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Francophone Week: the perfect French expression that will give English speakers a headache

France is going through ups and downs at the moment.

President Macron’s recent pension reform has led to protests and repeated strikes. grind the country to a halt, Even the royal visit of King Charles this Sunday, which would normally have been a cause for celebration, has been Cancelled,

Apart from their crushing win against England during the Six Nations rugby earlier this month, it seems the country has had little to cheer about of late. but it might have escaped you that this week was La Semaine de la Langue Française et de la Francophonie – French Language and Francophone Week,

So, what better time to celebrate the French language, and take a look at some expressions that may sound absurd to foreign ears. Finally, try to get your head around the conversation about breaking three legs on a duck, rowing your ass with noodles while you’re on your 31…

Unclear? we’ve got you covered. here are some euronews cultures favorite common French idioms that may surprise English speakers and that certainly speak to the rich history and humor of the language.

French Language Week – Semaine de la Francophonie

“Tomber Dans Les Pommes”

literal translation: falling into the apple

Meaning: To faint. When the French pass out, they lose consciousness in the fruit.

Original: The expression apparently first appeared in a letter sent by French novelist George Sand to his friend Madame Dupin in the 19th century. However, it actually goes back to a linguistic distortion, an expression that derives from the medieval expression “tomber dans les pemes” – from Old French “pammer” meaning to faint.

“Ca ne casse pas trois pattes à un canard”

literal translation: It doesn’t break three legs on a duck.

Meaning: It’s nothing spectacular / It’s ordinary. There is nothing to harm the waterfowl. The closest equivalent expression in English would be “It’s nothing to write home about”, or the Spanish “No es ninguna cosa del otro juves” (“It’s nothing new compared to last Thursday”).

Original: unknown. Ducks only have two legs, so it’s crazy. Visually satisfying, but crazy. Essentially, if you get a third leg to break, you’ve done something really extraordinary.

“Poser un lapin” – Stock – Canva

“Poser Un Lapin”

literal translation: To keep rabbits.

Meaning: stand someone up. So, if your date doesn’t appear, you can say “il / elle m’a posé un lapin”.

Original: The expression dates to the 19th century, and originally meant “not to repay a woman’s favors”. Later, Loredan Larche, in his ‘Nouveau Supplement du Dictionnaire d’Ergot’, indicated that the rabbit was used for “the rabbit placed on the turnstiles of fairground games, which finds it easy to win and which never wins”. .

“On nest pas sortie de l’auberge”

literal translation: We are not out of the inn.

Meaning: Facing a complex problem that is far from over. While the British won’t be out of the woods and the Germans out of the penalty area, French problems lock you up in the local hostelry.

Original: Many believe that this expression refers to Balzac and the sordid boarding school Wouker, or even Maupassant’s nightmarish Auberge. However, the origins are much simpler, going back to the word “auberge,” which referred to a prison—a place where, like an inn, prisoners are offered room and board.

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“Avoir le cul border de nouilles” – Stock – Canva

“Avoir le cul borde de noilles”

literal translation: To line your ass with noodles.

Meaning: to get lucky. (and a dry-cleaning nightmare)

Original: The expression “avoir du cul” – “to have ass” also works in French, but the noodle part is thought to be another reference to prison. Without trying to be too graphic, power dynamics are prevalent in the prison. Prisoners who agree to engage in homosexual relationships receive a number of advantages – such as protection and privileges. The noodle part comes about because the chiles, when viewed up close and regardless of their color, can be compared to noodles.

“Être sur son 31”

literal translation: Being on your 31.

Meaning: Being well groomed and wearing elegant clothes. Think Cannes Festival red carpet events.

Original: The ’31’ probably derives from the word “trenten”, once used to describe luxury clothing. But the accepted origins come from Prussia, where on the 31st of every month the troops were visited by their military hierarchy. For the occasion, the soldiers had to clean their barracks from top to bottom and dress up to look their best.

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“Il y une couille dans le potage” – Stock – Canva

“Il y une couille dans le potage”

literal translation: There is a bolk in the soup.

Meaning: Somewhere something has gone wrong. (And keep your genitals out of my broth.)

Original: The colored one, this one. Once you’ve finished laughing at the pelaver caused by such a situation, keep in mind that the original is far less risky. The expression comes from the Vendée region of France where “toile” is a soup spoon used only for stirring bisque. Good etiquette states that you should remove the “touille” (which turns into ‘testicles’ with a mere switch of the first syllable) from the soup before serving. So it’s all about table manners, which some filthy minded bunch decided to make more vivid. It is a shameful thing!

“Jai le Cafford”

literal translation: I have cockroach.

Meaning: sad. The French don’t like cockroaches. But then, who is happy to see one?

Original: In the sixteenth century, the French word “cafard” (which comes from the Arabic “kafir”, meaning “wicked”) referred to a person who was not very religious and who led others to believe that he was deeply religious. . A cheating devotee, basically. It also refers to a person who slanders and slanders others. So nothing good. Then came the poet Charles Baudelaire, who introduced a cockroach in ‘Les Fleurs du Mal’ in 1857. Speaking of Satan, he wrote:

“Perfois il prend, true mon grand amour de l’art,
La forme de la plus seduisante des femmes,
and, sous de specifics pretexts de cafard,
Accoutume ma lèvre à des philtres infâmes.”

English translation:

“Sometimes he takes, knowing my great love for art,
most attractive forms of women,
And, under the showy guise of cockroaches,
Makes my lips addicted to the infamous drug.”

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“Avoir un poil dans la main” – Stock – Canva

“Stay away from those poil dans la main”

literal translation: Holding hair in your hand.

Meaning: to be lazy. The expression is usually reserved for someone who avoids work at all costs.

Original: This expression dates to the early 19th century and its origin is not known. You just have to be content with the image of such a lazy and inactive person that he let a hair grow from his palm.

“Tu mujhe kaur sur le haricot”

literal translation: You’re walking on my bean.

Meaning: you’re getting on my nerves The French prefer vegan food for this, while the Germans prefer biscotti (“auf den kecks gehen” – “to walk on a biscuit”), the British go to the nipple (“to go to one’s breast”) and Spanish go back to the testicles (“tocar los huevos/cojones” – “to touch the balls”).

Original: The link between the bean and frustration isn’t immediately obvious, especially if the story of Jack and the Beanstalk is to be believed, because you need a giant bean to run. The French expression is a strange mix of different origins: the verb “courier” in early 19th-century French meant “to bother”, and the verb “haricoter” meant “to be small in business”.


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