For members


French expression of the day: Cul dans les ronces

In France, butts in the brambles mean there's still work left to do.

French expression of the day: Cul dans les ronces
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

Why do I need to know cul dans les ronces?

Because it's a funny expression that you're actually allowed to use in a serious discussion.

What does it mean?

Cul dans les ronces translates to 'arse in the brambles', and is an expression the French use to say when something is not done, or still work left to do or 'not out of the woods yet' for a more pastoral English expression.

Logically enough, no one wants to have their buttocks stuck in thorny bramble bushes, so it's a quite vivid symbol of somewhere you don't want to be.

The French definition of cul dans les ronces is ne pas être sorti d'une mauvaise situation, or avoir encore beaucoup à faire – 'not having got out of a bad situation', 'having a lot left to do'.

The French daily Libération recently published a much-shared article with the title Cul dans les ronces, by a doctor outlining what he said was France's current stance before a second wave of Covid-19 infections. Cul dans les ronces here referred to France not having learnt from previous mistakes, according to the author.


An English equivalent would be 'not yet out of the woods', and if you say cul sorti des ronces (which seems to be even more commonly used), it means exactly that. 'Arse out of the brambles'.

Use it like this

There really aren't a million ways of using the expression, you can use either cul dans les ronces or cul sorti des ronces, but the two don't change depending on the pronoun or tense.

J'ai l'impression qu'on n'a pas le cul sorti des ronces – I feel like we still have a lot of work left to do.

Ils avaient le cul dans les ronces. – They were stuck.

Le déménagement est vendredi et on n'a encore rien emballé, on n'a pas sorti le cul des ronces. – We are moving on Friday and we still have nothing packed up. We haven't gotten to it yet.

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.
For members


French Expression of the Day: Avoir l’estomac dans les talons

A sensation you might feel around midi after skipping your morning croissant.

French Expression of the Day: Avoir l'estomac dans les talons

Why do I need to know avoir l’estomac dans les talons?

Because you might want to inform your friend waiting in the long restaurant line with you about just how hungry you actually are.

What does it mean?

Avoir l’estomac dans les talons usually pronounced ah-vwar leh-sto-mack dahn lay tah-lonn – literally means to have the stomach in the heels, but it really just means that you are extremely hungry. A British-English equivalent might be ‘my stomach thinks my throat’s been cut’.

As with saying ‘I’m starving’ you wouldn’t use this to talk about people who are genuinely at risk of starvation, it’s just a phrase to complain about being hungry and wanting something to eat.

The expression probably originated around the end of the 19th century, and there are a couple of different ideas about how it came to be.

The first is that it’s intended to paint a picture of your stomach narrowing so much that it goes all the way down to your heels. The second idea proposes that since ‘les talons’ (heels) is a homonym with ‘l’étalon’ (stallion), the phrase might actually be referring to horse meat. You might be so hungry that the only thing that could possibly satiate your empty stomach is a hearty portion of horse meat.

Finally, there’s simply the idea that a person walking a long distance would have severe pain in his heels (or feet), and his hunger is so intense that it is as bad as the pain from walking a long distance.

Regardless of where it comes from, this expression is a sure-fire way to communicate your need for nourishment (or perhaps a nice helping of horse).

 Use it like this

Je ne peux pas attendre plus longtemps dans cette longue file, j’ai l’estomac dans les talons. – I cannot wait in this long line much longer, I’m starving.

Je n’ai pas mangé le déjeuner hier et à 17h, j’avais l’estomac dans les talons. Tout le monde dans le bureau pouvait entendre mon estomac faire du bruit ! – I skipped lunch yesterday and by 5pm I was starving! Everyone in the office could hear my stomach making noise.