French expression of the day: Cul dans les ronces

French expression of the day: Cul dans les ronces
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond
In France, butts in the brambles mean there's still work left to do.

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.

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