This is part of a series on French idiomatic expressions that relate to food. Read the introductory Edible Idiom post, and browse the list of French idioms featured so far.
This week’s expression is, “Rouler quelqu’un dans la farine.”
Literally translated as, “rolling someone in flour,” it means duping someone, playing a trick on him, or using one’s wits and lies to take advantage of someone who’s a little naive, or not quite as smart as one is.
According to these sources, the expression dates back to the early nineteenth century. Rouler quelqu’un (literally, rouler = to roll) means cheating or swindling somebody, and la farine (flour) symbolizes lies, or misleading arguments, perhaps in relation to the fact that actors then used it as stage makeup. It also adds a notion of ridicule: the gullible victim is somehow responsible for letting himself be fooled so easily.
Example: “A chaque fois, elle lui promettait que ça ne se reproduirait plus, mais tout le monde voyait bien qu’elle le roulait dans la farine.” “She kept promising it wouldn’t happen again, but everyone could see she was rolling him in flour.”
Listen to the idiom and example read aloud: