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French phrase of the day: Taper du poing sur la table

Why, sometimes in France, it's crucial to know how to bang your fist on the table.

French phrase of the day: Taper du poing sur la table
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

Why do I need to know taper du poing sur la table?

Because it is a common expression that sounds a bit more aggressive than it is.

What does it mean?

Taper du poing sur la table directly translates as ‘to bang your fist on the table’, le poing being the French term for 'fist'.

As you may have guessed, this is a metaphor. It means to 'make one's opinion known' or to ‘put one’s foot down'.

It's different from taper du pied (stamp one's foot), which implies being annoyed or angry. Taper du poing doesn't necessarily imply anger, but it does have a degree of brashness to it. Imagine someone actually slamming their hand on the table to make their point – that's the essence of the expression.

Sometimes it's shortened to just taper du poing (fist-banging).

Taper du poing sur la table is a good one to use when talking about politics. If the president has had the last word on a decision, you will likely see headlines like “Macron tape du poing sur la table” shortly after.

It's not necessarily a compliment. Obviously when it's used about the president it shows leadership and firmness, but it can also be a way to say that someone is pushing their opinions through just because they're the most outspoken person in the room.

However if you've been to a French dinner you will know that sometimes a little fist-banging is necessary.

OPINION: Why arguing over the dinner table is a crucial skill in France

Use it like this

Le président a tapé du poing sur la table, il veut éviter un nouveau confinement à tout prix. – The president put his foot down, he wants to avoid another lockdown at all costs.

Au boulot, il faut savoir taper du poing sur la table. Sinon personne ne t'écoutera. – At work, you have to be able to clearly state your views. Otherwise no one will listen to you.

Je suis désolée, mais je dois taper mon poing sur la table. – I’m sorry, but I have to put my foot down.

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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.