Appuyer sur le champignon and other French vegetable phrases

In honour of World Vegan Day on November 1, we explore three expressions related to vegetables

2 November 2021

Learn French words and expressions you may hear in the news today Pic: The Connexion

November 1 was World Vegan Day, an annual event dedicated to celebrating and spreading awareness of the benefits of veganism for humans and the natural environment.

Veganism is a lifestyle that aims to avoid animal products and exploitation in any form, including diet, fashion and political choices.

The day was first celebrated in 1994 to mark British educational charity The Vegan Society’s 50th anniversary and is now celebrated annually across the globe.

It involves planting memorial trees, setting up stalls and hosting potlucks – parties at which each guest contributes a (vegan) meal.

To mark the day, we look at three French expressions inspired by vegetables:

Appuyer sur le champignon (literally ‘to press the mushroom’):

This expression means to accelerate, especially with regards to a car.

It is said that it was coined in the 1920s when owning a car was becoming commonplace. At the time, gas pedals consisted of a rod and half-sphere, which resembled a mushroom emerging from the ground.

The expression quickly gained popularity and is used to this day, despite the shape and technology of car accelerators having evolved.

Ne pas avoir un radis (literally ‘to not have a radish’):

This expression means to not have any money. This phrase appeared in the 19th century, a time when radishes were very cheap.

It is said that the vegetable’s small, round shape was also reminiscent of a coin.

Hence, a radish became synonymous with a small amount of money. To ‘not have even a radish’ means to not have any money at all.

Manger les pissenlits par la racine (literally ‘to eat dandelions by the root’):

This expression was coined in the 19th century and is used to refer to somebody who is dead (and buried).

Dandelions are a very common plant which can grow in a wide variety of habitats. Somebody who was buried would be said to ‘eat dandelions from the root’ as the weed would often grow on freshly-turned soil, above the coffin.

The phrase appears in Victor Hugo’s 1862 novel Les Misérables.

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