Every language has its own unique idioms – and there are certainly crossovers among many languages. This week, in the wake of the annual European Day of Languages, our Product Development Manager, Alex Peek, explores some classic French idioms. What will you use in your next dinner party exchange?

Poser un lapin à quelqu’un

In French, if you ‘stand someone up’, you ‘poser un lapin à quelqu’un’ (meaning to give someone a rabbit). In context:

“Après avoir passé trois heures à faire mon maquillage, le mec m’a posé un lapin !” (“I spent three hours last night doing my make up, then he gave me a rabbit!”)

Avoir le cafard

The French make ‘having the blues’ a lot more fun by ‘having the beetle’. For example, telling someone “j’ai le cafard” would literally mean “I have the beetle” (known as ‘the blues’ to Brits).

Occupe-toi de tes oignons !

Next time you’re asking someone to mind their own business, why not ask them to watch their own onions instead?

Revenons à nos moutons

Ask your team, or class, to get back to the task at hand by returning to their sheep. In context:

“Silence tout le monde, revenons à nos moutons” (“Quiet everyone, let’s get back on track”)

Sauter du coq à l’âne

In French, farmyard animals make it difficult to follow a conversation. Literally meaning ‘to jump from the rooster to the donkey’, this fun idiom means ‘to jump from one topic to another’. In context:

“J’ai trouvé le discours impossible à suivre; la porte-parole sautait du coq à l’âne” (“I found the conversation impossible to follow; the spokeswoman jumped from one topic to another”)

Vouloir le beurre et l’argent du beurre

‘To want the butter and the butter’s silver’ (as it literally translates to in English) is very similar to the well-known (and also, aptly, food-related) idiom ‘to have your cake and eat it’. This expression originated in the 20th century, referring to a fictional person who would go out and buy butter – but expect to return with not only the butter, but the same amount of money in his/her pocket.

Il pleut des cordes

In English, we know this one as ‘it’s raining cats and dogs!’. In French, the animals strangely become ropes (cordes). In context:

“Est-ce que vous avez vu le temps aujourd’hui ? Il pleut des cordes !” (“Have you seen the weather today? It’s raining cats and dogs!”)


Delving into the Chinese Idiom 守株待兔 (Shǒu zhū dài tù)

What is El Llanito?