French Language Blog

As Long As Your Arm – Exaggerating In French Posted by on Mar 20, 2019 in Vocabulary

There’s more to learning French than memorizing vocabulary and conjugating verbs. The real goal is learning how to s’exprimer (express yourself) and let your personality shine!

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Beyond la grammaire and la culture, a big part of speaking une nouvelle langue (a new language) is the person speaking.

Sometimes struggling to speak French correctly has a lot to do with that last point, la personne qui parle (the person speaking). It’s not about the frustration of making une faute (a mistake), but rather the feeling that your real personality isn’t being heard due to the language barrier.

One area where this is abundantly clear is le second degré et l’exagération (sarcasm and exaggeration).

Le Second Degré – Sarcasm In French

I recently had to deal with understanding both new vocabulary and sarcasm when un ami (a friend) was exaggerating about all the work they still had to do and used une expression I didn’t know:

J’ai trop de choses à faire ! C’est une liste longue comme le bras !
Longue comme le bras ?
Oui c’est une expression. J’exagère un peu mais j’ai vraiment beaucoup de travail aujourd’hui.

I have to much to do! It’s a list as long as my arm!
As long as your arm?
Yes, it’s an expression. I’m exaggerating a little, but I really have a lot of work today.

I’ve learned to accept free French lessons from everyday conversations like this and took a mental note of la nouvelle expression. However, a little while later I heard someone else start using le second degré, using a very similar expression:

C’est gros comme le bras tu sais !
Tu veux pas dire que c’est long comme le bras ?
Gros, long, c’est comme tu veux !

It’s as big as my arm you know!
Don’t you mean that it’s as long as your arm?
Big, long, it’s whatever you want!

I’m used to les expressions being pretty fixed in what words they use so I thought it was important to double check. It turned out to be a simple case of some people preferring to say gros (big) and others preferring to say long (long), but asking the seemingly obvious question cleared up any doubts.

No matter which word you use, just remember the hardest thing about learning French is not the vocabulary list longue comme le bras!

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About the Author: John Bauer

John Bauer is an enthusiast for all things language and travel. He currently lives in France where he's doing his Master's. John came to France four years ago knowing nothing about the language or the country, but through all the mistakes over the years, he's started figuring things out.