Thursday, August 19, 2010

Thursday Say What: It's going to shit bubbles & other French Expressions

In lesson one, I shared some of my favorite you didn't think I could top that did you? How wrong you are dear readers, how very wrong indeed!

Perhaps it's because I'm a native English speaker, but I have the impression that the French have got some weird-ass sayings. My first years here were spent repeating "Hein??" (huh?), not because I couldn't understand what they had said, but because I had no effing CLUE what it meant.

This isn't the first time I've shared with you my difficulties with the French language. If you pay attention you will have read the post where I accidentally asked my mother-in-law for a condom, or the time I called my friend's dog a kinky little whore. Meh, it happens with a language this complex.

But sometimes I think French is a "gas factory", as they say here. It's not enough to juggle the tenses, exceptions, pronunciation, regional vernacular and slag... they had to add another layer of insanity: sayings that make no sense whatsoever.

"My teeth are bathing!" was code for I'm full. "It's going to shit bubbles" meant things were going to get ugly. I spent a long time mixing metaphors and confusing meanings behind these sayings.

Short of having lived here your entire life, you'll never understand these phrases, so pay attention, I give you: the bible of odd French Phrases, part I.

Here are some of my favorite idioms AND they're meaning. Enjoy.

Goes like this:
Literal translation

1) Tremper son biscuit
-To dunk his/her cookie
- Make love

2) Avoir le cul bordé de nouilles
- have the ass full of noodles
- to be lucky

3) Péter plus haut que son cul
- to fart higher than ones ass
- to be pretentious

4) Avoir un poil dans la main
- to have a hair in the hand
- to be lazy

5) Couler un bronze
- to pour a bronze
- to pee

6) Avoir les portugaises ensablées
- to have the Portuguese sanded
- have trouble going number 2

7) Fumer la moquette
- to smoke the carpet
- to say things that make no sense

8) Coûter la peau du cul / des couilles
- to cost the skin of the ass / balls
- to be very expensive

9) Pleuvoir comme vache qui pisse
- to rain like a pissing cow
- to rain very hard

10) Faire un caca nerveux
- make a nervous poop
- to be very nervous about something


  1. People think the French are so eloquent but alas, not the case!

  2. Hi Shannon!

    I didn't think of this one when you sent out your open call for expressions, but one of my favorites is:

    Baiser / Enculer des mouches
    - To fuck / sodomize flies
    - To nitpick

  3. The Breton phrase for pissed (although we have as many of those as the eskimos have for snow!) is "Reorad" which literally means.. a bottom full of booze!

  4. And also, when we get drunk (although I'm sure that nobody in Brittany ever gets drunk!!!) - we get as "Pissed as a vicar!" – "Mezv ‘vel ur person!"

    And that kind of confuses me a lot (and, I have to say, makes me want to be a Christian, all over again!)

  5. These are hysterical. There are so many great ones. Some of these I have never heard even after 18 years in Paris!

    This one is not that vulgar, and it may be a bit out of date, but I love it:

    "Ciel mon mari!"
    Literal = Sky my husband
    Actual - fuck my husband's back. (Precision: Said when in bed with lover and husband shows up!)

  6. And somehow, it all sounds lovely in French.

  7. Hi Shannon.. said on Twitter I'd think of some... the ones that came to mind:

    - Avoir la dalle: Avoir soif ou faim.

    - Il me casse les pieds : Il m’énerve, il m’embête. AKA: il me casse les couilles

    My favorites:
    - ça me trou le cul (i am astonished, i would say)
    - avoir la tête dans le cul (wouldn't really know how to say that one in english!)

    J'arrête avant que ça part en sucette :)

    nicolette (cafécreme_n)

  8. My favorite is and always will be:
    Il faut pas pousser mémé dans les orties
    -don't push Grannie into the stinging nettles
    -don't exaggerate

    I can not help but laugh everytime I hear this one, I imagine a little tiny grandma upside down with her head stuck in prickly bushes and little slippered feet sticking out of the top :)

  9. Actually #6 means to be deaf!

  10. actually, the complete #5 is "couler un bronze pour la Marine" (to cast a bronze (i.e. statue)for the Navy), and it takes place in the same room than to pee, but it's not to pee...
    François V.

  11. So great to get more of a linguistic education on another fun post, Shannon. :)

  12. @Everyone
    Ok, so apparently my colleagues were either:
    a) taking the piss out of me, or
    b) really confusing when explaining these things.

    In either case, Thanks to vince & françois for the corrections... Imma mess w/o you two obvi. I think it's very essential to know the entire phrase for the "couler un bronze", actually makes it much funnier! PS - explanation "but it's not to pee"=> made me cry.

    @Lost & @Jamie: I know right?! Where do they get that undeserved rep? Probably because it sounds good when they say vulagrities. Harumph.

    @Paul, Kieth, Erica, Nicolette, Ashleigh: Thanks for your additions!! These are great ones - <3 it!!

    @Karin: your very welc' dearest.

  13. Well, damn! Who knew the French could be so colorful? Starting to like them better ;-)

  14. Shannon,
    5) Couler un bronze
    considering the color and weight of "bronze" in French, it can't be pee.

    oh, you noticed that earlier :)

    another one for your culture :

    cette chose ne casse trois pates à un canard
    this thing does not break three duck's feet
    this thing is really not exceptional.


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