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10 Idioms Only the French Understand

France Languages
by Morgane Croissant Aug 12, 2015

1. Est-ce que je te demande si ta grand-mère fait du vélo? | Mind your own damn business

Translates literally as, “Do I ask you if your grandma bikes?” This is a rather funny (though not for the person receiving the insult) and sarcastic way to tell someone to get lost.


    1. A: Is your divorce procedure with Ginny coming along, John?


    1. B:

Est-ce que je te demande si ta grand-mère fait du vélo?


2. Avoir un poil dans la main | To be lazy

In France, those suffering from chronic motivational deficit are said “to have a hair growing in the palm of their hand.” If it’s reached the thickness of a ponytail and you can braid it, you probably need a good coup de pied au cul (kick in the ass).


    1. A: Can’t Teresa do it?


    1. B: Forget it, she’s got a

poil dans la main

    the length of a cooked spaghetti noodle.


3. Chier une pendule | To make a big fuss

Be warned! It’s a pretty rude way to tell someone to calm the freak down, but you ought to admit that “pooping out a clock” is a rather creative and effective way to describe an overblown situation.


    1. A: Oh my God! What happened? What did you do?!


    1. B: Jeez, you’re not going to

chier une pendule

    just because I totaled the car, are you?


4. Se faire poser un lapin | To be stood up

Yeah, if you’ve been waiting at the café for an hour and the guy you met at the club last night still hasn’t shown up, you were probably “given a rabbit.” Move on. He must be a dink.


    1. A: Aren’t you going to meet the blond you were grinding with last night on the dance floor?


    1. B: Nah, man, I’m too busy pumping iron at the gym. I’ll probably

lui poser un lapin



5. Avoir une araignée au plafond | To be not quite right in the head

In France, we like to think if you’re one sandwich short of a picnic, you “have a spider hanging from the roof of your skull.” How delightfully childish of us to explain insanity by describing someone’s head to be as empty and dirty as an old attic!


    1. A: You know the girl from Safeway, the cashier? She told me I looked like Ryan Gosling!


    1. B: Yeah, she’s got

une araignée au plafond

    . Didn’t you know? Sounds like it got worse over the past week, though.


6. Ne pas attacher son chien avec des saucisses | To be cheap

In France, if you “don’t tie your dog with a sausage line,” you’re cheap. We’ve got high standards for our canine friends.

7. Se faire rouler dans la farine | To be cheated

The French have trouble stepping away from food for too long, so even when we’re being cheated, we’re being “rolled in flour” like a wholesome loaf of bread in the making.


    1. A: I slept with Rocco last night, you know, the pizza chef from La Cucina Ristorante.


    1. B: Nice! Are you guys dating?


    1. A: No, he hasn’t called back even though he said he would. I think I just got

roulée dans la farine

    1. .


    B: Quite literally…


8. Être une bonne poire | To be naïve

If you really think Rocco, the womanizing pizza maker, ever meant to call you back after last night’s events, there’s no doubt, you’re “a ripe pear.”

9. Aller faire téter les puces | To go to bed

Here’s something that’ll make you want to stay in a hostel in France! “To go let the fleas feed on you” is one of the many ways French people explain they’re going to hit the sack. You may want to check out the sheets before crashing.

10. Courir sur le haricot de quelqu’un | To piss someone off

This is one of my personal favorites. My mom uses it all the time when she wants me to stop nagging her (now, what does that say about our relationship, I wonder?)

I always picture a little person, breathless, “running on a long green bean” (a yardlong one, I’m guessing).

Joke aside, back in the day, un haricot was a slang term for a toe. Now it all makes sense — if you’re running on someone’s toe, they’re likely to get annoyed, indeed.


Enough already! All these crazy French idioms are starting to me courir sur le haricot.

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