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Figuring out some surprising French expressions

Dear travellers. While travelling through Megève with my family I’ve noticed that there are many common French idiomatic expressions that make no sense at all when you translate them into Spanish or English. I’m going to share some of the funniest with you and you’ll see what I mean. So, don’t freak out when you her them during your holidays in France, most of the time they don’t mean what you think! Their origin is sometimes very surprising. Look at these:

Les doigts dans le nez!
It is a common expression in French, mainly used by children and young people to express that something is easy or can be done without effort, like “it’s a breeze”. In Spanish it literally means “fingers in the nose,” which is similar to our “Es pan comido” that literally translates to “it’s eaten bread”. Doesn’t really make much sense in Spanish, does it? The expression started to be used in the early twentieth century when during a horse race, one of the jockeys won so easily that he even even had time to pick his nose. Surprising, isn’t it?

En faire tout un fromage
We all know that the French love cheese. This expression which means to make a big deal out of something literally translates to “make a whole cheese out of something”. The expression comes from the fact that, from a very simple thing, like milk, we can make something as elaborated like cheese, which needs a great “savoir-faire”.

Tomber dans les pommes
Sometimes, where we only need one word to express something, the French need four. In Spanish one passes out or faints, in French you fall into the apples. The origin of the expression is unknown, but it’s likely to come from a phrase in French literature of the late nineteenth century. Now that I come to think of it, by the time the French are saying that they are passing out I’ve had time to faint about four times, don’t you think so?

Poser un lapin
This one is widely used in French slang. Literally “to place a rabbit”it means to stand someone up or not show up and it’s often used when someone stays waiting for a date to finally realise that the date is not going to show up at all. In the 19th century, “rabbits” were placed above the carousels and although they seemed very easy to catch no one could manage to do so.

Filer à l’anglaise
This one is my favourite! In French when someone leaves without saying goodbye they’re English. In Spanish they’re French as in “despedirse a la francesa”. In England they say the same thing as in Spain “to take a French leave” but in the United States when you do that you’re Dutch. It seems that the French adopted “filer à l’anglaise” just to get back at the English expression which made them look bad. Now the question is, in which country do people really leave without saying goodbye? France, England or Holland?

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