might be a strong word, but this is a funny expression if you want to join in with some general slagging off of people from the capital and their ways, which happens more than you might think in the bars of la France profonde.

What does it mean?

Well Parigot is a slang term for Parisians and tête de veau you might be familiar with from menus – calves' head. Put together it is a less than flattering phrase about the inhabitants of France's capital.

French dictionary l'Internaute primly explains that this is “a rhyming expression referring to the bad reputation of Parisians due to their rude and grumpy side”.

READ ALSO French regional stereotypes – grumpy Parisians and drunk northerners

It's fair to say that to the rest of France, Parisians have a certain reputation for being rude, grumpy and snobbish (we'll leave you to make up your own minds on that one, but we've met some delightful Parisians) so this phrase has a general meaning of “arsehole Parisians” in the same way that someone from northern England might refer to Londoners as “shandy-drinking bastards” – it's not the actual phrase that's important, more the sense you are conveying.

The other commonly heard phrase for Parisians is another rhyming one – Parisien tête de chien (dog-headed Parisian) which means broadly the same thing and the two phrases are often heard together.

But don't worry, Parisians have a retort – campagnarde tête de lard – broadly implying that people who live in the French countryside are thick and stubborn.

While we wouldn't advise getting caught up in French culture wars, if you want to learn about the age-old city/countryside conflict in France, check out the comedy song Parigot tête de veau.


Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.
For members


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.