Category Archives: French

En retard – (to be) late

Être à la bourre : On est à la bourre quand on est très en retard et donc très pressé. “Bon, dis donc, je raccroche parce que je n’ai pas le temps, ce matin je suis plutôt à la bourre.” … Continue reading

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Pourquoi ? Why?

Why is a matinée in the afternoon when ‘le matin’ means ‘morning’? Why is the French for a fortnight ‘une quinzaine’ which is fifteen days? e.g. <<quinzaine des soldes>> is a ‘two-week sale’. Why is the French for a week … Continue reading

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Tenir la dragée haute

Tenir la dragée haute : Literally: To hold the sugared almond/sweetmeat up high. C’est faire sentir son pouvoir à quelqu’un, lui tenir tête, ou bien faire languir quelqu’un et finalement lui donner bien moins que ce qu’il espérait : This … Continue reading

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‘Bien fait’ and ‘pas mal (de)’

Be careful with ‘bien fait’. You may think you are saying ‘well done’ but the expression ‘c’est bien fait pour lui’ translates as ‘serve him right’. Don’t say it if you see someone nearly slip and then right themselves on … Continue reading

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La guerre – war

Asked why I had not said ‘Bonjour’ to a colleague who was bugging me I replied “Parce que c’est la guerre – Because it’s war”. War, otherwise known as “l’entente glaciale” and “meeting one’s Waterloo”.

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Le flambeau de l’amour…

Two more French expressions: Le flambeau de l’amour s’allume à la cuisine : Literally: The flame of love is kindled in the kitchen: The way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. Le ventre ennoblit : Literally: The belly … Continue reading

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Chercher la bagarre

Chercher : to search (for), to look for: Chercher la bagarre : Literally: To search for a fight: To be looking/spoiling for a fight. Chercher la petite bête : Literally: To look for the little beast: To split hairs. Chercher … Continue reading

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‘Tennis’ et ‘baskets’ (shoes)

“Il ouvrit son placard pour en sortir une vieille paire de tennis : he opened his cupboard to take out of it an old pair of….what??” I had to ponder ‘tennis’ for a while before I remembered that ‘tennis’ and … Continue reading

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‘Nos parents’ par Simon Parke

Stav and his parents: Note: ‘un parent’ in French can be a relation as well as a parent. And when Stav talks of his parents, it’s with respect, certainly, but also with distance – as one who finds himself unable … Continue reading

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Se casser la figure

Jean-Pierre last week emailed his English friends to say: “Marguerite (sa femme – his wife) est tombé dans l’escalier et elle s’est ‘casser la figure’”. We could see that ‘tomber dans l’escalier’ meant to fall down the stairs. But when … Continue reading

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