French phrase of the day: S’emballer

French phrase of the day is 's'emballer'.
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond
Hands up if you do this even when you know it's a bad idea.

Why do I need to know s’emballer?

Because while your friends might call you a party pooper for telling them not to do this, it will help them avoid crushing disappointment down the line.

What does it mean?

As we get closer to Christmas, you’ll increasingly hear retail workers ask if you’d like an emballage cadeau – gift wrapping. That’s because emballer on its own means “to wrap”.

There is another common meaning, though, which is “to excite”, or “to transport”. After trying out a new restaurant, for example, you could say, C’était bon, mais ça ne m’a pas emballé – It was good, but I wasn’t blown away.

Used as a reflexive verb, s’emballer retains this idea of excitement – it means getting excited too quickly, as in someone who gets carried away, or gets ahead of themselves.

The term’s versatility allows for visual puns like the tweet below about the Agen rugby team ending its losing streak streak: “Finally a home win after 2 years and 3 days, no reason to get carried away”, followed by an image of the wrapped Arc de Triomphe to represent Agen supporters who were evidently not taking that advice.

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It’s very often used as a warning, when you catch yourself or a friend starting to fantasise a bit too much about something that may never happen.

When it’s not related to human behaviour, s’emballer refers to something that’s going too quickly. Whether it’s a horse (Le cheval s’est emballé – the horse bolted), or the price of everyday goods (L’inflation s’est emballée – inflation has skyrocketed).

Use it like this

On ne devrait pas s’emballer, on ne sait pas encore si les propriétaires vont accepter notre offre – We shouldn’t get ahead of ourselves, we don’t know whether the owners are going to accept our offer yet.

Je m’emballe toujours trop vite au début d’une relation – I always get carried away at the start of a relationship.

Ne t’emballe pas, il faudra quand même passer un entretien – Don’t get too excited, you’ll still have to have an interview

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