Péter le feu

‘Péter le feu’ may call up images of a fire-breathing (or farting) dragon, but in French it means to be bursting with energy.

And I’m happy to report that after a long, hot summer, during which my get up and go got up and left, I’ve finally got my mojo back.

Je pète le feu.

This week there’s a definite fall vibe in the air, even though we’re currently enjoying a lovely Indian summer. All those cooler nights and early mornings have me energized and raring to go, even, dare I say, looking forward to the change of season. I love the autumn, always have, with the exception of a few weeks in November when I become convinced of my imminent demise. Something to do with the change of light after we set the clocks back. (Although the EU recently announced they would put an end to this barbaric practice, making me oh-so glad to be part of Europe).

Twice this week I woke up before the alarm clock at 5:30. I’ve gotten back into some healthier eating, drinking and exercise habits (yeah, I know…boring). But I’m exploding with ideas for several writing projects, looking forward to my next vacation and frankly, happy to be alive. It has been ages since I felt this way.

Not to brag or anything. That would be a different kind of péter all together.

‘Se la péter’, to show off, is one of those French expressions I gave up trying to fathom years ago. It is filled with pitfalls for non-natives: if you forget the ‘se’ or the ‘la’ it means something completely different. Like to actually fart. Which is not something most people brag about.

Aside from its less than noble meaning, péter also means to blow up, to explode or to crack. Like a firecracker, un pétard. And it is associated with another verb also used to describe being full of energy: gazer. ‘Ça gaze?’

How or why these explosive terms became associated with being in good health and raring to go is a mystery to me. But it seems the French are well aware of the comic potential of the word and its English cousin. The expression, ‘Salut, ça farte?’ was immortalized by the actor Jean Dujardin back in 2005 when he played a French surf bum obsessed with speaking Franglais called Brice de Nice (jokingly pronounced with a long ‘i’ as in Bryce de Nyce). The film, while silly, became a cult comedy classic.

Alors, ça farte?


  1. phildange · September 20, 2018

    Happy to know you are full of energy again . You see, “péter le feu” is stronger than just “gazer” .”Ça gaze ?” means “Ça va ?”, no more . There is another exploding verb to say the same : “Ça boume ?” The origin of “péter le feu” is in mechanics, when a car or a bike reaches its top level and can go really fast .
    Surprisingly “un pétard” .in recent slang from the 60s, also means a joint to smoke, and I confess the relationship between this and a firecracker is a mystery for me . Of course you’ll hear it in its verlan form too, “un tarpé” . Try it next time in your soirées chez la Comtesse …
    In classic slang older than WWII, “un pétard” is also a woman’s bum . But to speak about this interesting body part, as French has at least 20 possible terms for it, my favourite among them by far is “un valseur” . Always liked that one, which is alas very rarely used now .

    • MELewis · September 20, 2018

      How I do love these expressions! Of course, ça boume! Anything to do with ‘boume’ like a party? And pétard, yes! A joint. I had forgotten that one. Thanks for solving the mystery of the origins of ‘péter le feu’, which I was unable to find online. You should create a kind of ‘phil’ instead of ‘bob’ for all this great stuff! 🙂

  2. phildange · September 20, 2018

    “Ça boume” is older than the appearance of “boum” as a party . I think it comes from a very famous song in this time (1938) from the veeery famous Charles Trénet . “Boum ! Quand votre coeur fait boum …”

  3. francetaste · September 20, 2018

    Péter also can mean broken (le montre est pété) or drunk. Then there’s péter les plombs or péter un cable is to explode in rage. However, péter plus haut que son cul is to be arrogant….
    My husband often calls someone behaving badly “un pété,” in the sense of the person being crazy. It often comes up with bad drivers.

    • phildange · September 20, 2018

      “Péter plus haut que son cul” is a jolly good one yes . “Être pété” means as well being under drugs as under alcohol . We can add “être pété de fric/de thune/de blé etc…” that means having plenty of money .Very close, “péter dans la soie” means being very rich . This old “péter” is a multitasks tool actually, well worth its purchase .

    • MELewis · September 20, 2018

      Very good examples! How could I have neglected to mention ‘péter les plombs’ when I do it so often? 😆But I did not know about ‘un peté’ so thanks for that!

  4. M. L. Kappa · September 20, 2018

    Another expression used for horses, when they are very fresh, is ‘Il a mangé du lion’…

    • MELewis · September 21, 2018

      Ha, ha! It’s certainly ‘une image’…but never heard that!

  5. Suzanne et Pierre · September 20, 2018

    Interesting to see such a small word “peter” having so many meanings and was to be used. Always interesting to explore expressions. We used similar expressions in Quebec though some you gave as examples wouldn’t be used. It also interesting to see how our respective version of French has evolved in different direction. (Suzanne)

    • MELewis · September 21, 2018

      Very true. I wonder if the words that get used the most in different countries/cultures are an indication of the things we value on some level. Perhaps the idea of explosive energy is close to French hearts? In any case, it is a fascinating subject.

      • Suzanne et Pierre · September 21, 2018

        Language and its evolution is indeed a fascinating subject. I think you are right that our values will have an impact on the evolution of language but I think that are also the context of where we live. A lot of Quebec expressions are taken from the strong English influence and our environment… So many things to think about when you try to understand why the Quebec French is so different from the French spoken in France – though even there there are a lot of regional variations of the language.

  6. dunnasead.co · September 20, 2018

    Glad you’ve got your pecker up, as a Brit once said to me, much to my amazement. Or your lips aren’t dangling, as the Germans in our area say. In California, I learned the term mojo, only to have it go out of popularity, once someone actually defined it: finely ground pepper and garlic with oil and vinegar, only to return, to my great amusement, in Austin Powers. Either way, fall is about to, uhm, fall, no clocks back (now that I finally learned the rhyme, darn) and the weather is great for going out for a walk, and taking along a dialect dictionary. Alons y, or something like that.

    • MELewis · September 21, 2018

      The first time I heard the pecker comment, I also almost fell over! I think it was spoken on a normally staid BBC TV show. As for the mojo, I had no idea what it actually was — just love the sound and energetic sense of it. Sadly, I think we will still be turning clocks back and forward a few times yet before the powers that be align on the modalities at EU level!

  7. Pingback: Gute fahrt! | FranceSays

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s