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French expression of the day: Tomber dans les pommes

To the French, apples have an odd, alternative meaning that everyone knows, but few can explain.

Why do I need to know tomber dans les pommes? 

Because it’s one of those French expressions that means something completely differently when translated directly.

What does it mean?

Literally, tomber dans les pommes means ‘falling into the apples’, which doesn’t really make sense other than for specific orchard-related accidents.

In reality, the French use tomber dans les pommes to signify ‘fainting’.

Je suis tombée dans les pommes – I fainted.

Why apples?


We don't know for sure, but it's likely that the expression – which dates back to at least the late 19th century – originally did not include apples at all.

Rather, it made reference to pâmer, which logically makes more sense as it translates to 'swoon' or 'collapse'.

Pâmer is however an old-fashioned word, and some French people (we asked a few randoms) don't even know what it means.

So, according to online dictionary l'Internaute, it's likely that pâmer quickly transformed to paumer – 'loosing yourself' – which then became pommes

There is however an alternative explanation to this one, which claims the apples came from the expression être dans les pommes cuites, used by George Sand, the pseudonym of a famous French female author, to signify overwhelming exhaustion.

Use it like this

J’ai tellement faim, il faut que je mange sinon je vais tomber dans les pommes – I’m so hungry, I have to eat otherwise I’ll faint.

Quand elle a vu le sang qui coulait, elle est tombée dans les pommes. – When she saw the blood trickling she passed out.

On a marché tellement longtemps et il faisait très chaud, j'étais à deux doigts de tomber tans les pommes. – We walked for such a long time and it was so hot, I was inches from passing out.


Another way to say tomber dans les pommes is s'évanouir, which means 'pass out' or 'faint'.

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French Expression of the Day: C’est de la daube

A daube is a delicious and hearty French stew - but this expression is not something that you would aspire to.

French Expression of the Day: C’est de la daube

Why do I need to know c’est de la daube?

Because you might want to express your strong opinion on a movie/book/TV show you’ve just watched in informal but relatively polite society.

What does it mean?

C’est de la daube  – pronounced say de la dorb – translates as ‘it’s a piece of crap’ (rubbish, while a perfectly reasonable alternative, just doesn’t quite cut it) and is perfect for use in discussions about books, films and TV shows … there’s even a book about cinema called C’est de la daube (Chroniques de cinéma)

The phrase can also be used to describe things that have little value and can be discarded after use – or, basically, anything you want to describe as ‘crap’.

Famously, daube is a classic Provençal stew made with inexpensive beef braised in wine, vegetables, garlic, and herbes de Provence, and traditionally cooked in a daubière, a braising pan. The question, then, is how a delicious and hearty stew came to be used to describe something cheap and nasty and best avoided.

It’s thought that this phrase has its origins in the kitchen. According to Gaston Esnault in his “dictionnaire des argots”, ‘daube’ in this less-savoury context is a 19th-century word of Lyon origin to describe fruits and meat as being ‘spoiled’, applied to fruits and meats.

Notoriously, French programmers who like the Linux system often refer to Windows as Windaube…

Use it like this

C’est de la daube cette film – it’s crap, this film

Ton opinion, c’est de la daube – your opinion is rubbish