French phrase of the day: Des trous dans la raquette

AFP/The Local France
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French phrase of the day: Des trous dans la raquette
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond"

This sports metaphor doesn't stand up under scrutiny.


Why do I need to know des trous dans la raquette

Because it will make you sound like an expert not only on the French language, but also on French politics and law.

What does it mean?

If a government policy has des trous dans la raquette (holes in the racket), it means that there are gaps, and it doesn’t cover every person or category it is meant to cover.

The expression came up recently, when education minister Jean-Michel Blanquer unveiled new Covid health plans for the 2021-22 school year.

Sophie Vénétitay, deputy secretary-general of the SNES-FSU teachers’ union, told franceinfo, “On voit qu'il y a encore des trous dans la raquette” (We can see that it’s full of holes).

The Académie Française claims that the expression is “borrowed from the English ‘holes in the racket’”, but we’re not convinced about that one.


The phrase refers to a rule or policy which has unintentional gaps, allowing certain people or cases to fall through the cracks.

However, the Académie rightly points out that the expression doesn’t make much sense, since most rackets, with a few exceptions such as ping pong paddles, are in fact full of holes by design.

They suggest using the term passer entre les mailles du filet (to slip through the net). Although “des trous dans la raquette points out weaknesses in a system, whereas passer entre les mailles du filet refers to the skill of the person who is able to escape from this system”.

Use it like this

le pass sanitaire n'est pas une garantie absolue d'absence de risque de contamination, le test négatif est un trou dans la raquette – The health pass is not an absolute guarantee that there is no risk of contamination, negative tests let some people slip through the cracks.

La réforme n’est pas parfaite, il y a forcément des trous dans la raquette – The reform isn’t perfect, there are obviously going to be some gaps.


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