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French word of the day: Pousser mémé dans les orties

No grannies were harmed in the making of this expression.

French word of the day: Pousser mémé dans les orties
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

Why do I need to know pousser mémé dans les orties ?

Because you will often meet people who need to hear that.

What does it mean ?

Pousser mémé dans les orties can be translated into English as ‘to push granny in the nettles’.

Mémé is a familiar term for granny, although these days mamie is a more common alternative to the formal grand-mère.

The expression is always used in its negative form, which gives faut pas pousser mémé dans les orties (don't push granny in the nettles).

It was originally used simply as faut pas pousser, meaning ‘do not exaggerate’, and the rest of the expression was added in order to make it more colourful and emphasise the meaning.

It's now more commonly used to mean 'don't push it' or 'don't go too far' for someone whose behaviour is teetering on the brink of crossing the line. 

For example, if your sister borrowed your stuff without telling you and also stole your pocket money, you could have said faut pas pousser mémé dans les orties.

Use it like this

On ne s’est pas parlé pendant des mois, et il m’a appelée pour qu’on se remette ensemble.Faut pas pousser mémé dans les orties – We haven’t talked in months and he just called to ask me to take him back, that’s pushing it!

Je me suis occupé de son déménagement et maintenant elle veut que j’aille faire ses courses, faut pas pousser mémé dans les orties ! – I took care of her house move and now she wants me to go grocery shopping for her, she’s going a bit far!


C’est fort de café ! – That’s pushing it!

Pousser le bouchon – To push the boundaries

Abuser de la gentillesse de quelqu’un – To take advantage of somebody’s kindness

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For members


French Expression of the Day: Mettre le holà

This might look like a mix of Spanish and French, but it is definitely not Franish.

French Expression of the Day: Mettre le holà

Why do I need to know mettre le holà?

Because you might need to do this if your friends go from laughing with you to laughing at you. 

What does it mean?

Mettre le holà – pronounced meh-truh luh oh-la – literally means to put the ‘holà’ on something. You might be thinking this must be some clever mix of Spanish and French, but ‘holà’ actually has nothing to do with the Spanish greeting. 

This expression is a way to say that’s enough – or to ‘put the brakes on something.’

If a situation appears to be agitated, and you feel the need to intervene in order to help calm things down, then this might be the expression you would use. Another way of saying it in English might be to ‘put the kibosh on it.’

While the origins of ‘kibosh’ appear to be unknown, ‘holà’ goes back to the 14th century in France. Back then, people would shout “Ho! Qui va là?” (Oh, who goes there?) as an interjection to call someone out or challenge them. 

Over time this transformed into the simple holà, which you might hear on the streets, particularly if you engage in some risky jaywalking. 

A French synonym for this expression is ‘freiner’ – which literally means ‘to break’ or ‘put the brakes on,’ and can be used figuratively as well as literally. 

Use it like this

Tu aurais dû mettre le holà tout de suite. Cette conversation a duré bien trop longtemps, et il était si offensif. – You should have put a stop to that immediately. That conversation went on for too long, and he was so offensive. 

J’ai essayé de mettre le holà à la blague sur ma mère, mais ils étaient sans pitié. – I tried to put a stop to the joke about my mother, but they were merciless.