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French Expression of the Day: Partir en cacahuète

This is a very useful French expression for when things are beginning to slide out of control.

French Expression of the Day: Partir en cacahuète
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

Why do I need to know the expression partir en cacahuète? 

Because things don’t always run smoothly.

What does it mean? 

Partir en cacahuète (pronounced par-tier on caka-wet) literally means: “to leave in peanut”. Obviously, that doesn’t really make too much sense. 

A better translation of the expression is “to spin out of control” or “to go nuts”. 

It is, as you might have guessed, an informal expression and one that you would use in everyday speech rather than an academic essay or serious work email. 

Use it like this

Vue la situation politique, j’ai peur que la France va partir en cacahuète – Considering the political situation, I am scared that France is going to spin out of control 

Je pars en cacahuète – I am going nuts 

Ça va très vite partir en cacahuète – It is going to spin out of control very quickly


There are various other expressions to signify the exact same thing: 

partir en sucette (literally, to go lollipop)

partir en couille (literally, to go balls)

partir en vrille (literally, to go twist)

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French Expression of the Day: Tarte à la crème

This expression is more than just your last order at the boulangerie.

French Expression of the Day: Tarte à la crème

Why do I need to know tarte à la crème ?

Because if someone uses this phrase to describe you, you should probably be a bit offended.

What does it mean?

Tarte à la crème – pronounced tart ah lah krem – literally refers to a cream filled tart, or a custard tart, in English. However, this expression has more to do than just baking. It is another way of describing something that is boring, predictable or commonplace.

This expression comes straight from Moliere himself. In the 17th century, there was a popular rhyming game called “Corbillon.” The phrase “Je vous passe mon corbillon” (I pass you by corbillon) is said, and then it is followed by “Qu’y met-on?” (What does one put on it?) To keep the rhyme up, people must respond with something ending in an -ON sound.

In the play, “L’Ecole des Femmes” (The School of Wives), one character says the ideal woman would respond to the question with “tarte à la crème” which is obviously the wrong answer. The right answer would be tarte à la citron (lemon tart). Molière did this on purpose to poke fun at the fact that disgruntled fans would send poor actors cream tarts to express their frustration.

It was a way of ridiculing his critics and showing he was unimpressed by their method of showing discontentment at his plays. Over time, the phrase went on to describe things that are commonplace or boring. It is often used to describe entertainment related topics, such as books, movies, or plays.

A synonym for this phrase in French might be banal and in English you might say something is ‘vanilla’ to describe something that is fairly unexciting.

Use it like this

Le film était vraiment tarte à la crème. Je ne recommande pas d’aller le voir au cinéma, vous pouvez attendre de le voir une fois qu’il sera gratuit en ligne. – The movie was really boring. I don’t recommend going to see it at the movies, you can simply wait to see it once it is free online.

Je pense que l’album est tarte à la crème. Elle a pris tellement d’idées d’autres artistes que ce n’est vraiment pas original du tout. – I think the album is predictable. She really took plenty of ideas from other artists and it was not original at all.