Donner sa langue au chat: A French expression you may hear today

A pet cat has gone missing on a flight from France to the US and the response from flight operators is to ‘donner sa langue au chat’. What does the expression mean?

20 August 2021

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

Translated literally, donner sa langue au chat means to give one’s tongue to the cat.

So how does this relate to the case of the missing cat that boarded a plane from Nice to Los Angeles 21 days ago?

Teddy, the cat in question, was in a cage when he was loaded onto the plane in France. By the time the flight arrived in the US, stopping in Paris en route, the cage had been broken open and Teddy was nowhere to be found.

Read more: $2000 reward for cat that disappeared somewhere between Nice and LA

The airline company that transported the cat has not been able to offer any explanations as to what happened – it has donné sa langue au chat.

This expression evolved from the phrase jeter sa langue aux chiens – to throw one’s tongue to the dogs. 

Over time the expression evolved, as cats were seen to be symbolic of keeping secrets or being silent while knowing everything.  

In 1860, the expression donner sa langue au chat was used in an Edmond de Goncourt novel, Charles Demailly, to imply someone who was at such a loss for ideas that they had to give their tongue to the cat to speak for them. 

While his owner is offering a $2,000 reward for Teddy’s safe return, the airline company that transposed him has been said to donner sa langue au chat as it is so far unable to offer any explanation for what happened, or where Teddy is now.

Related articles

Être dans les clous: A French expression you may hear today

Piqûre de rappel: A French expression you may hear today

Resident or second-home owner in France?
Benefit from our daily digest of headlines and how-to's to help you make the most of life in France
By joining the newsletter, you agree to our Terms & Conditions and Privacy Policy
See more popular articles
The Connexion Help Guides
Income Tax in France 2021 (for 2020 income)*
Featured Help Guide
Order your Income Tax in France guide now for immediate digital access
Get news, views and information from France
You have 2 free subscriber articles left
Subscribe now to read unlimited articles and exclusive content
Already a subscriber? Log in now