Hello and welcome to “Expressions bien de chez nous”! In order to initiate you in French turns of phrase, we’re going to start with the expression “Tourner autour du pot”.

What is it to “Tourner autour du pot”? We mainly do this when we are hiding something or just don’t want to talk about a specific topic. Do you now know what it is? If not, keep on reading! If you think you know, keep on reading anyways to find out if you’re right! 😉 

What are the origins of this expression?

Back in the XV century, the “pot” designated the big cauldron used to cook for the family. However, during starvation periods people had to turn around (tourner autour) this cauldron hoping to finally find something to eat. It was indeed an expression used in a literal way in the kitchen and that represented hard times for people. It was only until the XIX century that this expression changed its meaning to the one we know nowadays. You still don’t know what it is? Keep on reading! 

Some examples for “tourner autour du pot”

  • Parlez franchement, ne tournez point tant autour du pot. 
    • – (Michel Tournier, Journal extime, 2002, Gallimard, collection Folio, page 94)
  •  Bon, assez tourné autour du pot. Il est temps de faire entrer en scène les cinq personnages de cette présentation littéraire.
    • –  (Howard Gardner, Les 5 formes d’intelligence pour affronter l’avenir, Odile Jacob, Paris, 2009, page 10)
  •  Roy, malgré tout le respect que je te dois, c’est inutile de tourner autour du pot.
    • – (Guillaume Audru, L’île des hommes déchus, 2014)

Ok, but what does it mean?

You still don’t know? Ok, enough of turning “autour du pot”. This expression means to go round in circles, of course in a non-literal way. It is used when someone hesitates and takes detours to say or do something, just like we did in this article to keep you interested and expectant.

Have you ever used a similar expression? In which situations?

We have set up some quizzes so that you can better understand this expression. Just click below to access these quizzes.