Les expressions françaises décortiquées - A list of French expressions

I came across this list of French expressions whilst looking for nationalistic derogatory terms like "filer a l'Anglais / French leave", but then thought the more advanced linguists amongst you would find it worth investigating and bookmarking, if you are not already aware of it.

Les expressions françaises décortiquées - French Expressions Laid Bare would be my translation of the heading ("décortiquées" means to have the shells or husks removed).

Each expression has a sometimes lengthy explanation of its meaning and origin (in French), but also interestingly includes equivalent expressions in may other languages, so it can also serve as an idiomatic translation resource.

Enjoy! Please feel free to post your favourite expression below.

January 13, 2017


J'aime l'expression de "Les doigts dans le nez"; en bas de la page.

January 13, 2017

It's taught in the course, by the way... (in Idioms & Proverbs).

January 14, 2017

Moi aussi !

(Small typo: "Les doigts dans le nez".)

English Translation: "[To do something with your] fingers in the nose." (Humm, nice!)

Meaning: to do something easily, or without any apparent effort.

This is an allusion to the idea that a young child can sometimes be seen with their fingers in their nose, seemingly distracted and unaware of what is going on around them.

Interestingly, the English equivalents are given as: "Hands down" (US), "Hands tied behind your back" (UK - presumably to stop them picking their noses?), in complete contrast to the French, who just get on with it!

(No offence to any nationality, just the irony of the juxtaposing position of the hands in these different idioms that all mean the same thing.)

January 13, 2017

We often use the expression "fingers in the nose" in English, with our best French accent [Finnegueurz inn zeu noze] !

January 14, 2017

That's ok. I'm British anyway but sometimes the UK equivalent can also be "Hands Down" as i've heard British people say that.

January 14, 2017

1 like

January 13, 2017

I offer you :

  • un proverbe "Un tiens vaut mieux que deux tu l'auras"

  • une expression "Ce n'est pas piqué des hannetons"

  • une autre "Tirer les marrons du feu"

  • And a saucy one... "Il y a du monde au balcon"

January 14, 2017

I quite like the explanation of: "[monter comme une] soupe au lait" -

Translation: a milk soup.

Meaning: someone who is thin skinned or short fused.

From the idea that milk boils over rapidly and subsides equally quickly when withdrawn from the heat.

January 13, 2017
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