top cx logo
cx logo
Explorearrow down
search icon
arrow down

Se fendre la poire and more French fruit and vegetable phrases

Three in four French people are ready to eat less meat and fish, a recent report states. We look at French phrases inspired by fruit and vegetables

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

Over three quarters (76%) of French people polled say they are ready to eat less meat and fish, a study published on Friday (December 3) shows.

The study questioned 1,000 people aged 18 and over - with 48% saying they have been eating more fruit, vegetables and cereals in the last two years.

The survey was published on the occasion of the Agriculture, Food and Health Conference that took place in Nantes last week. It was carried out by polling and market research firm Institut français d’opinion publique for the media group Ouest-France.

We look at three French expression related to fruit and vegetables:

Se fendre la poire (literally ‘to split the pear’):

This expression means to laugh out loud or burst out laughing.

It dates to 1832, when French caricaturist Charles Philippon depicted King Louis Philippe with his head in the shape of a pear.

Perhaps because the caricature was designed to make people ‘split’ into laughter, or because when laughing our jaw widens and our head somewhat resembles the shape of a pear that is ‘split’ horizontally, the expression se fendre la poire came to suggest laughter.

Avoir la patate (literally ‘to have the potato’):

This expression means to be in good physical form.

Due to the round shape of the vegetable, ‘la patate’, which was slang for ‘the potato’, was also slang for ‘the head’ in the 20th century.

To have a full head suggested to be in good mental form and by extension, the expression came to mean to be in good physical form.

Similar expressions are avoir la pêche (literally ‘to have the peach’) which means to be in good spirits and avoir la banane (literally ‘to have the banana’), which means to be very happy, likely because the shape of a banana resembles a smile.

Prendre une prune (literally ‘to take a plum’):

This expression means to receive a ticket or fine.

Legend has it that it has its origins in the 12th century crusades, when crusaders were defeated and could only bring back plum trees from Damascus.

The king was unsatisfied with this and plums came to be associated with little worth.

Some say that the soldiers were verbally reprimanded for this by the king, causing the association of plums with punishment.

Other sources state that in the 13th century, une prune came to mean ‘a blow’ and by the 20th century, the expression had evolved to mean to receive a fine – a blow to the wallet.

Related articles

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

Les carottes sont cuites and other French culinary expressions

‘S’occuper de ses oignons’ and other phrases 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
featured helpguide
Healthcare in France*
Featured Help Guide
- Understand the French healthcare system, how you access it and how you are reimbursed - Useful if you are new to the French healthcare system or want a more in-depth understanding - Reader question and answer section Aimed at non-French nationals living here, the guide gives an overview of what you are (and are not) covered for. There is also information for second-home owners and regular visitors.
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