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French expression of the day: Appuyer sur le champignon

French expression of the day: Appuyer sur le champignon
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond
In France, 'pressing the mushroom' is not exactly what it sounds like.

Why do I need to know appuyer sur le champignon?

Because, although it sounds like a funny thing to do, it's actually a way of describing a very ordinary and mundane action.

What does it mean?

Appuyer sur le champignon translates to 'press the mushroom', but it's actually the French way of saying 'step on it' or 'hit the gas'.
 
In a car, le champignon signifies 'the gas pedal', and by pressing it the car will move faster.
 
Although modern gas pedals look nothing like mushrooms, initially they were shaped like a metal rod with a ball on the top – like a mushroom hat. 
 
 
When French children go on school trips by bus, they sometimes sing:
 
Chauffeur, si t'es le champion,
Appuie, appuie,
Chauffeur, si t'es le champion,
Appuie sur le champignon !
 
Which means:
 
'Driver, if you're the champion,
Step on, step on,
Driver, if you're the champion,
Step on the gas!'
 
Use it like this
 
Nous sommes déjà en retard. Appuie sur le champignon ! – We're already late. Step on it!
 
Or, as a warning:
 
Qui pense pouvoir appuyer sur le champignon dans les rues désertes, se fera prendre. – Anyone thinking that they can just hit the gas in deserted areas will get caught.

 
 
You may also use it as a way of saying 'accelerate' something other than the speed of a car. 
 
Les opérateurs vont appuyer sur le champignon dans les zones blanches en France pour enfin y mettre en place de la 4G. – Operator will accelerate the process of putting in place 4G in France's 'white zones'. 
 
Pendant les vacances on évite d'appuyer sur le champignon et essaye de rien faire. – During the holidays we avoid speeding and try to not do anything.

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