For members


French expression of the day: Remettre le facteur sur le vélo

Don't worry, this is not a tax you pay for biking in France.

French expression of the day: Remettre le facteur sur le vélo
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

Why do I need to know remettre le facteur sur le vélo?

Because it's quirky slang expression that has several meanings.

What does it mean?

Tap “remettre le facteur sur le vélo” into Google translate, and you get “put the postman back on the bike”.

If this sounds odd, it is. Remettre le facteur sur le vélo actually is a slang expression that can be translated as 'get back to it', 'get on with it', or 'to get back in the saddle'.

This latter is perhaps the best translation, although remettre en selle is more common.

Its historical roots are said to come from postmen in rural areas being offered powerful home-brewed booze by farmers, which made them a trifle unsteady on their Post Office bikes, but these days it is generally just a way to say 'get back on one's feet' (figuratively).

If you are hungover from yesterday's very boozy evening and bracing yourself for another night out, you can say Allez-hop ! On remet le facteur sur le velo. – Okay! Let's get on with it.

Remettre le facteur sur le vélo can also refer to particularly strong alcohol. If so, it's the drink in question that remet le facteur sur le vélo.

Use it like this

Inutile de traîner les pieds, remettons le facteur sur le vélo. – No use in dragging things out, let's get back in the saddle.

Après la pandémie il nous faudra du temps pour remettre le facteur sur le vélo. – After the pandemic we will need time to get back on our feet.

Dis-donc, ta liqueur fait maison remet le facteur sur le vélo ! – Gosh, your homemade liqueur has a real kick!


Remettre en selle – get back in the saddle


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For members


French Expression of the Day: Une vache à lait

This might sound like the cheese for children, but it actually has nothing to do with dairy products.

French Expression of the Day: Une vache à lait

Why do I need to know une vache à lait ?

Because if someone describes a potential investment opportunity like this, you might want to consider it.

What does it mean?

Une vache à lait – roughly pronounced oon vash ah lay – translates precisely to ‘a cow with milk’ or ‘a dairy cow.’ However, this phrase has little to do with farming, cheese, or milk.

In practice, une vache à lait is almost synonymous with the English term “cash cow” – or something or someone that is a moneymaker or source of profit. 

The phrase in French comes from the middle of the 16th century and evokes an image of a cow who is being milked without protest, allowing for the farmer to profit off of it. It was gradually extended to people and business ventures as a way of talking about profitability. 

Sometimes, this expression can have a negative connotation, particularly if a person is being called a vache à lait. This would be akin to saying that they are being financially exploited without realising it. 

Use it like this

L’achat de Snapchat a été une vache à lait pour Mark Zuckerberg et Facebook. – The purchase of Snapchat was a moneymaker for Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook.

Les parents ont été accusés d’utiliser leur enfant comme une vache à lait en l’inscrivant à des publicités. Ils ont trouvé cette accusation offensante. – The parents were accused of using their child as a cash cow by signing them up for commercials. They found this accusation offensive.