Tuesday, May 28, 2013

More Funny French Sayings

Well, you guys enjoyed my incident at the dinner table with ‘faire du pipe’ so much that I figured this would be a good post to pass on more odd, funny, and plain outrageous French sayings. I know this now because most of the feedback I get on the blog comes through private e-mail. You guys do know that you can leave comments, right? Just so you do know, you don’t need to create an account, or follow, me to leave a comment. You can just make up a name (or use part of your real one) and type what you want to say below. Those of you who are familiar with blogging culture, please feel free to ignore most of the above paragraph. Of course in the end, lurking is acceptable too hahaha!
Anyway, Angelique – my instructor last week – has warned me that French is a language full of sayings. In fact, it’s not uncommon to have sayings in one city that aren’t common (or even necessarily known) a few cities over. We kind of have something like that in Canada? For example, Calgarians call a specific Chinese food ‘ginger beef’, but apparently it was actually invented in Calgary (… is it really Chinese food then?) so people elsewhere in Canada call it ‘Calgary beef’. Either way, this French saying thing sounds much more extreme. I’m also pretty inclined to believe it is that extreme after my experience explaining the rabbit thing to the other students and Angelique in class. Catherine is Corsican, and poor Angelique had never heard of a saying that involved having a rabbit in the house. The whole family agrees that the rabbit thing is a saying though. My very current (very logical) conclusion is that the saying is Corsican.
With that preface, let’s move on to Funny Sayings Part 2!

The nicest picture I could find of a flea.
First off, terms of endearment in French are definitely different in French than in English. For example, the first time I heard Michel call Catherine ‘ma biche’, I did a double-take, very confused as to why Michel was smiling and Catherine was snuggling him after being cursed at. In English, ‘bitch’ is a curse for women (typically very catty, mean women), although technically it just refers to a female dog. Une biche in French is a doe, as in a female dear. Like the ones with big brown eyes and cute dark noses that are very sweet, dainty and caring. Ok, calling a woman you love a doe is something I understand now, but a flea? ‘Ma puce’ is the alternative to ‘ma biche’, and I’ve definitely heard people using it, I just thought I was mishearing the word, or didn’t know what word they were using because my vocabulary is still only so large. It’s still called a ‘flea market’, or a ‘marche au puces’, but seriously, flea is a term of endearment. Pretty specific to women and sometimes small children. Bugs in general are also though of as cute, and there are plenty of other terms of endearment related to bugs. Where I come from, bugs are gross… and there aren’t even that many of them! Only so many types of bug can deal with Canadian winters. Unfortunately those tiny, vicious black flies are one of them.
Other animals in the fun sayings category include being ‘as jealous as a tiger’, ‘as resourceful as a monkey’ and ‘known like the white wolf’. To be as jealous as a tiger has a pretty clearly negative connotation, just like to be as resourceful as a monkey has a positive connotation. If you’re ‘known like the white wolf’ though, it could go either way. A man could be known like the white wolf because he’s a womanizer (negative), or a baker in town could be known like the white wolf because she has the best tarte au citron in town (positive).

Tarte au Citron Meringue
There are also plenty of animal sayings that are the same in both languages. For example, sly like a fox, red as a lobster, packed as tightly as sardines in a can, loyal as a dog and dirty as a pig are all basically the same. I don’t know the exact saying the French have about sheep, but the sentiment is the same there too. If you’ve got the mind of a sheep, you’re kind of a herd animal… and kind of dumb to boot. The French do say ‘happy as a fish in water’, but the English equivalent I’m familiar with is ‘happy as a pig in shit’. …I have definitely used ‘happy as a pig in poop’ when in front of small children though, hahaha!
If you’re out with friends for a drink or two in the evening, there are definitely some other words and phrases you’d be using. My personal favourite is the expression the French use for someone who is staggering drunk. ‘Tu as un verre dans le nez’ translates to ‘you have a glass up your nose’. Yes, because in France they have found a way to be so drunk that you can fit a drinking glass up your nose. Your nose!
Ok not quite. The insinuation is linked to when someone is very inebriated and they kind of swoon around their glass, try to take a drink, but miss their mouth and get their nose in the glass instead. There is gesture that goes with this saying too! If I can figure out how to get videos uploaded (or linked) to the blog I’ll be sure to do an entire post on French gestures, because they’re hilarious. Anyway, the gesture that goes with this saying is cupping your hand like you’re grasping a bottle of beer, holding that bottle flat towards your face as if you were trying to drink from it, and then rotating your hand as if you not only stuck the bottle up your nose, but were twisting it to make sure it stayed put. (Gotta be able to find it next time, …right?)

"You've got a glass in your nose."
For the first three weeks I was here my nose hurt just watching people make that gesture. Can you imagine how uncomfortable it’d be to have a beer bottle up your nose? That’s the image I have over here.
Beer bottle.

… so not cool.

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