French Expression of the Day: Faire la pote

The Local
The Local - [email protected] • 30 Aug, 2022 Updated Tue 30 Aug 2022 11:18 CEST
French Expression of the Day: Faire la pote
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

This actually does not have to do with making new friends.


Why do I need to know faire la pote?

Because even though this expression might use a word you are familiar with, its meaning is not what you would think.

What does it mean?

Faire la pote – pronounced fair lah poat - translates precisely to ‘make or do the mate,’ but in actuality the word ‘pote’ in this expression is not what we would normally think of.

This expression actually means ‘to make a sad or pouting face’ or ‘to sulk,’ and it is not related to the version of ‘pote we would usually use for ‘buddy’ or ‘mate’. 


You’ll likely hear this expression when around parents and children - especially if the child is sad or being chastised. But if someone tells you to stop doing this, they are not telling you to stop making friends. Instead, they might think you have a bit of a sour attitude. 

A synonym for this expression in French is faire la moue or faire un grimace.

The two uses of the word ‘pote’ in French have different origins:

Pote’ is typically used to refer to a mate, pal or buddy. It comes from the word ‘poteau.’ This word goes all the way back to the 15th century when it was the term for the post used to hang a condemned criminal, which then went on to be broadened and refer to a leader of a gang or faithful friend. 

However, there is another version of the word ‘pote’ that is less common. The official definition is ‘something which is fat, swollen and makes one clumsy’ according to the definition given by the Trésor de la langue française. It comes from Middle French, and more likely originated with the Dutch word ‘main-patte’ which was the word for an ungainly hand resembling a paw. 

This is the version of ‘pote’ used with the phrase ‘faire la pote,’ as it is referring to a swollen or hanging lip. It is also not a coincidence that it bears resemblance to the English word ‘pout,’ as they likely share a common etymology. 

Use it like this

Ne fais pas la pote. Je t'ai dit plus tôt que nous ne resterions qu'une heure au parc. Il est temps de rentrer pour dîner. – Do not pout. I told you earlier we would only stay an hour at the park. It is time to go home for dinner.

J'ai fait la pote dans l'espoir de le convaincre de changer d'avis, mais ça n'a pas marché. Il n'était pas ému. – I pulled a face hoping to get him to change his mind but it did not work. He was not moved.


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