Yesterday I discovered the interesting French word pantoufler /pɑ̃.tu.fle/, which, according to Reverso means to “switch from civil service to the private sector (French elite jargon, usually to make more money)”.

According to Wikpedia the related word pantouflage refers to high-level French civil servants, usually former students of the École Polytechnique or the École nationale d’administration, going to work in private enterprise. It also applies to politicians doing the same thing. Someone who engages in pantouflage at known as a pantouflard, which is also translated as stay-at-home.

The word pantoufler come from pantoufle (slipper), which combines pan (a piece of cloth) with the suffix -oufle, which denotes mbloated objects and muffled sounds. A pantoufle was originally a cloth shoe [source].

Apparently the term revolving door is used for this practice in the USA.

In Japan this practice is known as 天下り [amakudari] (“descent from paradise or the sky”).

Are there similar expressions and practices in other languages?

This entry was posted in English, French, Language, Words and phrases.

6 Responses to Pantoufler

  1. Olof says:

    Fun fact. In Southern Sweden ”pantoffla” means potato. Some mix-up with ”kartoffel” and this word.

  2. Eee says:

    I believe in good old America it’s called “lobbying”.

  3. Zeppelin says:

    The German for (house) slipper is also “Pantoffel”, unless you want to be Germanic and say “Hausschuh”. Though we’ve managed to keep “Pantoffel” and “Kartoffel” apart 🙂

    I’ve heard “Drehtür” (revolving door) used for the practice in German, though that might well be a calque of the english phrase.
    “Drehtür-Effekt” has a wikipedia page. The metaphor gets applied to all sorts of (mainly bad) phenomena, like bankruptcy, or alcoholism, or recidivism.

  4. CuConnacht says:

    I would have expected pantoufler to mean to retire on a pension (and spend your days in slippers). What’s the semantic link between bedroom slippers and the private sector?

  5. michael farris says:

    In Polish pantofel mostly refers to women’s shoes with the top below the ankle, it can also mean either slipper or mens dress shoes.

    Although it is used in several interesting expressions there’s no equivalent of the French term.

    Some of the expressions using pantofel include:

    być/siedzieć pod pantoflem (be/sit under someone’s heel)

    pantoflarz (-arz is an agent suffix) literally pantofelmaker, but informally henpecked husband

    być pantoflem (be a pantofel = be a doormat or more extreme pantoflarz)

    poczta pantoflowa (pantofel mail = word of mouth, the grapevine)

  6. LandTortoise says:

    This reminded me of another French expression I like which can be applied to French civil servants nearing retirement or anyone “running down” or “on the way out” is “etre sur une voie de garage”- literally, on the way to the garage. A slightly similar expression in English is “put out to grass”.

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