For members


French expression of the Day: Mi-figue, mi-raisin

This useful phrase has a whole host of applications, well beyond discussions about dried fruit (which let's face it, are not that common).

French expression of the Day: Mi-figue, mi-raisin
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

Why do I need to know mi-figue, mi-raisin?

You might be looking for a new way to tell people you are feeling lukewarm besides the usual “eh” response when asked about how you are feeling on a Monday morning.

What does it mean?

[Être] mi-figue, mi-raisin – pronounced mee-feeg, mee-rayzan – literally translates as ‘half fig, half grape’ but it’s got nothing to do with fruit.

It describes the emotional state of being in between, or ambivalent, of having two different feelings while not feeling particularly tied to one or the other. 

It can also describe having a mixed opinion on a particular subject. 

In English we might say we’re ‘in two minds about’ a subject or we’re ‘on the fence’ on a particular topic.

The phrase is an old one, likely originating in the 14th century during Lent (the period of fasting observed by Catholics for forty days prior to Easter). During this time, people made large baskets of dried fruits, typically filled with figs and grapes. The two fruits were pitted against one another: grapes, the more expensive fruit, were preferred for their sweet taste, while figs were popular due to their affordability. To express ambivalence, congregants could say they were simply mi-figue, mi-raisin

The expression can be written either with or without a comma between the two fruits, but it is essential that the fig always goes before the raisin

Use it like this

Je ne sais pas pour qui voter. Je suis mi-figue, mi-raisin – I do not know who to vote for. I’m in two minds.

Elle n’est pas totalement contre la proposition, mais elle n’est pas non plus pour. Elle est mi-figue, mi-raisin. – She is not totally against the proposal, but she also isn’t in favour of it. She’s ambivalent 

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.