Ne pas être dans son assiette


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, “Ne pas être dans son assiette.”

Literally translated as, “not being in one’s plate,” it is a colloquial expression that means feeling under the weather, being out of sorts, physically and/or morally.

Example: “Je ne sais pas ce que j’ai, je ne suis vraiment pas dans mon assiette.” “I don’t know what’s wrong with me, I’m really not in my plate.”

Listen to the idiom and example read aloud:

(Note that I pronounced the example sentence the way I would in real life, which sounds more like, “Chais pas c’que j’ai, chuis vraiment pas dans mon assiette.”)

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

I always felt absolutely sure that this expression referred to the fact that you lose your appetite when you’re coming down with a cold, and that you don’t feel up to eating what’s on your plate. But it turns out that it is another one of those expressions I grew up with, thinking that I understood them, when it had in fact an unsuspected origin.

Long before it came to be an individual serving vessel, in the sixteenth century, l’assiette was the place where one was seated at the table, or the way one was sitting. It is still used today to refer to a horserider’s posture, the stability of a plane or boat, and more generally, something firm and stable on which other things can be built, literally or figuratively.

In this new light, it appears that “not being in your plate” really comes from the idea that you’re not sitting in your habitual seat, that you’re not feeling like you usually do, and that you’ve lost some of your balance and stability.

(And with any luck, after a few days of not being in your plate, you’ll have the peach again!)

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