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




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Literally: Ingres’s violin

Best equivalent: A hobby


Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres was a French artist from the 19th century. In addition to painting, he enjoyed playing the violin and was quite a good musician. By extension, anyone who passionately pursues an activity besides a professional career has a Violon d’Ingres.


See you tomorrow for the letter J, part of the A to Z challenge!


  1. I’m enjoying your posts of French expressions! What a creative way to share with us and invite reflection on phrases and their meanings. Thanks!

    • Thank you, Joan. The more I dig into these expresssions that were once so familiar to me the more I find them vivid and often funny. I also keep finding new. So expect at least another year 🙂

  2. I wonder how that expression started? Ingres must have been a very well known person in his time.

    • He was an excellent violonist, based on what I read, thus the expression. Now, many French talk of hobby too, but I wanted to stay away from English this year. Two years ago, I focused on the French and English expressions or words used in both countries with a different meaning. It was quite funny. Thank you, Claire for stopping by. I love your challenge. Lots of research behind.

    • Claire, a blogger suggested the Musée Ingres and I looked it up. I know you’re not fluent in French, but you can still admire Jean-Auguste Dominique Ingres’s artwork. There is a mention of him being a musician too. This is the link:
      Then, click on Collections.

  3. j’ai visité le musée Ingres à Montauban, et l’expression y était mentionnée, of course… 🙂

  4. That’s s nice one 🙂

  5. I like this one, Evelyne. It makes a lot of sense to me. It reverses the old ‘jack of all trades, master of none,’ to suggest you can be a master of more than one trade, even if they are just hobbies! –Curt

  6. Je viens de redécouvrir le blog, et j’ai lu toutes les expressions jusqu’à maintenant d’un seul coup. Quelques-unes étaient connues (j’étudie le français), et même oublié. Mais j’adore en savoir l’origine.

    Merci beaucoup pour cette série!

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