For members


French Expression of the Day: C’est le pied

This French expression stems from old pirate slang and can be used to express approval.

French Word of the Day: C'est le pied
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

Why do I need to know c’est le pied? 

Because it is about more than simply pointing out a foot. 

What does it mean? 

C’est le pied, pronounced say luh pee-ay, is a French expression that literally translates as: It’s the foot.

But it eventually came to describe things as great, wonderful or super. 

The origins of this usage stem back to 19th century French pirate slang. 

Back then, pirates who had obtained a stash of booty, by finding buried treasure or raiding another ship, would divide the haul among themselves. 

To do this, they would lay the stash along the floor and divide it up using by foot lengths as measure. The expression prendre son pied (take one’s foot) came to mean taking your foot-length share of treasure.

Being pirates, they were obviously happy to get their share of the gold coin and rum. And so prendre son pied morphed into the simpler c’est le pied as a way to talk about things being good. 

Prendre son pied is still sometimes used but it has taken on a different meaning: to have an orgasm. 

A French company that has been making socks – with 2022 presidential candidates printed on them – adds a label using c’est le pied:

Parce que c’est le pied de pouvoir librement s’exprimer – Because it is great to be able to express oneself freely. 

Here are some other examples of how to use the expression: 

L’équipe de France, c’est le pied – The French team is great 

Cette classe, ce n’est pas le pied – This class is not great

J’adore cette photo, c’est le pied – I love this photo, it’s great. 

Other foot expressions

Quel pied can be used as a synonym for c’est le pied but it has a double meaning. Quel pied can also be used to call someone an idiot. 

But there are plenty of other foot expressions too:

Avoir une épine au pied – To be worried or in an embarrassing situation

Avoir un bon pied – To be in good health 

Faire des pieds et des mains – To make an effort 

Mettre les pieds dans la vigne du Seigneur – To get drunk 

Si vous lui donne un pied, il en prendra quatre – If you give him an inch, he’ll take a mile 

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.
For members


French Expression of the Day: Chercher midi à quatorze heures

This expression doesn't actually have much to do with lunchtime.

French Expression of the Day: Chercher midi à quatorze heures

Why do I need to know chercher midi à quatorze heures?

Because when someone makes what should take fifteen minutes into an hour-long effort, you might want an appropriate phase.

What does it mean?

Chercher midi à quatorze heures – usually pronounced share-shay-mid-ee-ah-cat-orz-ur – literally means “to look for noon at 2 pm.” When taken literally, the expression does not make much sense. However, in practice, it means “to make a simple thing overly complicated.” It is basically the French equivalent of “don’t make a mountain out of a molehill.”

The expression is quite old, but it is still in use…though it might be more common to find it spoken in the countryside rather than on Twitter.

It was first used as early as the 16th century – the version then was “to look for noon at eleven.” As time went on, it changed to reflect its current form in the 17th century. 

As noon is an important marker for the middle of the day, particularly as l’heure de déjeuner (lunch time), the expression makes fun of making something overly difficult. 

You’ll most likely hear this in the negative command form – as it is something you should probably avoid doing.

Use it like this

Pourquoi avoir pris la route la plus longue pour aller au supermarché ? Ne cherchez pas midi à quatorze heures. – Why take the longest route to get to the supermarket? Don’t overcomplicate things.

Tu n’as pas besoin d’essayer toutes les lettres de l’alphabet pour trouver le Wordle. C’est mieux de penser à des mots simples. Ne cherche pas midi à quatorze heures. – You don’t need to try every letter in the alphabet to get the Wordle. Just think of simple words. Don’t over complicate it.