Ça ne mange pas de pain: A French expression you may hear today

With the price of baguettes expected to increase in the near future, we look at phrases inspired by the staple food…

26 October 2021

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

Flour and labour shortages could cause the cost of baguettes to rise in France in the foreseeable future by more than 10%, the president of a national bakers' federation has warned.

Bread has historically always been important to the French, so it is no surprise there are several expressions related to it. Here are some of them.

Ça ne mange pas de pain (literally ‘this doesn’t eat bread’):

When something “doesn’t eat bread”, it means that it doesn’t cost much to do or is not a “big deal”. 

In other words, it does not demand any great effort, or involve much risk.

This expression was coined in the Middle Ages, when bread played even more of a role in the French diet than it does now. In fact, it was a major portion of poorer families’ household budgets.

When something costs a lot of money, it could eat into the food budget and subsequently the bread budget.

Therefore, families favoured less expensive choices which 'did not eat bread’.

This expression has survived the passage of time perhaps because it was again attested in the 17th century when France suffered from several famines.

Long comme un jour sans pain (literally ‘long like a day without bread’):

This expression was coined around the 17th century, when a day without bread, which for some would have been a day without eating anything at all, would have been long and painful.

Nowadays, it is used to describe something boring – a day, a wait, a lesson in school...

In the past, it also meant ‘tall’ but it is not used in this context anymore.

Some sources state that the phrase was inspired by the older proverb à la faim, il n’y a point de mauvais pain (literally ‘to hunger there is no bad bread’), which means that when we are in need, we cannot be picky.

A phrase with a similar message in English is ‘beggars can’t be choosers’.

Perdre le goût du pain (literally ‘to lose the taste of bread’):

This expression was coined in the 17th century and means to die. To lose one’s sense of taste is synonymous with dying as it is losing an innate human function: And especially so, if you can no longer taste bread, seen as one of the staples of life.

Equally, faire passer le goût du pain à quelqu’un (literally ‘to put someone off the taste of bread’) means to kill them.

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