In the French language, we use many expressions that refer to the animal world. They are sometimes easy to understand. We're "malin comme un singe" or "rusé comme le renard". These two expressions are forged from our representations of familiar animals.But they are sometimes more mysterious. What does it mean, for example,"poser un lapin" or "donner sa langue au chat"?  Here are a few of these idioms, beautifully illustrated by children's book illustrator Emmanuelle Houdart. A video offered by the Musée de la Poste.



Do you know what these expressions mean?

Watch the video to update your knowledge.

  1. "Avoir des oursins dans le porte-monnaie" : To be stingy. Reluctant to spend. To dodge (avoid) the moments when it would be elegant to pay.
  2. "Peigner la girafe"To work uselessly. To do nothing. 
  3. "Monter sur ses grands chevaux" : To lose one's temper, to get angry.
  4. "Avoir un appétit d'oiseau" : To eat very little, to have a very small appetite.
  5. "Donner sa langue au chat" : To admit not being able to give (find) an answer to a question, a problem or a riddle.
  6. "Prendre le taureau par les cornes" : To tackle a problem with determination
  7. "Faire le pied de grue" : To stand waiting for someone, for a bus, for a shop to open
  8. "Donner de la confiture aux cochons" : To give something to someone who, on the face of it, won't appreciate it
  9. "Poser un lapin" : Stand someone up: Don't turn up for an appointment without telling them in advance
  10. "Le chat parti, les souris dansent" (Quand le chat n’est pas là, les souris dansent) : When the person in authority is absent, anything goes (e.g. a teacher who is absent from class).
  11. "Sauter du coq à l'âne" : (jumping from one topic to another): Abruptly changing the subject of conversation for another that has nothing to do with the previous one.
  12. "Être heureux comme un poisson dans l'eauto be happy, to be in one's element, to be in a pleasant environment, including a social one
  13. "Pleurer (ou verser) des larmes de crocodile" : To feign (imitate) tears or sadness in order to pity or deceive others
  14. "Se regarder en chien de faïence" : Said of two people who look at each other with suspicion, or who stare at each other without moving or speaking.
  15. "Ménager la chèvre et le chou" : Avoiding, in a conflict situation, one of the parties prevailing8 over the other to satisfy conflicting interests.
  16. "Quand les poules auront des dents" : Never. 
  17. "Avaler des couleuvres" : To suffer an offence without being able to protest, or another meaning close to "to swallow anything ": to consider any statement as being true (naivety).
  18. "Courir plusieurs  lièvres à la fois" : Carrying out several activities at the same time, running the risk of failing in all of them.

More videos on the peculiarities of the French language :

History of the cedilla

The "œ

More videos on animals :

Dogs versus cats: who's the smartest?

Add a comment