I believe "faire un tabac" means a resounding success but I heard it comes from the verb "tabasser" which means to beat or pound, make noise. Where is the connection with tobacco or am I mistaken?


1 Answer 1


Faire un tabac and tabasser share the same origin, along with other expressions mentioning tabac like coup de tabac and passer à tabac.

None of them are related to tobacco though. The spelling tabac has been used possibly because it was convenient and was pronounced the same and probably by joke, as says the TLFi.

In all of these expressions, tabac comes from the root tabb- (cognates with tapp- that gave taper) found in the occitan tabastar which also gave tarabuster.

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Frédéric Mistral, Lou tresor dóu Felibrige, 1878

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    thank you,yes. That sometimes happens in English to, I know, as in'' to toe the line'' is often mistaken as ''to tow the line'' and ''champing at the bit ''is wrongly said incorrectly as ''chomping at the bit''. There may be more
    – Bluelion7
    Nov 18, 2023 at 13:44
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    @Bluelion7 Reminds me of a competent linguistics prof who was to my surprise unsure whether the original was "home in on" or "hone in on". (It's the first.) Anyway, these are called eggcorns.
    – Luke Sawczak
    Nov 19, 2023 at 15:19
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    @LukeSawczak cool! I never heard the word "eggcorn" before
    – Bluelion7
    Nov 19, 2023 at 20:42
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    @LukeSawczak Yes. The initial ((etymo)logical) spelling was faire un tabas but the expression was quickly written faire un tabac and the ephemerous tabas was lost.
    – jlliagre
    Nov 19, 2023 at 21:55

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