French phrase of the day: Jeter l’éponge

French phrase of the day: Jeter l’éponge
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond
In English we have the towel, in French they use a sponge.

Why do I need to know jeter l’éponge?

Because it’s identical to a common English expression, except for one slight difference.

What does it mean?

Literally “to throw the sponge”, jeter l’éponge is the French equivalent of the English expression “to throw in the towel”.

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Both expressions mean to give up and admit defeat, and they can be traced back to the same place, too. In boxing, a trainer will throw a towel into the ring to signal that his fighter can’t continue. Along with the towel, a sponge is another object trainers use to clean a boxer’s face between rounds, and can also be used to bring a fight to an end.

Just like the English expression, jeter l’éponge has taken on a wider meaning and is used in everyday situations, not just when talking about athletes. If anything, it’s even more commonly used in French.

Use it like this

Les sondages ne lui sont pas favorable mais il n’est pas près de jeter l’éponge – The polls don’t look good for him, but he’s not ready to throw in the towel

Le tennisman a jeté l’éponge après le premier set en raison d’une blessure – The tennis player admitted defeat after the first set due to injury

Même si tu n’as pas les meilleures notes, il ne faut pas jeter l’éponge – Even if you don’t have the best grades, you shouldn’t give up

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