For members


French expression of the day: Coude-à-coude

In French, elbows are a key feature of any kind of tense contest.

French expression of the day: Coude-à-coude
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

Why do I need to know coude-à-coude?

Because it’s pretty key to discuss politics in France, which, if you’ve visited the country, you will know happens quite a lot, or certain types of sport.

What does it mean?

Coude means ‘elbow’ in French, so coude-à-coude translates to ‘elbow-to-elbow’.

Sometimes spelled coude à coude, this expression is a figurative way of saying that two contestants are ‘neck and neck’ or very close.

Coude-à-coude can be used about sports races (you will undoubtedly hear it during Tour de France), about politics – really any competition where the race is close.

As the French 2022 presidential race hotted up, media used it to describe the close polling scores between Macron and his far-right rival. 

Emmanuel Macron et Marine Le Pen au coude-à-coude, selon un sondage – Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen are neck-and-neck, according to one poll

If was also used about the 2020 US presidential elections, such as this Le Monde headline:

Elections américaines 2020 : Donald Trump et Joe Biden au coude-à-coude, les Etats-Unis se déchirent. – American 2020 elections: Donald Trump and Joe Biden are neck and neck, the US is tearing apart.

Use it like this

C’est très serré en tête de la course, les Français et les Anglais sont au coude-a-coude pour la victoire – It’s really tight at the head of the race, the French and English are neck and neck for victory.

Je n’aime pas trop le fait qu’ils soient autant au coude-à-coude.. Je crains qu’il y aura des gens qui ne respectent pas le resultat. – I don’t really like the fact that the race is so close. I fear that some people won’t respect the result.

Not to be confused with

Se serrer les coudes – literally translating as ‘linking elbows’ this means uniting with someone or something to face a common enemy. In English we might say ‘standing shoulder to shoulder. 

Member comments

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


French Expression of the Day: C’est de la daube

A daube is a delicious and hearty French stew - but this expression is not something that you would aspire to.

French Expression of the Day: C’est de la daube

Why do I need to know c’est de la daube?

Because you might want to express your strong opinion on a movie/book/TV show you’ve just watched in informal but relatively polite society.

What does it mean?

C’est de la daube  – pronounced say de la dorb – translates as ‘it’s a piece of crap’ (rubbish, while a perfectly reasonable alternative, just doesn’t quite cut it) and is perfect for use in discussions about books, films and TV shows … there’s even a book about cinema called C’est de la daube (Chroniques de cinéma)

The phrase can also be used to describe things that have little value and can be discarded after use – or, basically, anything you want to describe as ‘crap’.

Famously, daube is a classic Provençal stew made with inexpensive beef braised in wine, vegetables, garlic, and herbes de Provence, and traditionally cooked in a daubière, a braising pan. The question, then, is how a delicious and hearty stew came to be used to describe something cheap and nasty and best avoided.

It’s thought that this phrase has its origins in the kitchen. According to Gaston Esnault in his “dictionnaire des argots”, ‘daube’ in this less-savoury context is a 19th-century word of Lyon origin to describe fruits and meat as being ‘spoiled’, applied to fruits and meats.

Notoriously, French programmers who like the Linux system often refer to Windows as Windaube…

Use it like this

C’est de la daube cette film – it’s crap, this film

Ton opinion, c’est de la daube – your opinion is rubbish