• The expression "to stand on the sidelines" has four possible origins.
  • It means "to be still."
  • In this expression, "tile" is always singular.

"You'd better keep your guard down!" What child hasn't heard this warning when it's time to be quiet? And who hasn't wondered which tile to hold onto? Rest assured, linguists themselves are still debating it...

How many tiles?

First of all, let's dot the "i's": we're standing square, not checkered. Tiles are like chocolate squares: one is enough.

The Medieval Hypothesis

Before the Famas and AK47, soldiers had to make do with crossbows, an obsolete weapon if ever there was one. The boom of this machine was called a "tile". Was it a matter of being ready to put the bolt on his weapon to shoot or to be discreet to avoid the opponent's bolts? No one knows for sure.

The Revolutionary Hypothesis

The French Revolution was a period rich in trials. At that time, the audience was confined to a paved floor (i.e., made of tiles), from which it was impossible for them to express themselves.

The Card Game Hypothesis

An expression dear to card players of yesteryear would have been "he who keeps himself till is never a hood", in other words, like Parker Lewis, who hides and watches his deck well never loses.


The Detective Slang Hypothesis

This is perhaps the most credible explanation: "to keep to oneself" would be derived from "to carrer", i.e. to stay hidden at home. A term used by police officers and gangsters as early as the nineteenth century.

  • French language
  • Etymology
  • Expression
  • Vocabulary
  • Society