From A to Z, Twenty-Six Funny, Weird, Vivid French Expressions





Embed from Getty Images


Embed from Getty Images


Literally: Church font’s frog

The expression is used to describe someone who is very churchy.

Would we say a zealot in English?

Tell me.


See you on Monday for the letter H, part of the A to Z Challenge!


P.S. Yesterday, one of the biggest names of the French musical scene died. Jacques Higelin was a songwriter and a musician, but also an actor and a human rights’ activist. He played a big role in my high school life. Pars is the song that brought him visibility, even though he had already started his long musical career. This song was also the soundtrack on many of many of my evenings. Often, American people have told me that they like French songs, even if they don’t understand the lyrics. If you have a few minutes, listen to Pars. Emotion-packed, the song carries a distinct French flavor and yet feels as fresh as when I played it on my turntable. Again. Again. And again.

Thank you for this song and the many others you wrote, Monsieur Higelin.



  1. I like this expression, and I don’t know if we have a (relatively) kind one in English. I think zealot leans a bit to far to the extreme. Most of the other ones that come to mind are a bit too derogatory. A scene that immediately came to mind was from “The African Queen” when Humphrey Borgart calls Katharine Hepburn a “psalm singing old biddy” but, again, it might have a negative quality 😉

    • Agree with you about “zealot,” Dan. In my opinion it goes too far as well. So it seems that there is maybe not an American expression, although I like the “psalm singing old biddy” one 🙂
      Thank you anyway for following the challenge.

  2. I was a big fan of Jacques Higelin too. Very sad to hear the news.

    • I was too, but to be frank stopped listening to him a long time ago. Mostly due to my move to the USA. However, when I heard the news, his songs rushed back and the memories than always accompany songs as well.
      I loved Higelin’s genuine artistic personality and the fact that he didn’t fit in a specific box. Some say he belongs to the French rock and roll, others to the French pop. He was a poet and his lyrics reflect his love for words. He was also a bête de scène and it’s not everyone who can captivate an audience for hours.
      Pars remains one of my favorite songs of his. Probably because the lyrics echo everyone’s experience at some time.
      Thank you, Pascale for stopping by.

  3. I like the use of the accordion – it reminds me of the Paris!!!

  4. The two I was raised with were, “She’s in church every time they unlock the doors,” and “She’s sweepin’ out the church.” The last one is what you say if church is over but somebody will stay and visit with the other congregants as long as there’s one person left for her to talk to. Neither of those is as catchy as the French one, though, and neither one is really equivalent. Hmmmm, maybe an Amen Sister or a Holy Joe?

    • In a way, I’m glad there is no equivalent. That was kind of my goal to show how the French language is so vivid through such expressions.
      The first expression you suggest hints to the same meaning, I think. Also I like your Amen Sister and Holy Joe 🙂
      Thank you, Marian.

  5. Zealot has some similarities but not quite comparable to the French phrase which seems to have less negative connotations. Sorry to hear about Jacques Higelin. Weekends In Maine

    • Agree about “zealot” being stronger and not funny at all, while the French expression is quite humoristic. As I get older the artists who played such a big role in my childhood or youth are, one by one, leaving our beautiful planet. They still leave their art behind, and that’s such a consolation and a gift.

  6. Such a funny expression! I would have never thought of frogs and church fonts together. But, I suppose the font could be a nice place for a frog to live.
    So sorry to hear about Jacques Higelin. Thank you for sharing the song.

  7. I am visiting for the first time finding your blog comment along the way, I love this about the #Challenge. I have enjoyed this post. Thank you for the hard work it takes to present something well. If you have time and interest, I am writing about BOOKSTORES this year, their architecture, locations and the great people who sell books…one of my passions. I’ll be back.

  8. Higelin was unique and his children follow his amazing path… 😉

  9. hilarymb says:

    Hi Evelyne – interesting about Grenouilles … now I’ll think about frogs when I’m in churches. Clever way of doing the A-Z … so we can hear you saying the words … and I’m loving listening to Higelin – whom I hadn’t heard singing before, though did hear of his death – thanks for such an interesting post – cheers Hilary

    • Thank you, Hilary. There are countless idioms and vivid expressions in any language, I’m sure. The French language is particularly rich and I love to find these short expressions that are hard to translate. I
      Higelin was very unique and has certainly marked the French musical scene in a more important way than others.
      Cheers to you, too, Hilary.

  10. I enjoyed the pace and rhythm of the song. Love his laugh and the talking part, even if I don’t know what he is saying and singing.

    • Since you are a poet, you can only enjoy Higelin, Sabra. I know what you mean about not understanding and maybe wishing you could. I’ve felt the same way when I lived in France and heard a song that I liked but didn’t understand, only because it was in English.
      This is the link to the lyrics of the song, which is about a couple separating. They have a child who looks like his mother in many ways. Higelin asks his partner to leave without looking back but also to come back one day. The lycrics are quite simple but beautifully crafted and the music and his voice make it a very special song. The one that in fact brought him fame. More followed.

  11. That’s fun Evelyne, a frog in the font. Hopefully, it had an ample supply of bugs and didn’t end up in someone’s hair at a baptism. That would liven things up. Or what if it started croaking durning the sermon? Listened to the song and then went to U-tube and watched Higelin perform with a young woman. It was really charming. You could see how much she adored him. I am picturing a young Evelyne. 🙂 –Curt

    • As I go through this challenge I keep finding more and more expressions (still very few for the last letters of the alphabet, though) and I realize how so many are funny and really weird. We also have another one, as popular with the same meaning. I didn’t showcase it since it’s a little more graphic. Cul béni or blessed ass is also used to depict someone who spends a little bit too much time in churches.
      When Higelin’s song was released it was part of the album called No Man’s Land.
      The recording was done very close from where I lived back then. But without me:)
      It’s possible that the YouTube video you saw showed him sing with his daughter. Depends of the adoration you saw 🙂 But she’s a singer too. Her two brothers are artists as well.

      • Still working the “blessed ass” through my mind, Evelyne. 🙂 Must have been the donkey that Mary rode.
        It may have been his daughter. There was obviously a lot of fondness between the two of them. –Curt

  12. This one is new to me, and no, I don’t think there is a true equivalent. Does this apply to men as well as women? “Church lady”comes to mind, but it doesn’t include men, and is generally a derogatory term for an older lady of that type. Mais…je ne l’utiliserai pas parce que “grenouille” est difficile à prononcer pout les anglophones! 🐸

    • It’s very popular. The equivalent, a little less proper but very popular too is cul béni:)
      I totally get you about grenouille. When my kids were small they had a hard time with this noun. So don’t feel bad!

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