Just bite your tongue, it'll be over in five minutes.


The French noun "chique" (quid of tobacco) is the source of many local expressions. In a literal sense, the word means a piece of chewing tobacco, or a sweet, a kind of candy. In French, it means something very soft, we say "mou comme une chique" ("like a wet rag").

In Belgium, it has taken on multiple meanings. "Chique" can be a synonym of chewing gum and can be found on a "chique bak" (a chewing gum dispenser). It can also refer to the swelling of the cheek as a result of a dental abscess.

In a figurative sense, it is used in the expression "mordre sur sa chique", meaning to bite your tongue, contain yourself, hide your anger or distress, keep your cool or put up with something. As in "j’ai dû mordre sur ma chique pour ne pas créer de scandale" ("I had to bite my tongue to avoid a scandal"). This is clearly less serious than "avaler sa chique" which means to die. Less definitive, but still very unpleasant, is "déposer sa chique", which is to be forced to remain silent; still referring to speech, you can "couper la chique à quelqu'un" when you interrupt them suddenly.

"Chique" also means a small amount, or a little bit extra: "J'ai payé douze euros et une chique" ("I paid twelve and a bit euros"), and sometimes a negligible or non-existent amount: "ça ne vaut pas une chique" ("that's not worth a penny").

For the latter meanings, the Belgian use of "chique" is logical, since the etymology of the word can be traced back to the Provençal chico, "piece", and to the Latin cicca and ciccum, "remainder" or "worthless object". It can also be found in Italian with the same meaning: "non vale una cicca", which here means "that's not worth a penny".