To Save for the Rainy Days or a Month of French Idioms From A to Z

By now you may have noticed that food is part of many popular French expressions. No doubt that food and perhaps more importantly the rituals around food matter in France. Today in the series of French Idioms from A to Z, a very common expression that I heard a lot, growing up in a French middle class family where nothing was wasted, even less food, and where saving was my parents’ way of life.






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This expression would go back to the 16th century, using the juicy pear, a fruit able to quench the thirst, as a metaphor for the necessity to save for the unpredictable moments in life.

If you just started to read this series, I have to tell you that in my early days in the USA I always thought in French before speaking in English. Literal translation, I found out, rarely works.

So yes, I’ve said once to someone that it was a good idea to keep a pear for the thirst in the same way I told another that I had a cat in my throat (a frog restrospectively would have made more sense for the French!) and that I liked men in smokings (tuxedos).


See you tomorrow!


A to Z Challenge


  1. I find translation extremely difficult! It’s like a glitch in my brain. Once I’ve crossed over and warmed up, speaking and thinking in another language is quick, but not converting it back — regardless of the language. Writing remains more challenging, but at least no one has asked me to write something in two languages at once!

    • Regularly I’m asked if I could translate my two children’s novels in French and I always say no. It’s one thing to write directly in one language and another to translate. I might write something in French someday but it will be directly in French. My mind goes constantly back and forth between French (I speak exclusively French with my husband and French people I know here in the US), English otherwise, and a strange mix of both with my American-born children. This series is a good thing for me as I search for expressions I used without even thinking about them when I lived in France.
      Writing in a language that is not your mother language presents some challenges and few writers do it. I guess I like challenges! See you, Joey.

  2. I am thouroughly enjoying your series, Evelyne. It makes sense tah historically derived idioms centered on food as survival was utmost on a daily basis. Are pears a sustantial crop in a region in France?

    • Thank you, Sammy. Pears are grown in the Provence-Alpes-Cรดte dโ€™Azur region as well as in the Rhรดne-Alpes and center parts of France. The production is behind Italy and of course the US dominates, but pears are widely consummed in France. As simple fruits eaten pealed and cored, the way we do everywhere, but also in cooking and baking. Pear cakes and pies, pears baked with cream, even alcoholic beverages. Pears pair well with cheese too. Bon appetit!

      • Thanks for the info, Evelyne. I guessed the Provence area if anywhere. I remember a delicious pear and gorgonzola pasta dish in Florence. Makes my mouth water just to think of it!

  3. A great series to follow ~ I’ll never look at a pear the same way again, because I’ll be saving it for a rainy day!

  4. I would be happy to enjoy a pear than save a penny for a rainy day ๐Ÿ˜‰

  5. I sometimes prefer fruit to water when I am thirsty, so this resonates well with me. I’ve been accused of not thinking (in any language) before speaking so maybe a translation error or two isn’t that bad. By the way, I’m hooked, I look for this email daily.

    • Fruit are great thirst quenchers, totally agree with you. Maybe you should take on foreign languages! It’s an obstacle to think too much. That’s why kids are so much better than adults. Thank you for your support and comments as I plow my way through this looooong series. Not yet halfway, so encouragements are welcome.

  6. Very poetic way to say it. I like it. Pity it doesn’t directly translate. I like it better in French ๐Ÿ™‚

  7. Behind the Story says:

    I like your idioms. But your earlier mistakes are also fun to read–a cat in your throat and a man in smokings.

  8. I really love learning these! It’s fantastic that food is such an integral part of the French heritage. I like very much the idea of the pear. I have found that French expressions are very often more descriptive than their English counterparts!

    • Thank you, jetgirlcos, for your kind words. I tend to agree that French language can be very visual. But I also find the English language strong and powerful for a writer. Verbs are especially better in English. So I suppose I’m lucky to speak both!

      • Since English is my mother tongue, of course I find it to be very flexible for writing…as I continue my work with French I can clearly see that written and spoken French are two entirely different animals! I am trying very hard to tame them both!

  9. How funny is that! The dutch save apples for thirst, french save pears. I do like pears more ๐Ÿ™‚

    I hope you have a wonderful time during the rest of A to Z!
    Sylvia van Bruggen @ Playful Creative

  10. I do love how much food comes into your French sayings Evelyne…and we all know how wonderful French food is ๐Ÿ™‚ Pears are certainly very juicy, that’s for sure! When I was little and heard the expression ‘saving for a rainy day’, I used to imagine that people actually had a special tin of pennies hidden under their beds that they would bring out on actual rainy days, taking the saying literally, as children do!

    • When we are very young, we take everything literally and it can be scary sometimes. I’m always a little embarrassed when I read so many nice comments about France. It’s not something we realize about our home countries. It’s often through non-native people that we see their assets. Thank you, Sherri, for another kind visit.

  11. I love pears – I just never thought of them as thirst quenchers but it makes sense. I’ll try to keep a few around.

  12. I know saving for a rainy day of course, but I like the idea of pears for a time of thirst.

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