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 it came to ‘elle s’est cassé la figure’ we had to consult each other. I know enough about ‘false friends’ to know that ‘la figure’ is the face not the figure. So had she ‘broken her face’? A quick dash to my Collins-Robert dictionary reminded me that ‘se casser la figure/la gueule/les dents’ means to ‘come a cropper/to fall flat on one’s face’ (literally and metaphorically). Also ‘to become bankrupt/to go belly up’. Discounting the last possibilities we waited for news. Apparently Marguerite has twisted her ankle and needs to take three weeks off work. We wish her a speedy recovery, and hope that she enjoys her enforced rest.
Incidentally: ‘se casser le nez’ (literally: to break one’s nose) means to find that nobody is in, after you have knocked on their door.