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Se serrer la ceinture: Our French expression of the week

On the occasion of Paris Fashion Week and the government’s 2023 budget, we look at a clothes-related phrase used when talking about money

An image of a man fastening his belt

On the occasion of Paris Fashion Week and the government’s 2023 budget, we look at a clothes-related phrase used to describe cutting ones expenditure Pic: Brian A Jackson / Shutterstock

Today (September 26) marks the beginning of Paris Fashion Week, and is also the day on which the government will present its projet de loi de finances budget as the country continues to be affected by a cost of living crisis. 

Read more: What’s coming up? The week ahead in France

‘Se serrer la ceinture’ translates perfectly to ‘to tighten one’s belt’ in English, and similarly refers to someone cutting their expenditure and living more frugally. 

It conjures up the image of someone growing thinner and having to fasten their belt on a tighter hole because they cannot afford to eat as well as before. 

An example of the phrase used in a sentence would be: Mon mari est au chômage donc on doit se serrer la ceinture’ (My husband is out of work so we need to tighten our belts). 

Other expressions which also link to cutting one’s expenditure include ‘se passer de quelque chose’ (to go without something) or ‘se priver de quelque chose’ (to deprive oneself of something).

Ceinture has been used in French since at least the 12th century and derives from Latin cinctura, for a strip of cloth tied around the waist.

Some other fashion-related terms you might try out, could include:

  • Avoir le moral dans les chaussettes (to have your morale in your socks) : to be depressed

  • Etre à côté de ses pompes (to be beside ones shoes) : to be distracted / not concentrating

  • Mettre des gants (put gloves on): to approach something in a delicate, thoughtful way

  • Tailler un costard à quelqu’un (to cut someone a suit) : to strongly criticise someone

  • Etre comme cul et chemise (to be like bum and shirt) : to be inseparable

  • Trouver chaussure à son pied (to find a shoe for ones foot): to find exactly what you need

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