You may have noticed that every Wednesday we publish the meaning of common French idioms on our Facebook page. But when you think of French culture, very often French cuisine comes to mind….and it’s one of the many many reasons we love living here! Well food is definitely at the heart of the culture, but it’s an essential ingredient to the language, too.
So we’ve decided to take two of the best elements of French culture – their cuisine and their language – and create a list of our top 10 favorite French idioms with a gastronomic twist!
1. Occupe-toi de tes oignons
No-one likes someone who interferes with their affairs. We might simply tell someone to mind their own business. In France, you would say ‘occupe-toi de tes oignons!’ – literally mind your own onions!
2. Mettre son grain de sel
Do you have an important opinion that you just need to share? You probably just want to add your two cents to the situation. The French prefer to add a little flavour and ‘mettre son grain de sel’, so they put in a grain of salt.
3. Couper la poire en deux
When you are struggling to agree with someone, you might decide to compromise and meet them halfway. The French take a fruitful approach to resolving issues and ‘couper la poire en deux’ – they cut the pear in half.
4. Aller se faire cuire un oeuf
If someone tells you to ‘aller se faire cuire un oeuf’, they are not literally tell you to go and cook yourself an egg, it’s their way of telling you to go away and leave them alone.
5. En faire tout un fromage
We all know that cheese is a really big deal in France. Whilst the rest of the world may make a fuss about something happening in their life, the French ‘en faire tout un fromage’ – they make a whole cheese about it.
6. Ça n’a rien à voir avec la choucroute
For something unexpected or unrelated we would probably say it’s totally out of the blue. The French say ‘ça n’a rien à voir avec la choucroute’ – which literally translated means it has nothing to do with the sauerkraut!
7. Raconter des salades
The French don’t tell lies…they tell salads – so if you hear someone starting to ‘raconter des salades’, it might sound great but please don’t take it at face value.
8. Cracher dans la soupe
Not an expression you hope to hear very often, but ‘cracher dans la soupe’ – spit in the soup is a French way of expressing disrespect or ungratefulness, it’s similar to our expression ‘to bite the hand that feeds you’.
9. Avoir la patate (la pêche, la frite)
If you’re feeling on particularly good form you’ve probably got the potato, (or the peach, or a French fry/chip).
10. Mettre du beurre dans les épinards
Butter is often considered a luxury but spinach usually isn’t! The French don’t improve their financial situation or lifestyle … they ‘mettre du beurre dans les épinards’ – they put butter in the spinach.
So now you know! Whether you are minding your own onions, cooking an egg on your own or buttering your spinach, you can be sure to add a touch of French flavor to your everyday conversation!
Annette is Renestance’s 'go to' girl for all things marketing and social media. Bilingual and originally from Surrey in the UK, Annette has lived in France since 2008. In addition to her web design and marketing consultancy, Annette is the founder of Languedoc Jelly (a network of free events across the region for anyone working from home) and also Urban Sketchers Languedoc (part of a global community of people that like to draw or paint on location). A fan of all things French and Franglaise, she also has a Citroen 2CV called Beryl.
All articles by: Annette Morris