So you want to dazzle your friends by whipping out the phrase à bâtons rompus in conversation? Impress your teacher with a perfect translation? Easy enough! But first, here's some background information to help you understand how the expression evolved to describe things said or done with frequent interruptions.
The expression may have its origins in the Middle Ages when bâtons rompus referred to a tapestry whose irregular pattern resembled interconnected lines. The key word here is "irregular." Then again, the expression may have made its way into everyday language through the beat of a military drum. Beating a drum à bâtons rompus means playing two successive drum strikes with both sticks. But no drum roll, please! The drum beat can't be continuous; otherwise, it wouldn't be à bâtons rompus.
Given the origins of this phrase, you can understand why today à bâtons rompus means disjointed, with frequent interruptions. Most often, it describes an informal discussion between two or more people where the conversation jumps from one topic to another. But it can sometimes describe something that is done, or happens, with repeated interruptions. Refer to the list below to find ways to use or translate this French idiom: