Taking the proverbial (Part Deux)

Last week, I wrote a post all about French expressions to do with food and the animal world.

You’ll find everything in it from cute sayings and curious proverbs to ones that are just very, very strange.

Why not read last week’s post here to find out more about what makes our Gallic neighbours tick?

Today, I’ve got more animal-related expressions coming up for you, as well as a few about relationships which are, fittingly, written in the language of love.

The animals went in (the ark) two by two …

  1. Comme un coq en pâte

Literally meaning ‘like a cockerel in pastry’, an English translation of this would be ‘as snug as a bug in a rug’.

While a cockerel in pastry does admittedly sound like something that French people would happily tuck into, I’m not sure how appetising a bug in a rug would be.

Sounds like it might come up as one of the more edible choices on the Bushtucker Trials in I’m A Celebrity

Touch my feathers, feel my beak.
2. On n’a pas gardé les cochons ensemble

If you start chatting to someone and you think they’re getting a bit too familiar, this is for you.

A witty yet effective putdown, we’d translate this in English as: ‘we’re not on first-name terms.’

Or, as les français would say, ‘we haven’t kept pigs together’.


Speaking of pigs, just for your amusement, why not check out this ridiculously cute clip here of a micropig having its tummy rubbed? 🙂

Babe and friends
3. Il n’y a pas de quoi fouetter un chat

To continue the vibe of indifference and aloofness that we had with the last expression, how about trying this one out when you’re completely unimpressed with something?

This literally means ‘there is nothing about it to whip a cat.’

An English version of this saying would be the far less colourful ‘it’s nothing special’ or ‘it’s nothing to write home about’.

And to carry on with the theme of vaguely related media clips starring very cute animals, here is a rundown of the ‘top ten cat videos of all time’ just to brighten up your Monday.

Am I bovvered though? Look at my face. Is it bovvered?
 4. Poisson d’avril

Every year on April 1st, we have April  Fools’ Day. Not so for the French – they celebrate the poisson d’avril, or the ‘April fish’.

You can buy chocolates shaped like fish to eat on the day, and a popular practical joke involves sticking a paper fish on the backs of unsuspecting strangers tolerant friends or members of your family.

You then run away cackling and screeching ‘Poisson d’avril!’, while they decide whether or not to put you up for adoption.

Have a look at this YouTube clip of an American girl playing a practical joke on her teacher if you need inspiration for any future April Fools’ jokes…

April fish.jpg
Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the ‘April fish’.
5. Quand le chat n’est pas là, les souris dansent

The French have to go one better than our saying ‘when the cat’s away, the mice will play’.

British mice might have a knees-up when the cat’s not around, but French mice take their inspiration from Strictly and prefer to dance the night away.

Screenshot (20)
Angelina Ballerina and Co. making the most of the cat’s absence.
Love is in the air

  1. Un aspirateur à gonzesses 

While you wouldn’t want to use either expression in front of your in-laws when you retell the story of how you met your other half, I love the idea suggested by the French one.

In the UK we’ve got ‘babe magnets’, and on the other side of the Channel they’ve got ‘chick hoovers’.

Vacuum cleaner.jpg
A vacuum cleaner, though not of the ‘chick’ variety.
2. L’enterrement de vie de garçon / l’enterrement de vie de jeune fille 

Bafflingly, we talk about ‘stag nights’ and ‘hen nights’ in Britain. In France, they go about it a lot more logically.

If you get married in France, you’ll go to a ‘burial of your life as a bachelor’ or a ‘burial of your life as an unmarried woman’. A bit depressing really when you think about it.

Lads on tour.
3. Se crêper le chignon

However, if your love life is not quite going to plan and there’s the issue of a love rival or two to sort out, do as the French do and get ready to se crêper le chignon.

Loosely translated as ‘to backcomb each other’s buns’, the closest English equivalent to this would be: ‘to have a cat fight’.

This always makes me imagine a a pair of sophisticated French women – both normally perfectly respectable, bien sûr – confronting each other with icy politeness before their civilised meeting descends into an all-out brawl.

Lions fighting.jpg
Watch out – fur is going to fly.
We’re now at the end of round 2 of this week’s look at French proverbs.

What do you all think? Which expressions are your favourite/least favourite?

Are they any other expressions that you think I should include?

Please leave a comment below if you’d like to get in touch – I’d love to hear from you 🙂 

A la prochaine, mes amis !





6 Comments Add yours

  1. painterwrite says:

    These are great! I think “chick hoover” might be the best, although “backcombing each others buns” brings up quite the mental image as well. Definitely going to have to add these to my French vocabulary. Now, off to read part one :))

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks so much Tammie – it’s so nice to hear that you enjoyed the latest post! Hope you like last week’s one too 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. painterwrite says:

        I did! Now I need to add loads of new phrases to the notebook.


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