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The French expression "Sauter du coq à l'âne"

On this page, we are going to teach you all the things you want to know about the funny French idiom "Sauter du coq à l'âne". It includes a detailed guide of what it is and how you can use it in a casual conversation with an audio example. But that's not all, we also added some useful stuff like dialogue example, slow pronunciation audio, synonym and more!

French to English

  • Translation : To change the subject abruptly

  • Literal meaning : To jump from the rooster to the donkey

  • Register : Informal - Funny

How to pronounce it



  • IPA : / sote dy kɔk a lan /

aesthetic french quote sauter du coq a lane

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What does it mean?


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: "Sauter du coq à l'asne" (To jump from the rooster to the duck) to represent someone "jumping" 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: "Sauter du coq à l'asne" slowly turned into "Sauter du coq à l'âne" into people's minds. Even if the donkey has nothing to do with this expression...

How to use

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 sautes du coq à l'âne !" (You jump from the rooster to the donkey!). If the person is doing that frequently you can even say: "Arrête de sauter du coq à l'âne !" (Stop jumping from the rooster to the donkey!).

Fun fact

We have an expression to make fun of this expression (Yes it's crazy...).

It's "Sauter du Coca Light'', which means absolutely nothing (literally: "to jump from light coke") but sounds extremely similar to the original expression and with a sweet (but light) pun.


Passer du coq à l'âne. ("To move from the rooster to the donkey")

Example in a dialogue


Tu as vu ce film ?

Did you see this movie?

Non. Tu as acheté du lait ?

No. Did you buy milk?

Arrête de sauter du coq à l'âne !

Stop jumping from the rooster to the donkey

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J'ai d'autres chats à fouetter


To vocabulary list


Y'a pas de lézard