Ne pas mâcher ses mots

Chewing giraffe provided by Wildlife 2008.

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 mâcher ses mots.”

Literally translated as, “Not chewing one’s words,” it means expressing one’s opinion plainly and bluntly, with no concern for how it’s going to be received. It is equivalent to the (similarly food-oriented) English expression, “Not mincing words.”

Example: “Les journalistes adorent l’interviewer parce qu’il ne mâche pas ses mots.” “Journalists love to interview him because he doesn’t chew his words.”

Listen to the idiom and example read aloud:

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

This idiom first appeared, albeit in an Old French incarnation, in the thirteenth century. It reached its modern form in the late nineteenth century.

Not chewing your words implies two things here: one, that you didn’t take the time to think about (chew) what you were about to say, which might otherwise have led you to edit yourself slightly; and two, that the words you’re pronouncing have to be swallowed whole, and may therefore be difficult to digest for those on the receiving end.

And this brings us to a related expression: “Ne pas digérer quelque chose” (not digesting something), which means not being able to get over an incident or something someone said, and being still upset — and possibly holding a grudge — about it.

Before we part, I’d like to point you to the Eating Chinese series that Jessie, who lives in China, has just started. I am tickled that my Edible Idioms inspired her to launch this project, and I look forward to many more installments.

  • Noted for use in reference to Parisian taxi drivers!

  • i’m so distracted by the cuteness of the giraffe, i can barely concentrate on the idiom!

  • klee

    So as not to be simply a lurker, I want to tell you I enjoy very much you blog, especially the edible idioms

  • Joan

    Oh Clotilde, your blog has been quite the inspiration for many a project!!!

    My glass raised to digestion ~ in all forms :-)

  • The giraffe picture is a sure winner! :)
    These idioms are so interesting. In Finnish we have an idiom “olla nielemättä jotakin” (=not to swallow something) that means about the same as “ne pas digérer quelque chose” only it can also be used to mean that you disagree with whatever it is that is being discussed.


  • I enjoyed this post very much. My cat, however, is not fond of strange voices/audio clips! lol. She speaks the international language of “hiss”. Do you think that qualifies as “Ne pas macher ses mots”, or “Ne pas digerer quelque chose”?
    Thank you for the photo and my first French lesson since Madame Upton’s lectures in 8th grade. :) Michaela

  • That’s how I would have described myself today…one who does not mince words. Sometimes that’s just what it takes.

  • I thought at first that was a picture of a chestnut or something similar!

  • I really like this. French is my minor so anything French I am ALL about!

  • These are great fun! and interesting. Some of them remind me of the U.S. southern region and their many expressions and sayings. Thanks, I’m loving this as a lover of the French language.

  • En voyant la photo j’ai cru que c’était une châtaigne!!
    Merci pour les supers recettes ds le GLAMOUR de ce mois! Et aussi pour celle du gateau choco courgette que je fais toujours autant!

  • Just want to say that I truly enjoy your idioms. My son is taking up french so this has really been helpful and fun.

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