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French expression of the day: Cœur d’artichaut

This cute little phrase is more than a delicious menu item.

French expression of the day: Cœur d’artichaut
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

Why do I need to know cœur d’artichaut?

It's a canny turn of phrase without a good English equivalent – although it really should.

What does it mean?

Cœur d’artichaut literally translates to ‘artichoke heart’, which is the core of the artichoke vegetable that you often find as a (delicious) starter in French restaurants. 

If you’ve ever had a proper artichoke starter in France, you don't get a canned, yellowed reduction of its full self, but as a large green plant that you nibble down.

Break of the leaves, dip them in a sauce and chew off the edible part until all that’s left is the soft interior – the heart.

READ ALSO: The 9 'English' phrases that will only make sense if you live in France

As well as being delicious and something we thoroughly recommend you try, this is also a canny way to illustrate the meaning of cœur d’artichaut, which the French use to characterise someone who falls often and easily in love. 

The full proverb dates back to the end of the 19th century and says: Coeur d'artichaut, une feuille pour tout le monde – Artichoke heart, a leaf for everyone.

Basically, a person with an artichoke heart is someone who in English 'spreads the love', but not in a slutty way.

Use it like this
Richard est un cœur d'artichaut, ça suffit qu'on lui sourit et il tombe amoureux ! – Richard falls in love very easily, it's enough that someone smiles at him and he falls in love!
Je n'en peux pas m'empêcher, je suis un cœur d'artichaut. – I can't help it, I fall in love so easily.
Elle s'attache vite, mais elle n'a pas peur. C'est un vrai coeur d'artichaut. – She attaches herself quickly, but she isn't scared. She really falls in love easily.

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French Expression of the Day: Faire son miel

Surprisingly, this phrase has nothing to do with beekeeping.

French Expression of the Day: Faire son miel

Why do I need to know faire son miel?

Because you might want to describe how you were able to buy a new wardrobe after the airline lost your luggage.

What does it mean?

Faire son miel – usually pronounced fair soan mee-ell – literally means to make your honey, or to make your own honey. In practice, this phrase actually means to take advantage of a situation, usually by turning a profit or to get the most out of a situation. 

The phrase comes from the idea that bees are actually profiteers: they take advantage of flowers in order to make honey. In the 16th century, this phrase was first put into use, and it followed the idea that bees fly up to the innocent flowers and steal their nectar and pollen for their own purposes. People began to use this as a way to describe people who take advantage of others or particular situations for their own benefit, or those who take things that do not belong to them.

Though the phrase is tied to the idea of turning a situation around for your own benefit, it is does not necessarily have a negative connotation. It can be used both for physical profit, or intellectual. It is somewhat similar to the English phrase of ‘making lemonade from lemons’ – taking a bad situation and making something good out of it.

In fact, French actually has another phrase that is quite similar to this one: faire son beurre, which is potentially even older than faire son miel

Use it like this

La compagnie aérienne a perdu nos sacs, avec tous nos vêtements dedans. Nous avons pu faire notre miel de la situation et acheter un nouvel ensemble de meilleurs vêtements avec l’argent de la compagnie aérienne! – The airline lost our bags, with all our clothes inside. We were able to take advantage of the situation by buying a whole new wardrobe on their dime!

Les oiseaux font leur miel de tous les nouveaux arbres plantés dans la ville. Ils profitent de ce nouvel espace pour faire leurs nids. – The birds are taking advantage of all the new trees being planted across the city. They are enjoying the new space to build their nests.

Le politicien a fait son miel des fonds supplémentaires et en a utilisé une partie pour son propre projet de construction. Ils pourraient le mettre en procès pour corruption. – The politician took advantage of the extra public funds for his own construction project. They might put him on trial for corruption.