Tomber dans les pommes


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, “Tomber dans les pommes.”

Literally translated as, “falling in the apples,” it is a colloquial expression that means passing out, fainting, losing consciousness.

Example: “Le métro était tellement bondé que la fille à côté de moi est tombée dans les pommes.” “The metro was so crowded that the girl next to me fell in the apples.”

Listen to the idiom and example read aloud:

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

There is no definitive explanation of how this idiom was formed, just tentative ones. The first is that it may be a distorted version of tomber dans les pâmes, related to se pâmer, an old-fashioned word for swooning/fainting. Another theory is that it is derived from an expression used by George Sand in a 1830 letter to her mother. Explaining that she was barely recovering from an illness and still exhausted, she described her state as “being in cooked apples.” “Je suis un peu dans les pommes cuites,” she wrote.

I find the latter explanation somewhat far-fetched, considering it involves a shift in both form and meaning, but then I always imagined tomber dans les pommes meant that if you fainted near a pile of apples, you’d fall right into them, so who am I to talk.

Photo note: The picture above was shot at a pick-your-own apple orchard in Alsace.

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