Zero Plus Zero Equals the Head of Toto or a Month of French Idioms From A to Z

Today marks the end of the series a Month of French Idioms From A to Z.

Through familiar French expressions and their equivalents in American English, I’ve shared for twenty-six days my affection for my two favorite countries on earth.

Languages and cultures may vary from one place to another, but the need for human beings to use metaphors and visuals to express ideas is the same.

The last French idiom du jour illustrates, in my opinion, how language and culture make one and how making them yours can take some time.

 

photo(59)

ZÉRO PLUS ZÉRO ÉGALE LA TÊTE À TOTO

ZERO PLUS ZERO EQUALS THE HEAD OF TOTO

 

 

La Tête à Toto or The Head of Toto is a school game that was very much part of my French childhood.

It starts with this equation :

0+0=0

This how it works: You write the equation as a drawing and as you draw you recite.

 

photo(63)ZÉRO

photo(62)PLUS

photo(61)ZÉRO

photo(60)ÉGALE

photo(59)LA TÊTE À TOTO

 

Since Toto’s head equals zero, his intelligence is also zero.

Toto was a popular character in my elementary school culture. There were also many Toto’s jokes.

The equivalent of the French Toto’s jokes would be for me the American “Knock Knock” jokes.

 

I didn’t find an American equivalent to this unique French idiom/game.

Wherever you live or are from, did you play a similar childish game that was part of your culture?

Since I brought up my children in the USA, I’d love to know if today French kids still play 0+0= la Tête à Toto and if the Toto’s jokes are still around.

Les Français? Est-ce que les enfants jouent toujours à la tête à Toto?

 

Although daily blogging is not my cup of tea (See? I have a hard to time to stop the flow of idioms!), I am very grateful for your company and have been looking forward to your visits and comments.

I especially thank the bloggers and readers who have stuck with me for the whole month of April.

Your support, your fun and also relevant comments have made this challenge much more interesting.

Bravo to each blogger who made it to the final line of the 2015 race through the alphabet.

 

See you soon for a Recorded Version of this Series of French idioms!

Fried Whiting Eyes or a Month of French Idioms From A to Z

As I wrote the literal translation for the French idiom du jour, I learned the proper name for the fish called “Merlan” in French.

For some reason I tend to mix and match the French and American names for the countless varieties of fish.

 

photo(58)

YEUX DE MERLAN FRIT

FRIED WHITING EYES

MOON EYES

 

 

Since the end of the 19th century this expression is used to describe the adoring and a little stupid way people in love can sometimes look at each other.

In the 18th century the comparison was made with a carp and not a whiting.

This kind of look was especially used in old silent movies.

I find the English expression a little more accurate than the French one, although the literal translation made me smile.

 

P.S. The fish above is not a Merlan or a Whiting but a bass, caught (and released) by my son at our Maine cabin last summer.

 

 

A to Z Challenge

See you tomorrow!

 

Bijou, Caillou, Chou, Genou, Hibou, Joujou, Pou: a Twist to a Month of French Idioms From A to Z

Unless you know of a French idiom starting with the letter X, I must give a twist to the expression-du-jour.

I owe the idea to my husband. He masters the French language like a French native and finds a solution to any problem like an American. Merci, thank you, for letting me off the hook with this suggestion.

 

The majority of French nouns mark their plural with the letter S, matching the English most common way. However, like irregular plurals in English, there are some exceptions in French, too.

 

photo(56)

The most notorious are seven nouns that as a child I learned by heart, in alphabetical order, almost like a short poem.

 

 

BIJOU: JEWEL

CAILLOU: PEBBLE

CHOU: CABBAGE

GENOU: KNEE

HIBOU: OWL

JOUJOU: TOY (a small toy, or a babyish way to name a toy)

POU: LICE

 

These seven nouns ending with the letters O and U don’t mark their plural with an S but an X: Bijoux, Cailloux, Choux, Genoux, Hiboux, Joujoux, Poux.

 

Now, I’m asking my French friends:

Do kids still learn them the same way? Les enfants français apprennent-ils encore ces pluriels irréguliers par cœur?

 

Promise, I’m returning to the French Idioms series tomorrow!

 

A to Z Challenge

 

To Put the Wagons Before the Locomotive or a Month of French Idioms From A to Z

As soon as I embarked the A to Z Challenge, I knew that I would write about French idioms and their equivalents in American English. I also knew that I would have some trouble with a few letters. With a little bit of help (merci to my husband and to my Wonderful virtual French friend Lectrice en Campagne), I managed to find an expression for every letter of the alphabet.

Including W, even though W is not the first letter of the idiom-du-jour.

 

Mettre les Wagons Avant la Locomotive

Put the Wagons Before the Locomotive

 

 

I didn’t find a matching idiom in English. But I personally favor another idiom, which was widely used in my native Normandy and has in addition a perfectly good match in English. It is not surprising to me that the French ‘Boeufs’ became a ‘Horse’ in the US.

 

Mettre la Charrue Avant les Boeufs

To Put the Cart Before the Oxen

To Put the Cart Before the Horse

 

 

Whatever idiom you prefer, both have the exact same meaning: Doing things the wrong way, confusing cause and effect.

It is also common to use these idioms in the negative form as a warning, such as: “Il ne faut pas mettre les wagons avant la locomotive,” Or: “Il ne faut pas mettre la charrue avant les boeufs.”

Your pick!

A to Z Challenge

See you tomorrow!

To Want the Butter and the Money From the Butter or a Month of French Idioms From A to Z

I especially like today expression because I learned its English equivalent quite soon after I moved to the States. Although it’s supposed to match the French idiom, it remains to this day a little strange to me. For some reason I never found the English idiom as explicit as the French one.

 

 

VOULOIR LE BEURRE ET L’ARGENT DU BEURRE

TO WANT THE BUTTER AND THE MONEY FROM THE BUTTER

YOU CAN’T HAVE YOUR CAKE AND EAT IT (TOO)

 

 

 

Originating from the end of the 19th century, this French expression illustrates how an honest dairy farmer who makes butter cannot take the money from its sale and sell it again.

In its metaphoric way it is used in France to talk of people who want to keep everything for them without leaving anything to others.

The association between Beurre (Butter) and Argent (Money) illustrates also very well how both can melt easily and quickly.

 

Do you agree or not that the French expression is clearer than its American counterpart?

A to Z Challenge

 

Have a great weekend and see you on Monday!

%d bloggers like this: