We are going to explain you all the things you ever wanted to know about the basic idiom “Passer du coq à l’âne”.
To be clear, this includes a detailed explanation of what it is and how you can use it in a dialogue with an audio example. Along with the useful stuff we added like synonyms, dialogue example, slow pronunciation audio and more!
By the way, on this page you will find our others idioms pages plus the ultimate list of all our French words tutorials on this page. Enjoy!
All right, this one won’t be easy to explain, brace yourself.
During the 14th century, French people used the expression “Saillir du coq à l’asne” (To copulate from the rooster to the duck). Because it happens sometimes that a rooster tries to copulate with ducks…
With time, people started to use this weird interracial fact as a comparison for people abruptly changing subject. Arguing that it’s as illogical as a rooster trying to “boom boom” a duck.
So, they said: “Passer du coq à l’asne” (To go from the rooster to the duck) to represent someone going from one subject to another completely unrelated one.
But wait, where is the donkey coming from?
First: “Asne” (Old word for “duck“) and ” ne” (Donkey) are pronounced exactly the same. Secondly, “Asne” is not used anymore (it’s now “Canard“) while ” ne” is still used.
Then, as a result for people using it for centuries: “Passer du coq à l’asne” slowly turned into “Passer du coq à l’âne” into people’s minds. Even if the donkey has nothing to do with this expression…
You are in the middle of a passionate debate, when the person you are talking with suddenly starts talking about the weather, out of nowhere…
You can say: “Wtf?” but also “Tu passes du coq à l’âne !” (You go from the rooster to the donkey!). If the person is doing that frequently, you can even say: “Arrête de passer du coq à l’âne !” (Stop going from the rooster to the donkey!).
We have an expression to make fun of this expression (Yes it’s crazy…).
It’s “Passer du Coca Light“, which means absolutely nothing (literally: “to go from light coke“) but sounds extremely similar to the original expression and with a sweet (but light) pun.
Sauter du coq à l’âne. (“To jump from the rooster to the donkey“)