Word of the Week: ‘avoir un polichinelle dans le tiroir’

Coucou mes lecteurs fidèles! 😁 (Sending a shout-out to my lovely faithful readers 😊) 

Our mot de la semaine today comes courtesy of Britain’s royal family, as the news is just in that Wills and Kate are adding to their growing brood 🤴🏼👸🏻👶👶 …. and expecting the arrival of baby Cambridge number 3 sometime next year. 

Word of the Week:

Avoir un polichinelle dans le tiroir. 

How to pronounce it:

Ahh-vwahr uhn poh-lee-shee-nell dahn luh teer-wahr. 

What it means in English:

While this literally means ‘to have a puppet in the drawer’, it’s usually translated into English as ‘to have a bun in the oven’. 

Where does it come from?

I’ve always thought this is quite a nice expression, but never really knew where it came from until now. 

It’s explained here that the French word ‘polichinelle’ comes from the name of a character in Italian theatre, Pulcinella. Pulcinella is, in turn, linked to the Italian word for chick, ‘pulcino’. 

The similarity between these words led to the creation of the French term ‘avoir un poussin dans le ventre’ (literally, ‘to have a chicken in the stomach’). This was first used in France around the Renaissance to describe expecting mothers. 

Since then, the expression evolved to become ‘avoir un polichinelle dans le tiroir’, with the ‘tiroir’ in the expression representing the stomach of the pregnant woman. 

How to use it in a sentence:

“Je l’ai vue la semaine dernière, et je pense qu’elle a un polichinelle dans le tiroir !”

English translation:

“I saw her last week, and I think she’s got a bun in the oven!”

Similar words:

Attendre un bébé/attendre un enfant = To be expecting (a baby/a child) 

Être enceinte = To be pregnant 

Être en cloque = To be pregnant (this is a slang expression, a bit like ‘to be knocked-up’ or ‘to be up the duff’ in English) 


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