French phrase of the Day: Opération escargot

Snails play an important role in life in France - and not just on dinner plates.

French phrase of the Day: Opération escargot
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

Why do I need to know opération escargot?

Because you probably want to avoid them.

What does it mean?

Un escargot, as is fairly well known, means a snail. Move the topic on to French dining clichés and it won't be long before the Gallic habits of eating snails will be mentioned, although in fact, like frogs' legs they're not exactly ubiquitous on French menus.

But the snail has a couple of other meanings as well.

Firstly in some areas, mainly in the south east, a pain aux raisins is known as an escargot after its shape.

But the other type of snail is something you will want to avoid.

Une opération escargot is defined as “an action consisting of provoking a significant slowdown in traffic, or even a blockade, for protest purposes”.

It's what in English we would probably refer to as a rolling roadblock, the practice of disgruntled drivers – often hauliers or farmers – driving very slowly along a road causing huge tailbacks behind them.

They're a popular tactic among French unions, protest groups and organisations so if you see that an opération escargot is planned, you know to find an alternative route.

It's frequently seen in headlines, such as these ones 

Paris: opération escargot d'autocaristes sur le périphérique – Paris: rolling roadblock of bus operators on the ringroad

La CGT organise une opération escargot lundi – The CGT union is organising rolling roadblocks for Monday 

But it's also well known enough to be used in conversation as well.

Vous avez trois heures de retard ! Désolé, il y a eu une opération escargot sur l'A10 – You're three hours late! Sorry, there was a rolling roadblock on the A10.

READ ALSO France facts: Snails need a ticket to travel on a train


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French phrase of the Day: Ne me prends pas pour un lapin de six semaines

Being patronised by a Frenchman? Roll out this phrase.

French phrase of the Day: Ne me prends pas pour un lapin de six semaines

Why do I need to know ne me prends pas pour un lapin de six semaines?

Because someone might be trying to take you for a fool.

What does it mean?

Ne me prends pas pour un lapin de six semaines – pronounced ne me pren pah pour un lapan de see sem-enn – translates as ‘don’t take me for a six-week-old rabbit’, and is a go-to phrase to warn people not to mistake you for a fool, someone who doesn’t understand what’s going on.

The podcast Hit West from French regional newspaper Ouest-France suggests that the ‘six weeks’ comes from the age a rabbit is weaned at, and must therefore be ready to survive on its own.

And why a rabbit at all? Well no-one really seems very sure. Rabbits don’t get a good rap in the French language though, to stand someone up is poser un lapin in French.

English-language metaphor equivalents may be, “I didn’t come down in the last shower”, “I wasn’t born yesterday”, or, as Line of Duty’s DCI Hastings might say, “I didn’t float up the Lagan in a bubble”.

Use it like this

Honestly, keep it simple. If someone’s speaking to you in a patronising manner, simply say: Ne me prends pas pour un lapin de six semaines.

Ouest France suggests that this is the ‘more elegant’ way to request that people don’t take you for a fool. It’s not offensive, but it might be a little old-fashioned. 


You can use the more basic version of this phrase – Ne me prends pas pour une idiote (don’t take me for a fool) or the slightly more punchy Ne me prends pas pour un con (don’t take me for a moron).