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French expression of the day: Appuyer sur le champignon

In France, 'pressing the mushroom' is not exactly what it sounds like.

French expression of the day: Appuyer sur le champignon
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

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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For members


French Expression of the Day: Découvrir le pot aux roses

You might do this while gardening or while reading the tabloids.

French Expression of the Day: Découvrir le pot aux roses

Why do I need to know découvrir le pot aux roses?

Because if you enjoy celebrity gossip, then you probably will find good use for this phrase

What does it mean?

Découvrir le pot aux roses – pronounced day-coov-rear le pot-oh rose – literally translates to ‘to discover the pot of roses.’ 

You might use this expression when finding out about some exciting gossip or maybe when discovering what your partner secretly planned for your anniversary, as this phrase in actuality is what you would say when you learn something secret or hidden. 

In English, when discussing secrets, you might say someone has ‘spilled the beans’ or ‘let the cat out of the bag,’ but the French phrase is more about the person who has found out about the hidden item or truth, not the person who told it, as it ‘spill the beans’.

The origins of this French expression are not what you might expect, historically, the phrase has little to do with the flowers.

During the Middle Ages, the verb ‘découvrir’ had the meaning of ‘to lift a lid’ and at the time the phrase ‘pot aux roses’ referred to a small box that wealthy women used to store their perfumes, as well as their makeup. They often used these boxes to keep secrets, letters, or notes that they did not want others to stumble upon.

Use it like this

Pendant l’afterwork, Sarah a raconté à tout le monde les secrets les plus fous sur la vie privée du patron. Je ne comprends pas comment elle a réussi à découvrir le pot aux roses. – During the work happy hour, Sarah told us all about the wildest secrets of our boss’ personal life. I don’t understand how she managed to unearth that gossip.

Il a découvert le pot aux roses lorsqu’il s’est connecté à l’ordinateur de son colocataire pour regarder simplement son mail. – He discovered the secret when he logged onto his roommate’s laptop to just check his email.