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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.

Synonyms

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


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