by Clare Jones

Rouler des/les mécaniques – to walk in a swaggering, arrogant, macho way which shows off your muscles

I found a good example of the use of this French expression when reading Les ciels de la baie d’Audierne by Hervé Jaouen (Pocket edition, 2006, page 314):

« je ne fus pas la seule sous le barnum à me statufier quand le quatrième gosse roula des mécaniques vers la barre en saluant son public. Mon voisin, le journaliste curieux, resta le stylo en l’air. »

“I wasn’t the only person in the marquee to be transfixed when the fourth kid swaggered, shoulders swaying, towards the witness box, waving to his audience. My neighbour, the nosy journalist, stopped still, his pen in the air.”

Les mécaniques (notice no H!) refers to the skeleton and joints of the body, so you have to imagine a muscular person (usually a man) who rolls his shoulders while walking, in an attempt to intimidate those around him. I don’t think there is an exact English translation but please leave a comment if you can think of one.

Les ciels de la baie d'Audierne

This book rather took me by surprise as the front cover and title give no clue as to the content. It is in fact a modern tale about a family whose lives are turned upside down by an accusation against the parents concerning their supposed involvement in a paedophile ring. I found it completely gripping and read it in three or four days! Because the story is written in the first person, the language became more of a challenge to me as the book progressed: more and more slang is used as the teenage protagonist gets sucked into a downward spiral. However, it was well worth the time spent with a dictionary and I do recommend it to advanced learners.

A la prochaine!


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One comment

    • Roxy

    • May 25, 2017

    • 7:41 pm

    • Reply

    Hi dear Clare
    A propos de l’expression “rouler les mécaniques”, c’est une expression très courante en français. Un rien désuète mais tellement employée! Je l’utilise aussi au sens figuré, pas seulement pour parler de quelqu’un (plutôt un homme) qui joue les gros bras (une autre expression idiomatique! = montrer ses muscles). Je l’emploie pour parler de quelqu’un (également plutôt un homme) qui cherche à impressionner par ses paroles, mais ce qu’il dit n’est pas très intéressant ou carrément stupide. Ou par exemple un garçon qui veut draguer une fille et qui se vante de tout ce qu’il sait faire, par exemple “je tonds la pelouse chez mes parents, je sais réparer la mobilette de mon frère, je cuisine des pizzas de ouf, etc”. Alors on peut dire qu’il roule les mécaniques aussi!
    Tiens, à propos de l’expression “de ouf”…… c’est du verlan, autrement dit une mode orale de dire des mots avec les syllabes inversées. Donc “ouf” ne faisant qu’une syllabe, on inverse toutes les lettres, ce qui veut dire “fou”. Un truc de ouf, c’est quelque chose de génial, d’incroyable.
    “verlan” = “envers” à l’envers!
    I hope everybody will enjoy this post 🙂
    Bisous, ma chère Clare

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About the author

Clare Jones was born in the North of England in 1960. She fell in love with the French language at the age of 11 and went on to study it to degree level at Leicester University, where she also became a qualified teacher. In 2011 Clare collaborated with Tamsin Edwards to produce an iPhone application, “Figure out French, Rouler un patin: to give a French kiss and other French expressions for leisure and health”. Though she now lives in England, Clare always has her nose in a French book and she surrounds herself by all things French. She is currently very busy teaching French as a private tutor and when she has the time, she writes a blog on the subject of the French language (click on the blog tab to read it). Clare enjoys tai-chi, swimming, and cycling in the local country park. She is also an enthusiastic member of her local community choir.

About the illustrator

Tamsin Edwards studied art at both Nene Art College, Northampton, and Derby School of Art during the early 1980s. Though well known for her atmospheric watercolour landscapes, Tamsin also creates quirky pen & wash illustrations, often portraying comic images of people and places. Tamsin has already collaborated with Clare Jones to produce an iPhone application. Past commissioned projects also include the children’s storybook ‘Tales of Two Shires’ and a book of poetic verses. As well as regularly exhibiting work and selling to clients around the world, Tamsin has also had several paintings published in an international magazine. To view further examples of her work or to buy original artwork from this book, please visit Tamsin can be contacted at

Author Photo

Illustrator Tamsin Edwards (left) and author Clare Jones (right)

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