Tu vas tout plaquer?

Tu vas tout plaquer?

tew vah too plaa-KAY? Click below to hear this.

You’re going to throw in the towel on everything?

The English expression comes from the sport of boxing, if I’m not mistaken. The French? A different sport altogether: rugby. If you grab your opponent by the legs, you will fling him flat on the ground. That’s plaquer.

Which makes it sound as if this expression derived from the French adjective plat, which means flat. That would make sense, since the notion of throwing someone/something over does suggest a certain flatness in relation to the ground. It sounds even more reasonable if you consider the plaque hanging on the wall.

But here are the surprising facts: the Old French word plaquier showed up around the 13th century, with the meaning to apply something onto another thing. That word, in turn, found its source in the middle Dutch placken, meaning to mend.

But how did mending turn into dumping?

From mending, the meaning broadened to patching, which is accomplished by laying a piece of fabric over a hole and stitching it down. From there to applying something, not so far to travel.

My guess is that a process called “interference” came into play at this point. Just as you smooth your patch flat, you can throw something down flat. In a way, when you tackle a rugby player and flatten him, you are applying him to the ground. That’s how pla- in plaquer may have come to be associated with pla- in plat.

And once that leap is made, it’s easy to envision any number of figurative uses: you can throw over a job, a spouse, or a course of study, for instance.

Which is why today’s question comes with an air of great surprise. Plaquer something or someone can suggest a major life change: something that had been wanted and worked for, and is not being given up.


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