‘Don’t toss Granny into the begonias’ – on some fantastic French idioms

14 May

Let’s face it: idioms rock.   In English, we have so many of them (25,000 plus!), we take them for granted, literally sprinkling them carelessly throughout our conversation when we should love and nurture them as treasured insights into our language and way of life.

That’s why I particularly love discovering idioms in other languages.  What’s particularly fascinating is how idioms from different languages express the same fundamental idea, but do so using aspects of the local culture.

For instance, the English ‘Let sleeping dogs lie’ (i.e. leave an old issue alone as it may create more problems for you if you interfere) compares with the Dutch ‘don’t pull the dead cow out of the canal’ (which I think is ‘haal niet oude koeien uit de sloot’ in Dutch).  Now if there was ever a country that was going to produce idioms about cows and canals, it would be the Netherlands!

I came across this little illustrated book of French idioms, ‘Don’t Throw Granny Out with the Begonias’, in a bookshop this week, comparing French sayings to their English equivalent, so thought I’d share them as they’re so delightful.  The quality isn’t great as I was trying to take pictures surreptitiously!

The first is ‘Don’t count the eggs in a chicken’s backside’ (Ne comptez pas les oeufs dans la derrière d’une poule) – which is an almost identical to the English idiom ‘don’t count your chickens before they’re hatched’ (don’t count on things until they’ve actually happened).  It’s interesting that the French is slightly more blunt!

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One Response to “‘Don’t toss Granny into the begonias’ – on some fantastic French idioms”

  1. Alex Dieulot June 9, 2012 at 5:29 pm #

    I’m french and I like english idioms too, now I don’t love them to the point I’m searching blogs about them, I stumbled upon your blog while searching for David Allen’s quote about Josh Kaufman; but while I’m here…

    « Faut pas pousser mémé dans les orties » and « Qui va à la chasse perd sa place » are the only one I did know, never heard the other ones.
    I’m not sure about the meaning of the word “exuberant” but this first idiom is usually used when you’re asking too much from another person.

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