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FRENCH WORD OF THE DAY

French Expression of the Day: Faire chou blanc 

This might sound like a recipe, but in fact has nothing to do with cabbage.

French Expression of the Day: Faire chou blanc 
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

Why do I need to know faire chou blanc?

If you need a creative way to describe making a great effort to no avail.

What does it mean?

Faire chou blanc – pronounced fair shew blahnck – literally means “to make white cabbage,” but its true meaning has nothing to do with cabbage, and neither does its historical origin.

The phrase actually means to fail or come up empty, and it is said to originate from the Loire Valley region, and the local Berrichon language. 

The phrase is thought to have originally been “Coup Blanc,” or a blank shot. During the 16th century, a version of bowling was popular, and the expression was most often used when a player missed all the pins (you could say the original gutter ball). But because the Berrichon language pronounced K-sounds with a CH-sound, the phrase went on to be remembered as chou blanc

After the French revolution and the standardisation of the formal French language via public education, Berrichon began to decline. However, some remnants have remained, like the use of the pronoun “ça” instead of “il” when referring to the weather (ex. Ça pleut to say ‘it is raining’). 

Ultimately, the expression still carries the same meaning of drawing a blank, or winning nothing.

Use it like this

Ils ont cherché les clés perdues dans tout l’appartement, mais enfin ils ont fait chou blanc. – They searched all over the apartment for the lost keys, but in the end they came up empty.

L’enquête de la police faisait chou blanc, ils n’ont jamais trouvé le criminel après des mois d’enquête. – The police investigation came up with nothing, they never found the criminal after months of investigating.

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FRENCH WORD OF THE DAY

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.

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