Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Word Of The Week

tomber dans les pommes

This week I'm presenting an expression rather than a single word. The individual words in this expression are well known to me from the beginning of my French-learning experience. That was way back in the last century, like 35 years ago. Crikey.

On Tuesday I went to the medical lab in town (laboratoire d'analyses médicales) for my annual blood work - cholesterol levels and all that. As usual, the technician couldn't get a good vein in my left arm, so he moved to my right. After one unsuccessful poke in the right arm, he had to change to a smaller diameter needle to actually get some blood flowing.

After what seemed like a minute, I asked the technician if there was indeed any blood flowing - I don't like to watch - and he said yes, but since he was using a smaller needle it would take longer than normal. He looked at me and asked if I was ok. I was not. I felt incredibly light-headed and I told him, "j'ai la tête qui tourne" which means "I'm dizzy."

The technician said we were done and immediately put my feet up and reclined my chair. He turned the lights off in the room and just told me to relax for a minute. I felt better very quickly, but I was really close to passing out. I told him that only other time this happened was the first - and last - time I tried to donate blood, nearly 27 years ago. That time I actually did pass clean out.

So, what I told my French technician was, "La première fois que j'aie fait un don de sang, je suis tombé dans les pommes." I actually don't know how I knew that expression. It just came out, so I must have picked it up somewhere along the way. When I got home from the lab I had to look it up just in case. I was afraid I might have said something silly like "the first time I gave blood I fell head over heels in love." But no, I was ok; tomber dans les pommes (to fall into the apples) actually means to pass out, keel over.

It still amazes me when a word or expression that I don't use in everyday speaking just pops out of my brain without my having to think about it. It makes me think that I'm actually learning something.

Image above from

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I want to take this opportunity to thank Nancy Friedman for her gracious post about wcs' Word Of The Week on her blog, "Away With Words" this past Monday. If you haven't checked out her blog, please do. She writes about her adventures as a professional wordworker - she's a consultant in the San Francisco Bay Area who specializes in naming and branding for companies and organizations that are putting thought into their image. Her insight into language is unique, and she fills her posts with great links to other language related websites. Thanks Nancy !


  1. I came over from Away with Words, and I think your French words of the week are just wonderful! I have never really spoken French, but I studied it in high school and grad school.

  2. Thanks, Kim ! I appreciate the kind words. Maybe you'll get back into French one day...

  3. Thanks so much for the generous praise and the link! I assure you the feelings are mutual. (Thanks too for helping me get in touch with my inner Parisienne...)


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