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Six French phrases that describe defeat or losing

There can be only one winner, but the French language provides many colourful expressions for losing

If a football team suffered a 5-0 defeat you might say 'ils ont pris une taule' (they took a thrashing) Pic: Michael715

There will always be losers in sport, politics and business. Here are some interesting phrases about defeat.

“J’ai pris une taule” - a brutally honest phrase that means 'I took a thrashing'. 

The phrase prendre une taule (it can also be spelled une tôle, which can refer to either slang for prison such as “the nick” or, more likely, a piece of sheet metal) might also be used to describe sporting failures. For example, if a football team suffered a 5-0 defeat you might say  “ils ont pris une taule”.

Other ways of expressing being on the wrong end of total domination include se faire laminer – literally ‘to be laminated’ like a piece of metal – or se faire écraser (meaning to be crushed).

To add extra implied humiliation use se prendre une déculottée – meaning to take a hiding (ie with your culotte or pants down) – or prendre une raclée or une dérouillée (to take a hiding or beating).

Another useful phrase to describe failure – and one commonly used to describe someone who has lost a vote – is se prendre une veste.

The veste (jacket) used in this instance had morphed from the original item of clothing, a long coat called a capote.

In turn, capot was a 19th century card game, and anyone with a losing hand was deemed to have been put ‘in a capot’ by his adversary.

A few clever wordplays later and the capot became a veste, which still refers to an electoral loser.

During the 2017 presidential election campaign, Jean-Luc Mélenchon promised to make a “veste électorale cousu-main” (hand-made electoral jacket) for François Fillon, in a comic reference to Fillon having accepted expensive suits from donors.

In his 1968 ironic protest song L’Opportuniste, Jacques Dutronc assumed the persona of a politician who will not only give his loser’s veste back but also his trousers ‘when the revolution comes’.

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