Pédaler dans la choucroute

Pédaler dans la choucroute
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Familiar French Expression

Meaning To be spinning one’s wheels, be getting nowhere fast
Literally To pedal in the sauerkraut
Register familiar
Pronunciation [pay dah lay da(n) lah shoo kroot]
IPA   [pe da le dã la ʃu kʁut]

Usage notes: Pédaler dans la choucroute is one of my favorite French expressions because it offers a fantastic visual image of someone working like crazy but getting exactly nowhere.

Par exemple…

J’ai l’impression de pédaler dans la choucroute depuis deux heures.   I feel like I’ve been spinning my wheels for two hours.
Ce n’est pas la peine de continuer à chercher – tu pédales dans la choucroute.   Don’t bother continuing to search – you’re getting nowhere fast.

Pédaler dans la choucroute is also a completely bizarre expression – why on Earth would someone ride a bike in a bowl of sauerkraut? Interestingly, this idiom dates back to the early days of the Tour de France. When cyclists got too tired to continue, they’d climb into the broom wagon, which at the time was covered in ads for sauerkraut. So they’d be mocked for "pedaling in sauerkraut" on their way to the finish line. Eventually, the meaning left the world of cycling and evolved into saying that someone is making an effort but not getting anywhere.

Tasty variations

  • pédaler dans la cancoillotte – “to pedal in the Cancoillotte" (a type of runny cheese)
  • pédaler dans le couscous – "to pedal in the couscous"
  • pédaler dans la purée – "to pedal in the mashed potatoes"
  • pédaler dans la semoule – "to pedal in the semolina"
  • pédaler dans le yaourt – "to pedal in the yogurt"

Somewhat synonymous

  • avoir beau + infinitive
  • s’égarer
  • s’enliser
  • faire quelque chose en vain
  • patauger
  • pédaler à vide
  • se perdre
  • perdre le fil de ses gestes
  • perdre le fil de ses paroles
  • perdre le fil de ses pensées
  • perdre ses moyens
  • vasouiller

 Related lessons

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Elle pédale dans la choucroute

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