French Language Blog

The Zoo of French Idioms Posted by on Apr 21, 2010 in Vocabulary

Today, we will enter, in a visite guidée spéciale (a special guided visit), the parc zoologique des locutions (the zoological park of idioms.)

Starting with le roi de la jungle (the king of the jungle), we find the expression “la part du lion“, which in this case (a rare one) can be directly deduced by comparing it to its English equivalent, “the lion’s share.” However, to “have eaten lion”, in French “avoir mangé du lion“, means that you’re feeling so energetic and even combative or aggressive that it is as if you have eaten a lion, and thus became like one yourself.  This expression, of course, is never taken littéralement (literally) in France: You may indeed be able to find des cuisses de grenouille (frogs’ legs) or des escargots in the finest Parisian restaurants, but try to order a “lion”, and all you may get is a chocolate bar! (Commercials in France of “Lion”, the chocolate bar brand, don’t forget to use this expression idiomatique to successfully commercialize their sweet-and-nutty product.)

Moving on to other animals, we would say “Passons du coq à l’âne“, literally “moving from the rooster to the donkey”, but in fact simply meaning “jumping from one subject to another.” This expression has often earned some journalists and anchors the wrath of a few politicians and some “susceptibles” (touchy) celebrities whose names would, shall we say, “allegorically” follow its use. In this way, it can be interpreted as a thinly-veiled attack on the targeted person. The wiser ones would simply prefer to say “Sans transition”, just like the emblematic pundit of the French TV channel “TF1”, Patrick Poivre d’Arvor (or PPDA), always says, whose puppet in the French show “Les Guignols de l’Info” is extremely popular in France.

Le Coq is involved in other expressions as wellIt is often regarded as a symbol of the French themselves, as in the logo of the F.F.F., or the “Fédération Française de Football” (French Federation of Football), or in the name of the ‘Made in France’ sports brand “Le Coq Sportif”; hence maybe the possible “French Connection” with a perceived “cockiness” or arrogance, well-known attributes of this proud animal. To say “vivre comme un coq en pâte” means “to live a good and easy life”, to live “in the clover”, or as the Italians say, “la dolce vita.” Make sure you don’t confuse the two homophones coq and coque, the latter meaning “shell.”  So if someone asks you if you want to have un œuf à la coque for le petit déjeuner (breakfast), they are not asking you to have a “rooster egg”, but simply a soft-boiled egg.

In order to avoid that this post ends en queue de poisson (meaning to fizzle out or “peter out”, but literally “in a fish-tail”) we will resume our ballade of le zoo des locutions on Thursday.

À jeudi !

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  1. Secil:

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