Presently Shortly or a Month of French Idioms From A to Z

The French idiom-du-jour illustrates how languages represent so much of a culture and how challenging translation can be.

* Irony is frequent in the French language and the French excell in this domain (I notice when I go back)

* There is not always an American expression that will carry the French ironic connotation

 

INCESSAMMENT SOUS PEU

PRESENTLY SHORTLY

IN NEXT TO NO TIME

 

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This idiom is built on a pleonasm since “Sous Peu” is almost a repetition of “Incessamment.” Both mean “In a short while.”

The addition of “Sous Peu” to “Incessamment” strengthens the idea of time without any specification in terms of duration.

In fact under some circumstances if one says, “I will come back “Incessamment Sous Peu,”” this can imply that one won’t come back at all.

Do you think of an American expresssion that can match this French expression?

 

P.S. I owe my husband the idea of the iWatch. Idiom and photo starting both with the letter I. Clever. Merci.

 

See you tomorrow!

A to Z Challenge

Hand Up or a Month of French Idioms From A to Z

Never a dull moment when you learn a foreign language. Each day brings its linguistic or cultural surprise. Who would have known that people could say the same thing in two radically different ways?

I didn’t.

Again, literal translations never match proper translations, but they can be entertaining.

 

HAUT LA MAIN

HAND UP

HANDS DOWN

 

Don’t you find it interesting that the French say Hand Up and the Americans Hands Down when the win is easy?

 

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The French expression Haut la Main originates from the 16th century. Initially the expression was: “To Have the High Hand on Something.” The fact that the hand was raised symbolized the power of authority.

Haut la Main is often used when the French talk about sport.

A match or game is won Haut la Main when the superiority of a team or a player allows a quick victory.

But it will also be said of an easy academic success from a bright student. He or she passed the final exam Haut la Main.

A to Z Challenge

As always, thank you for stopping by, for commenting, and tolerating the unusual frequency of my posts during the month of April.

See you tomorrow.

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.

 

GARDER UNE POIRE POUR LA SOIF 

TO KEEP A PEAR FOR THE THIRST

TO KEEP OR TO SAVE FOR THE RAINY DAYS

 

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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

To Make a Whole Cheese or a Month of French Idioms From A to Z

One said that French President Charles de Gaulle once proclaimed that France was a difficult country to govern and that it was in fact not surprising coming from a place that had more cheese than days in a year. So this is also not surprising that there is a French expression based on the French cheese reputation.

Oh and French people say Cheese when they snap a photo.

 

(EN) FAIRE TOUT UN FROMAGE

TO MAKE A WHOLE CHEESE

TO MAKE A STORM IN A TEACUP

 

 

 

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My research about the origins of this typical French expression led me to too many possible options, none based on reliable sources. So I prefer not adding to the confusion.

Another popular French expression with the exact same meaning is: En Faire Tout Un Plat, which literally means To make a whole dish.

Despite making my mouth water at the thought of cheese, I tend to find the English expression more visual and better suited to the meaning than the French one.

What do you say?

See you tomorrow.

 

 

A to Z Challenge

To Send to Pasture or a Month of French Idioms From A to Z

Hope you all spent a great weekend and are ready for a long week of French idioms. From Monday to Saturday, I will provide an expression, covering the alphabet from E to J. As always, thank you for your comments and for adding your own idioms to mine. I’m glad if you learn something you didn’t know, but I’m as glad to learn from you, too.

 

ENVOYER PAîTRE

TO SEND TO PASTURE, TO GRAZE

TO SEND SOMEONE PACKING AND ALSO THE INFAMOUS GO TO HELL

Go to Hell remains somehow controversial in the USA and yet widely used, especially in the movie industry.

 

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Envoyer paître is a French expression from the middle of the 15th century, when the verb paître had a religious connotation. People’s salvation was associated with God’s pastures where the soul was fed.

In later years, the expression evolved, based on the tradition to send cows to graze in far away pastures, and took then a negative meaning.

Envoyer paître simply means to get rid of someone in a sudden way.

There are, as often in the French language, some variants to the expression.

For the French here or anyone who speaks some French: envoyer aux pelotes, envoyer ballader, envoyer bouler. Vous en connaissez d’autres?

 

A to Z Challenge

See you tomorrow!

 

 

To Give One’s Tongue to the Cat or a Month of French Idioms from A to Z

In the series A Month of French Idioms From A to Z, here is letter D!

