Word-for-word, boire la tasse means to drink the cupful.
What does this have to do with building a wind farm?
Construction on the wind farm in Saint-Brieuc bay, Brittany, has come to a halt this week after unexpectedly hard terrain was discovered on the seabed.
This is the latest in a string of issues during construction that have caused oil pollution and difficulty for fishermen in the area.
Fishing collective Le comité des pêches des Côtes-d’Armor told Le Figaro: “They’ve been drilling holes 10-18 metres deep for three months, and not a single mast has been installed – We were expecting 62 wind turbines!”
Following the latest discovery, the prefecture has given permission to start drilling on other sites. The original plans have had to boire la tasse – drunk the cupful – meaning they have failed.
This expression first appeared in the Dictionary of the Académie française in 1798, with a definition explaining “one says ‘to drink from the big cup’ to mean drowning in the sea’
In fact when the word tasse – cup – arrived in France from Persia in the 14th century it was originally tasse grande referring to a vase-sized vessel, much larger than the mugs for hot drinks we think of today.
As such, drinking such a large cupful of water was seen as a sure way to sink to the bottom.
Today the expression boire la tasse can mean simply swallowing a lot of water accidentally while swimming.
But, as in the case of the Saint-Brieuc wind farm, it can also mean to fail, lose badly, lose a lot of money or go under – a fitting description for the failed plans now relegated to the bottom of the sea.