Feeling the urge to vent? Then there’s a French expression you need to know: vider son sac. Keep reading to learn about this idiom and get examples of how to use it!

 

To empty one’s bag.

 

English Meaning

To openly express thoughts or feelings that one has been suppressing.

 

French Meaning

Dire tout ce qu’on a à dire.

 

The Story Behind It

 

As a habitual over-packer whose handbag feels more like workout equipment than an accessory, I can’t help but associate this expression with the feeling of relief I get when I empty said bag. But okay, okay. That’s not the real story here!

 

The truth is, far greater minds than mine have determined other origin stories for the French expression vider son sac. One of the most commonly cited takes us back to the 17th century, to the courthouses, where lawyers would empty bags containing rolled-up supporting documents and evidence before pleading their cases. When a case was closed, the lawyer’s files were returned to the bag and the affair was said to be dans le sac (“in the bag”).

 

But the folks at Expressio.fr also propose a second theory—this time attributable to the famous linguist and lexicographer Alain Rey and scatological in nature. Rey has suggested that vider son sac was a euphemism for defecating, with sac referring to the stomach. The relief in emptying one’s bowels was then linked to the relief in speaking one’s mind. Charming!

 

Examples

 

English Equivalents

  • To vent. l.
  • To let it all out..l.
  • To speak one’s mind.
  • To get something off one’s chest.

 

French Equivalents

  • Dire ce que l’on a sur le cœur.
  • Se vider le cœur. *au Québec

 

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