The verb for “to fart” was something I learnt early on in my studies of the French language.  I don’t remember why now – but it probably had something to do with an awkward situation in a lift.  Anyway, the verb in question is “péter” (pronounced petay) and it is, for obvious reasons, seldom heard in everyday adult conversation.

It goes without saying then that when you do hear it in polite conversation this can only mean that someone is chipping-in with a bit of toilet humour – right?  Well, not necessarily.

Elle a pété une cable.

When I heard this phrase for the first time I logically deduced that it must mean “she farted a cable” – clearly some sort of idiom that parallels the English one for a very long turd (she laid a transatlantic cable).  But the context seemed not to support this idea as it was about someone who was very angry on the telephone.

It was when I met someone who had…

Pété le mur du salon

… that I realised that perhaps my logic needed reviewing – because “farting a lounge wall” seemed to be a very juvenile way of explaining a home conversion.

Indeed, péter is one of those wonderful verbs you can use for all nature of things because it also means “to smash/break/blow up/knock down/destroy”.

Therefore when someone “péts une cable” on the telephone – it means they yell so loud that the phone line breaks … and when someone “péts” a wall in their house – it means they knock it down.

This though does beg the question: How on earth do you translate “She farted a cable” into French?