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French expression of the day: Prendre la mouche

Are you taking the fly? You'll probably deny it.

French expression of the day: Prendre la mouche
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

Why do I need to know prendre la mouche?

Because it really makes no sense unless you know the true meaning of the expression.

What does it mean?

Prendre la mouche literally translates to 'taking the fly', as in the annoying insect that buzzes around your house in the summer. 

If someone says tu prends la mouche, they are however not asking you to grab a fly, but rather accusing you of being angry – and without a good reason.

Prendre la mouche is an old expression dating all the way back to the 16th century when mouche referred to a “a burden, a negative thought that appeared suddenly,” according to the online dictionary l'Internaute.

In addition to indicating that someone is annoyed/upset/angry, prendre la mouche also implies that the reason behind their vexation is pour une raison futile – 'for no good reason'.

So it's a good expression to have at hand if you feel unfairly treated.

And if you're thinking you've heard mouche in another context, you would be right. The French remake of popular British TV series Fleabag was called Mouche. Starring French actress Camille Cottin, the action was transplanted to Paris, including a memorable scene referencing former Socialist Party candidate Benoît Hamon.

Use it like this

Il prend souvent la mouche pour rien – He often gets angry for nothing.

Je lui ai dis ce que je pensais et elle a pris la mouche, elle s'est vexée – I'm told her I thought she was kicking up a fuss without a good reason, and she got mad.

Elle n'a pas à prendre la mouche, tu n'as rien fait ! – She shouldn't get vexed, you didn't do anything!

Pas besoin de prendre la mouche. – No need to get upset.


Se vexer – get vexed

Se fâcher – get angry

S'énerver – get irritated


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For members


French Expression of the Day: Ça tape

The long-range forecast suggests that this will be a handy phrase this summer.

French Expression of the Day: Ça tape

Why do I need to know ça tape?

Because you might want a way to describe the feeling of walking down a long boulevard with no shade in sight…or a techno concert.

What does it mean?

Ça tape usually pronounced sah tap – literally translates to ‘it taps’ or ‘it hits.’ The verb being used is taper, which means to hit or slap, and colloquially can be used to seek monetary support from someone. It is also the verb for ‘to type.’ But when spoken, this phrase does not involve violence, financial assistance, or note-taking.

Ça tape is a way to say ‘it’s scorching’ and complain about the hot weather or the search for shade. If someone uses it under a hot sun, and they say “ça tape”  or “ça tape fort” they’re referring to the particularly violent, piercing heat.

It can also be used to say something is intense, particularly in relation to music. It bears a similar colloquial meaning to the English informal phrase “it hits” or “it’s banging.” For example, you might be at a loud concert listening to a particularly passionate DJ – this might be a good scenario to employ ‘ça tape.’

The first meaning, which refers to the heat, is more commonly used across generations, whereas the second might be heard more from a younger audience. 

 Use it like this

Dès que je suis sortie de l’appartement et que je suis entrée dans la rue, j’ai dit “Ça tape !” car le soleil était si fort.– As soon as I stepped out of the apartment and into the street, I said to myself “it’s blazing!” because the sun was so strong.

Ce festival est incroyable, tout le monde est dans le même esprit. Ouh t’entends cette basse ? Ça tape !  – This festival is amazing, everyone is really in the same mood. Do you hear that bass? It’s banging.