To Throw Flowers or a Month of French Idioms From A to Z

When I moved to the US, I immediately noticed that there were far less flower shops than in France and that American people I invited for dinner always volunteered to bring an appetizer or dessert, something that is rarely done in France, except with family members or close friends. On the other hand, French people always bring a bouquet of flowers or a bottle of wine, often both, when invited over, something less systematic from American people, at least in the early 1990s. So again, this is natural that one of the most popular French idiomatic expressions has a floral connotation.








The expression Jeter des Fleurs has evolved from Tresser des Couronnes (To Braid a Wreath), originating from the 11th century. Wreaths made out of leaves and flowers symbolized dignity. By extension, offering such a wreath to someone would express a compliment. French people still use the older expression Tresser des Couronnes, although I think that Jeter des Fleurs is more widely said. Qu’en pensez-vous les français?

Jeter des Fleurs can also mean to brag if you “Throw Flowers to Yourself.”

For example, you can say “Je me jette des fleurs” if you are especially proud of one of your accomplishments.

You could also say, “Sans me jeter des fleurs,” which literally means, “Without throwing flowers to myself,” or “Ce n’est pas pour me jeter des fleurs,” which means, “It’s not to throw flowers to myself.”

These sentences appear to express humility, while in fact they shout self-satisfaction. A “but…” or “still,” are implied, reinforcing the complacency feeling.

Using a negation is frequent in French when we want to increase the meaning of a sentence.

My American-born children have a hard time to understand why the French say no when they mean yes. Some linguistic tricks are hard to explain when you’ve learned them at a young age.


Sixteen more letters to go! Thank you for keeping me company. See you tomorrow.





A to Z Challenge



  1. Sisyphus47 says:

    Une autre expression que j’avais presque oubliée! “Se jeter des fleurs” – quelle image! 😉

    • On est assez fort en France pour ce genre de choses, non? Je m’amuse aussi lorsque je retrouve des expressions que j’ai dites dans le passé mais oubliées. Vous avez fait assez fort aujourd’hui aussi!

  2. Another interesting post! I think an American equivalent would be “tooting your own horn.” For instance, if you do something you’re proud of and you want to let others know about it, but you want to *seem* humble, you might say, “Not to toot my own horn, but yesterday I accomplished such-and-such.” (Or “I don’t want to toot my own horn, but–“)

    • Agree with your choice, Melinda. That’s a pretty visual one too. Thank you since I had not thought of that one. To shower someone with compliments is also a funny one for me!

  3. I would agree with Melinda. Tooting one’s own horn or patting oneself on the back are used like that and in the negative “I’m not patting myself on the back but, I did a great job…” You are doing a great job with this.

    • Yes, I think the horn tooting (I had forgotten) is probably the best choice. Pat on the back is popular too, you’re right. When someone pat you on the back there is also a sense of encouragement, maybe more than a compliment, no? Thanks for patting me on the back as I trudge along the alphabet!

  4. Well, you know Maine. Where wicked mean terrific? And bad in American slang DOES mean good, or at least “very cool.” I like this one. It translates well.

    • That’s right! “Wicked” surprised me when I heard it first in Massachusetts. You also have the cool girl who is hot. Always funny to me! See you, Marilyn.

  5. Behind the Story says:

    I really enjoy your explanations to give us background.

    In my experience, the most common gifts for American dinner guests to bring are still flowers and wine. But it depends on the people and the part of the country. Pot lucks are also very popular. I think that since many people find it hard to prepare a festive meal, either because they’re busy or because they don’t trust their ability in the kitchen, they’re happy to have the guest offer a dessert or a salad. As you said above, we’re less systematic.

    • How true that Americans are less systematic and formal! That’s one trait of character that I like most. And yes to pot lucks too! I love to cook and bake and having guests over, but some help is always appreciated. Thank you for appreciating the background of the idioms I select for all of you.

  6. I’d rather have flowers than an appetizer! Life would be so colorless without flowers.
    Bouquets to you.

  7. This is very interesting Evelyne and you have reminded of the American way of offering to bring food when invited to dinner. I had to get used to that too, as it is the same here as in France, we bring flowers and/or a bottle of wine, unless, as you say, it is for a family gathering and we have offered or been asked to bring something to eat 🙂

    • It has changed over the years and more people come with flowers and wine too. Wine was only starting to enter regular American people’s lives when I moved to the States. We can also find flowers in all supermarkets. But the small floral shops that abound in France, even in small villages, aren’t yet as predominant in the US.
      The first time someone offered to bring food when I invited her and her family, I was almost offended, thinking that she didn’t trust me to cook or bake while it was in fact very kind of her to offer some help. And of course after my daughter’s birth I was totally in awe when I saw dishes and casseroles delivered on a daily basis to my home from my friends. Definitely not French at all! Thank you, Sherri, for keeping up with my mad race through the alphabet.

      • I am enjoying it very much Evelyne. And you share so much here that I relate to. I too was amazed when my friends threw a ‘baby shower’ for me and brought food over. I had never heard of such a thing. I believe that showers are more popular over here now but not when I had my eldest son in 1982! And yes, you are right about the wine, and actually I didn’t drink much of it when I lived there either, not until the last few years anyway. After all, vineyards surrounded our town, and they were sprouting up all over the place by the time I moved away in 2003! Wine tasting was all the rage by the time I left 🙂

  8. Lots of things happened in CA between 1990 and 2000, that’s for sure. It feels almost another state sometimes. But the rest of the world did as well. France certainly did too during the same period of time. Thank you for adding to the comversation, Sherri.

  9. Both my and my husband’s family are from Europe and they have observed the same things with regards to flowers (or the lack thereof) in the states. Whenever we go to dinner parties with family friends from Europe, we always bring wine and flowers, but when we go to a party hosted by an American, it’s a side dish or appetizer of some kind.

    I’m so happy I came across your blog! I discovered it through another blogger participating in the A-Z Challenge. I love how eclectic it is and really enjoy your writing, looking forward to reading more!! 🙂

    • First: Thank you for your nice words about my blog. The blogosphere is a friendly community, so it is fairly common to meet another blogger through a common virtual friend. Although it never cease to amaze me that such encounters happen.
      Second: I always like to read about other people’s experiences as they sometimes echo mine. A lot is changing in the world as we become more similar to one another. It is more common now to bring flowers and wine for a dinner invitation in the US, but in the very early 1990s, wine was making a quiet entry in people’s lives and flowers seemed to be offered on special occasions and much less for dinner parties.
      Hope to see you again before the end of the challenge, Christina.

  10. Thank you! I visited your blog, too, and I think we can enjoy our mutual writing. See you.

  11. Once again the French come through with a poetic way of saying something that in English might sound less beautiful… Lisa, co-host AtoZ 2015, @


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