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

You are in the right place to find out all the things you have to know about the funny French expression “Sauter du coq à l’âne”.

Are included a detailed definition of what it is and how you can use it in a dialogue with an audio example. As well as the cool stuff we sprinkled like synonyms, dialogue example, slow pronunciation audio and more!

In case you are interested, you can also find our others expressions guides on this page and the directory of all our French words pages on this page. Ready to learn? C’est parti ! (Let’s go!)

Table of Contents

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French to English

How to pronounce it

Slow pronunciation

Normal pronunciation

What does it mean?

Definition

  • Sauter → To jump
  • Du coq → From the rooster
  • À l’âne → To the donkey

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 try 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 “Âne” (Donkey) are pronounced exactly the same. Secondly, “Asne” is not used anymore (it’s now “Canard“) while “Âne” 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 mind. 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 (literaly: “to jump from light coke“) but sounds extremely similar to the original expression and with a sweet (but light) pun.

Synonyms

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

Audio dialogue example

Audio dialogue by French natives

Dialogue audio

Dialogue script

” 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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