Celebrate bread with our French expressions

This week, France celebrates bread and its famous baguette, which has been recognised as part of French intangible cultural heritage since November 2018.

16 May 2019
By Selma Daddi

La Fête du Pain is always in the week in which May 16, the name day of Saint Honoré, the patron of bakers, falls. Until May 19, several events take place all over France in bakeries, restaurants or museums and a contest to find the best baguette is also organised.

To tie in, we have picked seven French expressions about bread.

1/ Avoir du pain sur la planche (literally to have bread on the plank)

This means you have a lot of things to do, a lot of work. The expression originally meant to have enough (bread) to survive in the future, as bakers used to prepare and stock bread on a plank in the 19th century.

2/ Du pain bénit (blessed bread)

If someone says ‘c’est du pain bénit’ about something, this means it is a great opportunity.

3/ Partir ou se vendre comme des petits pains (to leave or to sell like little breads)

This means that something is selling very well and fast. It comes from the Bible and the moment Jesus gave bread and fish to a starving crowd of people.  

4/ Ne pas manger de ce pain là (to not eat this kind of bread)

Je ne mange pas de ce pain là’, this is what you can say when you do not want to do something that is not part of your moral values. Bread is something shared by everyone and someone can invite you to eat it in order to share his plans which can be immoral.

5/ Pour une bouchée de pain (for a mouthful of bread)

This means for almost nothing. It can be used if you buy something very cheap. The expression dates from the 17th century when bread was inexpensive.

6/ Ça ne mange pas de pain (this does not eat bread)

This also comes from the 17th century and means that it won’t cost you anything to try. It refers to the fact bread was an important part of alimentation thus an important part of the family budget and if something does not eat bread it means it won’t affect the budget.           

7/ Long comme un jour sans pain (long as a day without bread)

This means something is very long and boring. In the 17th century, a day without bread was considered as a difficult day.

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