Saur French expression N°31 : Tourner au vinaigre

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Here is a very bitter French expression : Tourner au vinaigre takes us back to the old street professions 👌

tourner au vinaigreTourner au vinaigre

Tourner au vinaigre : Meaning in English

Tourner au vinaigre is made up of interesting words

Tourner means to turn 🔨

vinaigre means vinegar 🍶

It literally means “to turn to vinegar” 😂. It is widely used in colloquial language👌

As depicted on the picture above, “Tourner au vinaigre” means in fact to end up badly. It could be said for example about the relationship between two people.

Tourner au vinaigre is informal. But why this link to vinegar?

Let’s check out the origin of this peculiar French expression

Tourner au vinaigre Origin

tourner au vinaigre

In the old days, vinegar was sold directly in the streets, those street merchants were called ‘vinaigriers’.

To sell their vinegar, they were shouting in the street ‘Voilà le bon vinaigre‘; ‘Here is the good vinegar’ in order to make the people aware that they were available for business. It is estimated that in 1650, there were about 600 of them in the streets of Paris.

In 1660 from this came the French expression ‘crier au vinaigre‘ which means ‘to call for vinegar’, which some time later became associated with “shouting for help” because the shouting was so loud that it could be mistaken for someone crying out for help. It slowly turned into a negative meaning.

At the end of the 19th century, the expression became “tourner au vinaigre“; “to turn to vinegar” and it meant to have an argument with someone. So we can say at the time that “deux personnes tournent au vinaigre” when their conversation turns into an argument.

It can also mean to abort something, for example a project. Mon projet a tourné au vinaigre. It means I stopped it. Or that something has turned for the worse. Leur relation a tourné au vinaigre.

Tourner au vinaigre translation in English

A suitable translation of ‘Tourner au vinaigre’ in English would be ;

‘to turn saur’


Tourner au vinaigre

Tourner au vinaigre French example

Il faudrait peut-être aider arrêter de parler comme cela des amis avant que cela ne tourne au vinaigre.

We should stop talking like that about friends before it turns saur
A l'occasion de son troisième court-métrage, les relations avec
 la production tournent au vinaigre. During the shooting of his third short film, he encountered difficulties with the production people

Notre mariage va mal, on peut dire que notre mariage a tourné au vinaigre. Our mariage is doing badly. We can say that the mariage has turned saur.

Avec le Covid son style de vie luxueux a vite tourné au vinaigre. Because of Covid his luxury lifestyle has quickly turned to bad. (stopped)

Tourner au vinaigre alternatives in French

Another French expression which implies the crescendo escalation of the expression is “la moutarde me monte au nez”


La moutarde me monte au nez

It means that you are smelling mustard and it is getting up your nose, so you are crying, this means you are losing patience with someone or something !

Another French expression which is similar is “Tourner en eau de boudin

Tourner en eau de boudin

It literally means to turn into the water of blood sausage, which is the water which is left after the making of blood sausage, which cannot be very nice !

Similarly another ending which is not glorious is “tourner en queue de poisson

Tourner en queue de poisson

It basically means that whatever you were supposed to get at the end, you only got the fish tail, which is not a very good outcome !

Tourner au vinaigre Example in French literature

This is an extract from the book of Louis-Ferdinand Céline called voyage talking about a discussion which they tried to cut short became it turned saur

« J’en ai profité (…) pour essayer (…) qu’on s’esquive en douceur avant que tout tourne au vinaigre et qu’on se fâche à mort. » »


Louis-Ferdinand Céline – Voyage

Tourner au vinaigre video

Tourner au vinaigre video

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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And I’ll see you next time for more French idioms in English ! 

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