Etre tout sucre tout miel


This is part of a series on French idiomatic expressions that relate to food. Browse the list of idioms featured so far.

This week’s idiom is, “Être tout sucre tout miel.”

Literally translated as, “being all sugar all honey,” it means acting in an overtly affable, considerate, and polite way. It is chiefly used ironically, to point out that the person hides negative feelings behind that cloying front.

Example: “Quand ils ont des invités, elle est tout sucre tout miel, mais dès qu’ils sont seuls, elle est odieuse avec lui.” “When they have company, she’s all sugar all honey, but as soon as they’re alone, she’s nasty with him.”

Listen to the idiom and example read aloud:

(If no player appears, here’s a link to the audio file.)

This idiom appeared in the 17th century, and relies on the idea that sugar and honey are, well, sweet, but that using too much of either is suspicious (what bitterness is the cook trying to conceal?) as well as cloying. The adjective mielleux has the same negative connotation, unlike its English equivalent, mellifluous.

Note that the expression can also appear as, “Être tout sucre et tout miel,” “Être tout sucre et miel,” “Être tout miel et tout sucre,” or simply “Être tout sucre” or “Être tout miel.”

[The jar of honey pictured above is brought to us by my aunt’s bees in Lourmarin.]

  • I am rather new to blogging. I love reading your blog. It makes me yearn for Paris. Thank you.

  • Naomi

    I guess that the English version is “sweetness and light”?

  • Liz – aka Nutty Gnome

    I’m really enjoying learning about the idioms. My french is reasonable, but I wasn’t up to idioms standard! Thanks.
    p.s. your aunt’s honey looks scrummy!

  • In Texas we have a saying: “You can catch more bees with honey than vinegar”. Meaning acting sweet can take the sting out of a problematic person.

    Love your blog.

  • This is the perfect saying of so many people I know! Perfect!

  • Alix

    Also reminds me of the term “saccharine” to describe someone who’s being just a little TOO sweet (and fake about it!).

  • This is such a good one! And probably so true for so many people :)

  • The English equivalent in meaning is, nice as pie. As in ‘He’s nice as pie when she’s there, but once she’s gone his true colours show.’

    Mielleux or honeyed? That we did used to have – a honeyed tongue was sweet and suspicious as in this meaning. Mellifluous would be flowing like honey with the suggestion of sweetness.

  • Joan

    “my aunt’s bees” ..oh my!

    as for the quote..the word ‘cloying’ comes to mind..

    children often sense when sweetness is artificial…

    Clotilde, these edible idioms are fun..thanks!

  • Hey great idea Clotilde. I’m looking forward to brushing up my french expessions! Merci.

  • Alix

    I think “mellifluous” generally applies to sound or song. But someone whose voice or attitude is ‘honeyed’ definitely has something up their sleeve.

  • Amy

    A good one! Like Alix, I was thinking saccharine as well. So “sweet” but really sour.

  • I love your blog. I live in Japan so I eat mostly Japanese food but I love french food too. I am posting about the food I eat at
    Your food recipes are much more fancier though.

  • Même en tant que francophone je révise mes classiques (gourmands) ! bonne journée.

  • dee

    I am learning French, so I really appreciate these types of insights. Merci encore.

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