I just love idioms, they are a part of everyday life and often give you a real insight into the target language culture. But how often do we think about their literal and intended meanings? For instance, why do the English say that they have “other fish to fry” rather than “have other things to do”? This is a great opportunity to look at how sentences are built and to practise translation for fun.
After moving from the UK to France in late 2012, author Graham Clark started to use native idioms and noticed that the French idioms were often very different to their English counterparts and, in many cases, even more bizarre!
Instead of having other fish to fry, the French have “other cats to whip” or “d’autres chats à fouetter”, to mean they have other things to do. In the introduction of the book, Graham issues a tongue-in-cheek warning whilst sharing his embarrassing misuse of this expression in a comical attempt to fit in with the locals.
Inspired by this story, Graham and his co-author Zubair Arshad, have carefully selected French idioms, each with a memorable illustration aiming as a reminder of the literal meaning of the phrase.
Each expression is provided with its literal English translation, actual meanings and example sentence, which makes it an interesting linguistic reference for students of all levels. The pictures and translations also make it an entertaining read for non-linguists who may have a connection with a French-speaking country.
My favourite expressions from the book include “Se croire sorti de la cuisse de Jupiter” to mean “To believe you came from Jupiter’s thigh (God’s Gift)”, “Il n’y a pas le feu au lac” (Don’t panic), “Se faire prendre pour un pigeon” (To be taken for a ride) and also “Tomber dans les pommes”, meaning to “To fall in the apples (to faint)”
Whatever your mood, whether you are feeling upbeat or have the blues (avoir le cafard= to have the cockroach), this lovely little book is guaranteed to make you smile…