DONNER SA LANGUE AU CHAT

GIVE ONE’S TONGUE TO THE CAT

TO GIVE UP

 

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This is a French expression from the 19th century, which supposedly comes from an older one. Originally one gave the tongue to the dog and not to the cat, based on the common custom to give leftover food and the less tasty morsels to the family dog.

Why did it switch from the dog to the cat?

In France (and many other countries) the cat was seen as an animal able to keep secrets, which could by extension keep the tongue given to him.

On the other hand, to give your tongue to the cat symbolizes failure. If you give your tongue to the cat you give the animal a lot of power, increasing the notion that the cat has more knowledge and wisdom than you.

I won’t contradict this: I love cats and find them very wise.

This French expression is used commonly when people can’t find the solution to a guessing game and also to a complex problem.

As a kid I often gave my tongue to the cat when playing math games with friends!

 

See you on Monday with letter E.

Meanwhile if you celebrate Easter, enjoy this special day. In France the bells coming all the way from Roma bring chocolate eggs and other goodies to the French children. Ici aux USA c’est un lapin qui remplit les enfants de joie le matin de Pâques.

 

 

 

To Switch Dairy Shop or a Month of French Idioms From A to Z

France is well-known for its cheese and dairy products. It is not surprising that there is a French expression using the national bounty.

 

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CHANGER DE CRÉMERIE

TO SWITCH DAIRY SHOP

TO TAKE ONE’S BUSINESS ELSEWHERE

 

The crémerie in late 19th century France was an unpretentious neighborhood restaurant where simple food was served with coffee.

One said that late customers, asked to leave at closing time, would protest saying they would go to another crémerie.

Since late 20th century this French expression is used in a commercial context. Unhappy customers take their business elsewhere.

A crémerie is not longer a small restaurant in contemporary France but the shop where dairy products (we’ve got a ton in France!) are sold.

 

A to Z Challenge

P.S. As always if you know a similar expression either in French or American English, go ahead! I am very fond of idioms as they say so much about a culture and its people.

To Drink the Cup or a Month of French Idioms From A to Z

Now for the letter B, a French expression that is used when someone accidently swallows a large amount of water while swimmimg. The expression originates from the late eighteenth century and was first used in a figurative context when someone had lost a lot of money in a business. Now the French might favor the expression Boire le Bouillon (Drink the Broth) in the business context rather than Boire la Tasse.

 

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BOIRE LA TASSE

TO DRINK THE CUP

TO SWALLOW WATER WHEN SWIMMING

 

 

 

 

 

 

A to Z Challenge

To Have an Artichoke’s Heart or a Month of French Idioms From A to Z

 

As announced last week, from April 1st to April 30th and following the alphabetical order, I will post every day but Sundays a French idiomatic expression, its literal English translation, and its proper equivalent or meaning in American English. I’ve had my share of embarrassing (and funny) moments, due to my non-native English status. You’ll see why such moments can happen!

Many bloggers participate to the A to Z challenge with their own themes. If you are one of them and chose to write around language, foreign language, and culture, I’d love to see what you are up to and I hope you’ll stop by to check my posts as well.

 

STARTING WITH THE LETTER A:

 

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AVOIR UN COEUR D’ARTICHAUT

TO HAVE AN ARTICHOKE’S HEART

TO FALL IN LOVE EASILY

 

As always I love to read your comments. In English, en français, or anything in between.

I Have the Hen’s Bumps or a Month of French Idioms From A to Z

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I love to read and listen to people even more than I like to write.

Sentences stop me in my tracks when they flow, roll and dance in my head.

Metaphors and similes take my breath away when they perfectly echo feelings and emotions.

And I’m a sucker for popular idiomatic expressions, so distinct from one culture to another.

When I moved from France to the USA, I knew enough English grammar and some vocabulary to get by, but I was far from being fluent.

Everyone was so patient when I tried to understand and be understood.

Some people complimented me on my English. No kidding.

And often I made many smile when I translated word for word the French idioms that I tried to apply to the conversation.

My first one: I announced to my daughter’s preschool teacher that I had the hen’s bumps because it was cold that day.

“And I have the goosebumps,” she said with a smile.

So, in memory of my early challenging (and often funny) moments in the States, I will post every day for the whole month of April a French idiom from A to Z, first with its literal translation and then its correct American equivalent.

My hope is to make you smile and maybe to teach you a little bit of French too.

Of course, as always, I’d love for you, Americans and French, to comment with your favorite idioms during the month of April.

 

French Memories

 

 

 

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