Here is a very sweet French expression : Casser du sucre sur le dos de quelqu’un👌
Casser du sucre sur le dos de quelqu’un : Meaning in English
Casser du sucre sur le dos de quelqu’un is made up of interesting words
Casser means to break up 🔨
du sucre means sugar 🍬
sur le dos means on one’s back
It literally means “to break some sugar on one’s back” 😂. It is widely used in everyday language👌
As depicted on the picture above, “Casser du sucre sur le dos de quelqu’un” means in fact to gossip behind someone’s back.
Casser du sucre sur le dos de quelqu’un is informal. But why this link to sugar?
Let’s check out the origin of this peculiar French expression
Casser du sucre sur le dos de quelqu’un Origin
In the old days, sugar was a luxury product, a rare and exotic commodity, which also served as a medicine.
In the 18th century, at a time when the taste for sweet preparations – desserts but also exotic drinks – really took off, he moved from the pharmacy of the apothecary to the table of the elites.
But in the 19th century, we do not yet know powdered sugar or small regular cubes. Sugar comes in the form of loaves of sugar that should be broken into small pieces as needed. This was called ‘un pain de sucre’ as depicted in the picture above.
However, all this does not tell us how this ingredient synonymous with sweetness gave birth to such a pejorative expression. “casser du sucre sur le dos de quelqu’un” means, in effect, “criticizing a person in their absence.” The phrase actually consists of two parts: “casser du sucre”, which refers to backbiting and “on the back“, in the sense of “blaming” the person affected by the gossip.
This idea of ”badmouthing” seems to date back to the 19th century. Two centuries earlier, people said “se sucrer quelqu’un” meant to take someone for an idiot.
There was also the expression ‘casser du grès à quelqu’un‘ meaning “to break someone’s stoneware”, which means to despise someone.
This expression ‘Casser du sucre sur le dos de quelqu’un’ looks like a mixture of those two expressions.
We observe a gradual shift in meaning through slang, where “sucrer” means “to mistreat” and “se sucrer”, “to say gossip” in the world of the theater (1867). It is also found used by thieves to say “denounce“. It was probably around the same time that the second part of the phrase, “on the back” was added. Marcel Proust even goes so far as to make it a synonym of insult:
« Albertine disait souvent ‘casser du bois sur quelqu’un, casser du sucre’ ou tout court : ‘ah : ce que je lui en ai cassé !’ pour dire ‘ce que je l’ai injurié’Marcel Proust
“Albertine often said ‘break wood on someone, break some sugar’ or quite simply: ‘ah: what I broke for him!’ To say ‘what I insulted him’
The expression is now tinged with resentment and revenge, and it is decidedly not very glorious to “smash sugar on someone’s back.”
Casser du sucre sur le dos de quelqu’un : Translation in English
A suitable translation of ‘Casser du sucre sur le dos de quelqu’un’ in English would be ;
Casser du sucre sur le dos de quelqu’un French example
You can see your friends talking behind the back of another friend; Leo and you don’t approve
Il faudrait peut-être aider les agriculteurs au lieu de leur casser du sucre sur le dosWe should help farmers instead of saying bad things about them behind their backs
Casser du sucre sur le dos de quelqu’un alternatives in French
Other French words can be used such as “calomnier” ou “médire”
Another synonyms is to break sugar on one’s head, why not? casser du sucre sur la tête de quelqu’un. It has got the same meaning.
Casser du sucre sur le dos de quelqu’un Example in French literature
Puis, s’adressant à Clarisse, revenant à l’histoire de Rose :
— Hein ? tu crois aux offres des Folies, toi ?… Trois cents francs par soir, et pendant cent représentations. Pourquoi pas une maison de campagne avec ! (…)
Clarisse croyait aux trois cents francs. Ce Fontan cassait toujours du sucre sur la tête des camarades !Emile Zola, Nana 1880
Voilà, this was today’s French idiom in English, I hope you liked it. Click here to find out about the challenge of 50 French idioms in English.
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