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FRENCH WORD OF THE DAY

French phrase of the day: Rouler dans la farine

France loves a good food metaphor, and this is definitely one of the strangest.

French phrase of the day: Rouler dans la farine
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

Why do I need to know rouler dans la farine?

Because it would help you avoid some (funny) misunderstandings.

What does it mean?

Rouler dans la farine translates as ‘roll in flour’, which sounds like a fun activity you would do at the boulangerie.

But you don’t have to be a baker to roll stuff in flour in France, at least not when using this expression, which is in reality a metaphor for something quite different.

In reality, rouler dans la farine means ‘fool’ or ‘deceive’. The closest French synonym is duper, ‘to fool’.

As you have probably guessed, the flour is a form for disguise, the idea being that the white powder conceals the truth to the person that is rolled in it.

Origins

This expression originated in the early 19th Century when rouler (roll) meant ‘deceive’. Je me suis fait rouler – I made myself roll – therefore meant ‘I was fooled’.

The flour was a symbol of “beautiful speech”, according to French online dictionary l’Internaute.

Another theory claims the flour referred to that white powder actors back then used to cover their faces.

You are either being rolled in flour (being fooled) or you roll someone else in flour (fooling them).

When talking about yourself, you say je me fais rouler dans la farine (I’m being fooled), or je me suis fait rouler dans la farine (I was fooled).

If you are a bit unsteady grammar-wise, it is easier to be the fooler, not the fooled, when conjugating this expression:

Je te roule dans la farine (I am fooling you) – Je t’ai roulé dans la farine (I fooled you).

Use it like this

On s’est bien fait rouler dans la farine, dis-donc. –  We were thoroughly fooled, hey.

Je ne te laisserai pas me rouler dans la farine cette fois ! – I won’t let you fool me this time!

Ils les ont roulés dans la farine si longtemps que personne ne sait plus ce qui est vrai et ce qui est faux. – They have deceived them for so long that no one knows what is true and what is false anymore.

Synonyms 

Duper – fool 

Tromper – deceive 

Berner – delude

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FRENCH WORD OF THE DAY

French Expression of the Day: De bonne heure

Surprisingly, this French phrase does not mean ‘on time’.

French Expression of the Day:  De bonne heure

Why do I need to know de bonne heure?

Because someone might tell you to arrive at this time, and you’ll want to know what they mean.

What does it mean?

De bonne heure – usually pronounced “duh bohn urr” – literally translates to “the good hour,” which you might think would mean “to be on time.” However, in practice, the phrase actually means to be early or to be in advance. The most common French synonym of this phrase would simply be “tôt” which means early.

It can also be used to describe something that happens early in the morning or early in the day more generally. 

Interestingly enough, when the phrase started being used in the 14th century, it did mean to be on time, but its meaning shifted over time, the reason for which remains unclear. 

Up for a pun? Say this phrase three times fast to feel happy (if you didn’t get the joke, it’s because bonne heure sounds like bonheur, French for happiness).

Use it like this

Nous avons commencé la réunion de bonne heure, vers 7h30, avant l’ouverture des marchés boursiers. – We started the meeting early, around 7:30am, before the markets opened.

Je n’avais même pas encore commencé à cuisiner quand il est arrivé de bonne heure. Je n’étais pas préparée à le recevoir. – I hadn’t even started cooking when he arrived early. I wasn’t ready to have him over.

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