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French Expression of the Day: Tiré par les cheveux

Learning this expression won't make you want to pull your hair out, don't worry!

French Expression of the Day: Tiré par les cheveux
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

Why do I need to know tiré par les cheveux?

Because you might need an expression to describe how you feel when your favourite TV show goes down a ridiculous rabbit hole that makes no sense

What does it mean?

Tiré par les cheveuxusually pronounced tear-ay pahr lay shuh-vuh – literally translates to taken or pulled by the hair.

In English this expression either means to come to something very reluctantly, or to express exasperation ‘pulling your hair out’, but in French to be pulled by the hair has a totally different meaning.

It refers to something that is far-fetched, hard to believe, or non-credible.

This expression first came into use at the beginning of the 17th century, and its meaning is quite literal – the act of pulling someone by their hair means they are forced into doing something or going somewhere. When used metaphorically, the idea is that an idea that is ‘pulled by the hair’ is one that is forced into an illogical or strange direction that does not make much sense, as if pulled into the direction that just suits the person doing the pulling. 

You might see this expression used when someone is describing a particularly unbelievable or forced movie plot, or perhaps when a friend is giving an excuse that does not make logical sense.

And tiré par les cheveux is not the only hair-related expression in French: there are others, like “saisir l’occasion aux cheveux,” which means to seize an opportunity as soon as it presents itself.

Use it like this

Cet argument est encore plus tiré par les cheveux…Ça n’a pas de sens.– That claim is even more far-fetched. It does not make any sense.

La plupart des gens n’ont pas aimé la fin du Trône de Fer. Elle semblait un peu tirée par les cheveux et ne semblait pas suivre les scénarios préexistants. – Most people did not like the end of Game of Thrones. It felt a bit far-fetched and it did not seem to follow the pre-existing plotlines.

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French Expression of the Day: Mettre le holà

This might look like a mix of Spanish and French, but it is definitely not Franish.

French Expression of the Day: Mettre le holà

Why do I need to know mettre le holà?

Because you might need to do this if your friends go from laughing with you to laughing at you. 

What does it mean?

Mettre le holà – pronounced meh-truh luh oh-la – literally means to put the ‘holà’ on something. You might be thinking this must be some clever mix of Spanish and French, but ‘holà’ actually has nothing to do with the Spanish greeting. 

This expression is a way to say that’s enough – or to ‘put the brakes on something.’

If a situation appears to be agitated, and you feel the need to intervene in order to help calm things down, then this might be the expression you would use. Another way of saying it in English might be to ‘put the kibosh on it.’

While the origins of ‘kibosh’ appear to be unknown, ‘holà’ goes back to the 14th century in France. Back then, people would shout “Ho! Qui va là?” (Oh, who goes there?) as an interjection to call someone out or challenge them. 

Over time this transformed into the simple holà, which you might hear on the streets, particularly if you engage in some risky jaywalking. 

A French synonym for this expression is ‘freiner’ – which literally means ‘to break’ or ‘put the brakes on,’ and can be used figuratively as well as literally. 

Use it like this

Tu aurais dû mettre le holà tout de suite. Cette conversation a duré bien trop longtemps, et il était si offensif. – You should have put a stop to that immediately. That conversation went on for too long, and he was so offensive. 

J’ai essayé de mettre le holà à la blague sur ma mère, mais ils étaient sans pitié. – I tried to put a stop to the joke about my mother, but they were merciless.