Le mot du jour : “Le vasistas” Today, I am going to show you how, in France, we can be very good at misusing other people’s languages. Here is the story : In Germany in the 18th century, houses used to have a small window above the door, and when you knocked, they would ask you through that window “Was ist das ?”, meaning “What is it?” French people going to Germany gave the name “vasistas” to that little window and it stayed that way. We still use it today to describe a little window, most of the time without realising its German origin and meaning 😊
“Sécher les cours” translates by ” to dry the lessons” and means to skip school without a good reason. It is (relatively) modern slang and is still in use amongst young people today, although I am sure they created plenty of new words to express their desire to not be in school!
I was reminded of that expression this morning, looking out of the window at the misty, cold day and thinking : “Je sècherais bien les cours, aujourd’hui” (“I would like to skip school today!”)
Le mot du jour : “Sauter du coq à l’âne” Well, no food today, but farm animals 🙂
“Sauter du coq à l’âne” means “to jump from rooster to donkey” and is used when someone makes a jump in the conversation, going from one subject to another abruptly.
Ex : “On parlait du temps quand il a sauté du coq à l’âne et s’est mis à parler de foot.” (We were talking about the weather when he changed the subject and started talking about football).
Here is the story behind it : up to the 14th century, “asne”(duck) and “âne” (donkey) were pronounced in exactly the same way.
So the expression was “sauter du coq à l’asne” (when a rooster got confused and jump on a duck instead of a hen) and described people talking without making sense.The word “asne” for ducks disappeared, and only “âne” (donkey) was left.
So now we have a rooster and a donkey in our story 😀
Le mot du jour : “La fin des haricots” Remember last week expression about carrots being cooked? Well, this week, it’s all about beans!
“La fin des haricots” means “the end of the beans”, and, as you can guess, it’s not good news…
It’s a more recent expression (probably beginning of the XXth century), and is more or less the same as “the last straw” in English. The beans being cheap food, when you didn’t have any left, it meant that you really were in a bad position.
The more I study my own language, the more I realise how much food is everywhere! I think we really are a food obsessed country 😀
For next week, I will try and find an expression that is not about food 😉
“Les carottes sont cuites” (the carrots are cooked) is an expression that can be translated by “It’s over”, “It’s lost”.
I tried to find the origin of that expression, because it seemed weird that carrots would be used to express such a despair!
Well, it’s quite blurry, but it seemed that from the XVIIth century, carrots were considered a vegetable for really poor people. In time, “avoir ses carottes cuites” (to have your carrots cooked) meant to be dying.
I love carrots so I find that expression a little bit unfair on them, but it seems that for Mr Trump anyway, “les carottes sont cuites !”
I don’t know what kind of British expression would mean the same, so if you do, please let me know 🙂
Le mot du jour : “Un sentiment de déjà-vu” Well, with the lockdown being back on both side of the Channel, I couldn’t help but feel that we were going through the same motions as before. Hence my “sentiment de déjà-vu”.
“Sentiment” means “feeling” and “déjà-vu” can be translated by “already seen”.
The English expression “déjà-vu” is used to describe this weird feeling we can have sometimes of having already seen a place or an action before, even when we have no memory of it.
In France, we use that expression in a more literal way, to talk about something that is happening again, something that is not new.
For example, you could watch a TV show, find it boring and say : “Ce genre de film, c’est vraiment du déjà-vu” (that kind of movie has already been seen/ is not innovative)
So if you find yourself in a repetitive situation, just shrug and say “Pff, c’est du déjà-vu !”
Le mot du jour : “Être au bout du rouleau” I don’t know if, like me, you have children at home, but mine are completely “au bout du rouleau”.
So what does this mean?
“Être au bout du rouleau” means to be at the end of the roll, so to be exhausted, basically.
This expression has nothing to do with loo roll (even if being at the end of a loo roll can be a problem! 🙂).
It goes back to the Middle Ages, when books were made of sheets glued together side by side and rolled inside a parchment to protect it. So when you were “au bout du rouleau”, then you had nothing left to read.
Over time, the meaning changed into the one today of having no energy, no resources left.
So to all the students out there : Tenez bon, les vacances ne sont pas loin ! (Hold on, the half-term break is not far!)
“Être haut comme trois pommes” (to be as high as three apples) means to be small. Believe me, given how short I am, I’ve heard that one a lot when I was a child 🙂
It’s an expression you use when you talk to or about children, in an affectionate way. For example, if you meet a child after a while, it’s very common to say : “Oh la la, la dernière fois que je t’ai vu, tu étais haut comme trois pommes !” (Wow, the last time I saw you, you were very little!)
I don’t know where the idea of comparing children’s size with three apples stacked on one another came from, but I find it quite sweet 😊
I learnt a few days ago a new (well, new for me!) English expression : “back seat driver”
It’s apparently someone quite annoying, giving lots of advice and orders without being actually helpful.
Well, in French we would call that kind of people “une mouche du coche”, which means “a stagecoach’s fly”.
Here is the story : in the XVIIth century, Jean de La Fontaine, a famous French fabulist, wrote one of his stories called “The stagecoach and the fly” (Le coche et la mouche). In the story, a small buzzing fly turns around the horses, bites them, annoys them and is sure to be the one making the whole thing works, when actually it has done absolutely nothing useful.
The expression stayed in the French culture and is still used today, long after coaches have disappeared from our lives!
So if you know someone around you who is buzzing a little too much in your ears, you can sigh and say : “Ah, quelle mouche du coche !” 🙂