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… 🙂

    • Merci, Mélanie. C’est pour répondre à mon amie Claire au-dessus. Je lui enverrai le lien du site. Peut-être y a t’il une version en anglais. Merci!

  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

    • Absolutely, Curt. This artist was better known as a painter, but his musical skills were more than decent. Being at the orgin of an expression is pretty cool, I think.

  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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