Falling in the apples

Last night in the French conversation group the idiom “tomber dans les pommes” (to fall into the apples) came up. As it was in the context of somebody actually falling I took it literally at first and pictured the person falling into some apples or into an orchard. Then it was explained that it means “to faint / loose consciousness / pass out”. The origin of this idioms is uncertain.

Related idioms include “rester dans les pommes” – to remain unconscious”; “tomber dans l’eau” (lit. “to fall in the water”) – to fall through (projects, etc); “tomber bien/mal” – to come at the right/wrong moment.

This entry was posted in French, Idioms, Language.

13 Responses to Falling in the apples

  1. Peter J. Franke says:

    intéressant monsieur… j’ai apprender quelque chose, merci!

  2. Shaday Agovaz says:

    A nice historical explanation of this phrase is here http://www.expressio.fr/expressions/tomber-dans-les-pommes.php This French idioms site is really cool and resourceful. They even send you a newsletter with new idioms every now and then. But beware, some idioms are rare ones, so some are not of common knowledge for most French. I caught myself using one among French friends and nobody getting it, because it wasn’t of common use and knowledge in France.

  3. Christopher Miller says:

    Well, that’s one I’ve never heard nor read… But two interesting tidbits, one related to apples, the other falling or being in something:

    “Pomme de pin” is a pine cone. Apparently, English once used the same expression, but later transferred the name to the tropical fruit that looks like a very large pine cone.

    “Être dans la lune” and “lunatique” mean that state where your mind is wandering, or “zoning” as some people put it. There was a French-language pop song some twenty years ago here in Quebec: “Pourquoi t’es dans la lune? Pourquoi t’as salé ton café?” (How come you’re off on the moon? How come you salted your coffee?)

  4. lukas says:

    And there’s “laisser tomber” – drop, let go, give up (on something).

  5. Frank says:

    The expression is rather “tomber à l’eau” rather than “tomber dans l’eau” :)

  6. Christopher Miller says:

    Frank’s right – I didn’t even notice! – “tomber dans l’eau” means “fall into the water” (literally). The proper expression for “fall through” is, as he says, “tomber ‘ l’eau”.

    And for Peter J. Franke: you’re about to learn something else: :-)
    Should be “J’ai appris quelque chose…”.

  7. Drabkikker says:

    Interesting. In Dutch we have the expression ‘een appelflauwte krijgen’, literally “to get an apple faint”. I wonder what makes apples so anaesthetic.

  8. TJ says:

    There is a common “local” proverb or idiom if you can call it, that is common in Arabic under many dialects (but not in the standard literature Arabic), which is “sleeping in honey” (Nayim bil `asal). Note the previous sentence is dedicated to singular third person male (and don’t mix `asal with the irish “asal” please :) ).
    This idiom is usually used for someone who does not know what is going on around him/her.

    The usage of apples is weird, could it be related to Isaac Newton story with the apple? But the apple had fallen upon his head and not the other way around!

  9. Drabkikker says:

    For the Dutch version ‘appelflauwte’ I first assumed an adaptation from the French ‘tomber dans les pommes’. However, the Dutch online Etymology dictionary suggests a corruption of ‘apoplexy’, an outdated medical term used to refer to a stroke. This does not explain the French expression, of course.
    There is also the Flemish Dutch expression ‘in de patatten vallen’ “to fall into the potatoes”, meaning to faint. Since ‘potatoes’ in French is ‘pommes de terre’, and Flemish has many expressions literally translated from French, I expect this to be one of them.

  10. Sandra says:

    My Dictionnaire des expressions et locutions states that the origin of the French idiom “tomber dans les pommes” is unknown but could be related to a “tomber dans les pâmes” where “pâmes” is a noun for fainting (related to “pâmoison”, still in use in literary French).

    “être dans la lune” means “to be absent-minded” when “lunatique” means to have a very changing (changing constantly, as with the phases of the moon, the origin of the adjective) and awkward personality: one moment you are charming everyone with your bright smiles, the next you hate the whole world and everybody is after you.

  11. Kevin says:

    Heh, it’s interesting to see the connections between languages, especially when expressions mutate phonetically and stop making sense. It reminds me a bit of “so long” in English, which I believe has Celtic origin, but doesn’t actually have anything to do with the degree of length of something! Phonetic adaptation to the extreme huh :D

    In any case, as I’m learning French, it was nice to learn some interesting expressions. The French must love or have loved farming and nature.

  12. Bruce says:

    Actually, Kevin, “so long” is more likely a corruption of “salong”, which may mean goodbye in colloquial Tagalog.

  13. Bruce says:

    Or is that Chinese?