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Franglish idioms: do not get your knickers in a twist!
Many of our sentences are a reference to our anatomy. Whether you are talking about somebody’s luck in a very vulgar way or someone's courage, by mentioning his/her behind, or someone being brave, talking about his/her eyes, you can always find an idiomatic phrase referring to animal or human body parts. But, be careful, French expressions are so special that you cannot literally translate them into English. If you intend to say:
“Nicolas est vraiment bête comme ses pieds ! Il prendrait des vessies pour des lanternes… En plus, il a un poil dans la main. Bref, il a tout pour plaire.”
Do not translate word for word or you would obtain this:
“Nicolas is as dumb as his feet! He could think that bladders are lanterns… Moreover, he has a hair in his hand. Well, he is simply charming, isn’t he?”
It would be better to say:
“Nicolas never set the world on fire! He thinks the moon is made of green cheese… Moreover, he is bone-idle. Well, he is simply charming, isn’t he?”
Where do these expressions come from?
- "Etre bête comme ses pieds": this is a way of saying that someone is really stupid. The origin of this phrase is quite simple: feet are the body part farthest from the brain. In the 19th century, people thought that feet were the opposite of intelligence. They thus became the symbol of human stupidity. The French have many different comparisons, such as “bête comme une oie” (“as dumb as a gosling”) or “une cruche” (“a jug”). But feet are by far the most stupid for us. Britons would tend to say “He'll never set the world on fire”.
- "Prendre des vessies pour des lanternes": this means being gullible and mistaken in your judgements. The origin of this expression is not terribly clear. According to a not-so-elegant rumour, this is a reference to beef and pork bladders that were inflated and dried in the 18th century. They were used as containers but also lanterns. They were so thin that a candle light could be seen through it. At this time, merchants told naive people that they were selling lanterns and made them pay high prices. The British expression is more poetic, as it says: “To think the moon is made of green cheese”.
Everyone can be bone-idle
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