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French Expression of the Day: Être le dindon de la farce

Turkey does not play a prominent role in French Christmas dinners, but this expression has nothing to do with eating.

French Expression of the Day: Être le dindon de la farce
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

Why do I need to know être le dindon de la farce?

Because if you hear someone use this expression around the table, they are not talking about turkey. 

What does it mean?

Être le dindon de la farce, pronounced “et-ra le dan-don de lah farce”, literally means “to be the turkey of the farce”.

If you are the dindon de la farce, it means you are the butt of the joke, or that you have been duped. 

The origins of the expression are a little hazy but there seems to be some consensus that it came from an 18th century funfair attracted called Le Ballet des Dindons

The act consisted on placing live turkeys on a sheet of metal, caged-in, with nowhere to escape. The metal sheet would be progressively heated from beneath, causing the birds to hop and shuffle manically in pain. This fowl-torture was considered a hilarious piece of entertainment to people at the time. 

So to be the dindon de la farce is to be the poor tortured animal surrounded by people laughing at you. 

Intriguingly, Victor Hugo once wrote: “The turkey is a ridiculous animal”.

And Michèle Bernier, a French actress, once said: “When god created the turkey, he was drunk”.

These birds do not get a lot of love in France. At Christmas they are often eaten but they’re not a nailed-on Christmas favourite as in some countries and duck, goose and guinea fowl are also popular as festive roasts.

Use it like this

Tu n’entends pas être le dindon de la farce – You don’t understand that you are the butt of the joke

Nous sommes le dindon de la farce – We are a laughing stock

Le Royaume-Uni sera-t-il encore une fois le dindon de la farce sur la scène internationale? – Will the UK be a joke on the international scene once again? 

Other turkey expressions

Traité de dindon – To be taken as a joke 

Une petite dinde – A silly or pretentious girl

Parader comme un dindon – To strut around 

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French Expression of the Day: La clim’

You'll definitely want to know about this during the summer.

French Expression of the Day: La clim'

Why do I need to know la clim’?

Because the lack of green spaces in cities might find you looking desperately for fresh air.

What does it mean?

La clim’, pronounced la-cleem, means air conditioning, it is a shortened version of la climatisation.

Climatisation comes from the word climatiseur, which itself comes from Klima in Greek and means the inclination of planet Earth from the equator to the poles. This inclination of the planet on its axis is responsible for the seasons and if you find yourself in a French city in August your inclination will definitely be towards climatisation.

Air-conditioning in private homes is not common France, some hotels have it but not all and in the summer months restaurants will often advertise air-con if they have it, as a way of luring in hot-and-bothered tourists.

If you find yourself desperate for cool air, head to a supermarket – almost all French supermarkets are air-conditioned in the summer. Or for a more fun option just head to the nearest city fountain or water feature and join the locals who are splashing around to cool off.

Use it like this

Il fait très chaud, avez-vous la clim’ dans votre hotel ? – It’s really hot, do you have air-con in the hotel?

Je n’aime pas mettre la clim’ en route car cela est mauvais pour la santé et l’environnement – I don’t like turning on the AC, it’s bad for my health and for the environment

Il fait froid, peut-on s’il vous plait éteindre la clim’ ? – It’s cold, could  we turn off the air-con?

La clim’ fait beaucoup de bruit, pouvons-nous la mettre en sourdine ? – This AC is really noisy, could we turn it down?


Un climatiseur – the formal name for an air-conditioner (in French the air conditioning is feminine by the air conditioner is masculine)

Un ventilateur – a ventilator

Un Brumisateur – a ‘fogger’ – these machines which pump out cool water vapour are often seen on the streets and in parks during the summer

Un Rafraichisseur d’air – an air freshener