I've spotted this on the self-service terminal in a French fast food restaurant:

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What is the exact connotation of this? Does that mean a silly excuse for not being at work today?


2 Answers 2


As Alone-zee already commented, j'ai tennis is based on a well known humorous lame excuse to tell you won't be able to attend something.

The phrase means you have a planned tennis match or training.

The original sentence was Nan, j'peux pas, j'ai piscine (Nah, I can't, I have a swimming lesson), a running joke by Laurent Baffie muppet in Les Guignols de l'info in the nineties (Nulle part ailleurs - Canal+).

Nowadays, piscine can be replaced by any activity, whether sports related or not.

In that particular case, the fast-food restaurant human interface designer joke was possibly inspired by a Fédération Française de Tennis advertising campaign.

See also: J’ai bien compris qu’il ne s’agissait que d’une seule journée de tournage, seulement voilà, ce jour-là, j'ai dentiste (Blanche Gardin, 20 april 2023)

An English equivalent is Sorry, but I'm washing my hair that night

  • 8
    J'aurais bien voté, mais j'peux pas, j'ai licorne. Commented Jul 16, 2018 at 7:37
  • 6
    Et bien sûr ma préférée : je peux pas, j'ai aqua-poney. Commented Jul 16, 2018 at 14:04
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    so, it's humorous-but-lame, but not insulting? (unlike, "sorry, I've got to wash my hair")
    – davidbak
    Commented Jul 16, 2018 at 16:55
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    @davidbak It's never really insulting. It can be used to tease someone but is generally just a funny reply.
    – jlliagre
    Commented Jul 16, 2018 at 17:06
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    dans le même genre : "Désolé, je peux pas, je dois aller acheter le pain".
    – XouDo
    Commented Sep 25, 2023 at 9:57

While @Alone-zee is probably correct in that the specific cultural reference, it's a construct that could literally translated to:

I have tennis

Which can be understood as either one going to play tennis or going to a tennis class but in any case, it's clear that the subject is going to play tennis.

Here, the second dimension to this is that there is a form of rejection using the pretext of 'having tennis'.

Finally, in this specific context, it seems that the device is experiencing issues and the software is displaying this message as a multi-layered joke.

  1. It's acting as if the device is rejecting you;
  2. Obviously, the device does not 'have tennis'

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