avoir la tete sur les epaules & Jackie's return
RECIPE: Annie's Soupe de Poissons

manger ses mots

Hanging out on the line (c) Kristin Espinasse

Socks on stage, taking a bow in front of the curtains. I have always been a sucker for whimsy. I love French architecture and adore the building blocks of language... 

manger ses mots (mahn-zhay-say-moh)

    : to speak inarticulately, to mumble 

Aha! and you thought manger ses mots (to eat one's words) meant to admit you were wrong. Relax! You're thinking of the English idiom. The French one has a very different meaning. Both, however, paint a colorful scene in the mind's eye. More expressions imagées in today's column, below.

A Day in a French Life... by Kristin Espinasse

The day I quit believing the lie that I was a bad student I fell in love with the French language. I could now relax and absorb all the lessons floating around me--and all the words, too. Idioms were a new and delightful discovery! Expressions such as revenons à nos moutons and faire du lèche-vitrines took hold of my soul, bubbling up through me in delight and possibility.

Certain colloquialisms were so full of quirky imagery. They took me beyond the classroom--to see and perceive the world around me in a new and light-hearted way. That the French referred to window shopping as "licking windows" (or "window licking"--either way is funny!) taught me they had a wonderful sense of humor and a refreshing down-to-earthness behind their mysterious exteriors. The self-depreciating, humane, and humble side of the French is especially apparent in their turns of phrase.

"Elle a des oursins dans la poche," a French friend whispers, and I'm no longer intimidated by the bombshell at the party; instead I'm amused by the new saying I've just learned ("to have sea urchins in one's pocket" = to be a cheapskate). That woman may be a knock-out... but it turns out she's a cheapskate! Tee-hee! The two images are funny (and heartening) when joined together.

Though I still put the French high up on a pedestal, I can now pose my ladder beside it and climb up to reach their outstretched hands, joining them in this language tango. "Etre aux petits oignons?they say, spinning me round and round. "Don't be fooled. We're not perfect! We're just as goofy and clumsy as the rest of the world. We don't take ourselves as seriously as you might think!"

As I fell in love with the French language, getting cozy with the lingo, a funny thing happened: I developed a new appreciation for l'anglais. Suddenly, all the English idioms that once flew off the tip of my tongue--now projected themselves across the technicolor screen of my mind. How colorful English was, too! I'd never quite seen it this way before!

Having developed a theory that the French have a word for everything, and that their expressions are the liveliest, I've come to discover that some idioms are much more interesting in English than in French. Here are just a few examples, you can add your own in the comments box which follows:

Between you and me and the gatepost - There's something adorable about this English expression--yet it translates to hum-drum boring in French: soit dit entre nous = just between us. (You mean that's it? Don't they have a more charming match for this one? At the very least, can't we have a word-for-word equivalent: C'est entre toi et moi et le montant de porte?)

Kiss and Fly (Name of airport drop off zone)
I was taking family to the airport when I noticed the sign above the temporary parking curb. "Kiss and Fly"--how delightful! ...And what a let down to discover the French translation (noted just beneath the sign): Dépose Minute.

To Get One's Knickers in a Twist (To get flustered, agitated)
Personally I don't use this expression (I find the "Keep your hair on!" expression just as funny). Sorry if the "knickers" idiom offends anyone--but you've got to admit that it is one of the more colorful expressions we have in English! Let's see if the French translation does it justice (checking my dictionary now...)

...and the equivalent is (dot-dot-dot) s'emporter. Ba dump bump! To fly off in a rage doesn't quite cut it. Although "to get into a tizzy" is kind of funny! How about we use that one?

*    *    *

Your turn to share your favorite English expressions--the more colorful the better. Are some expressions funnier in English--or, if we search deeply enough, can we find a just-as-humorous French equivalent?


French Vocabulary

revenons à nos moutons = let's get back to the topic
faire du lèche-vitrines = to go window shopping
être aux petits oignons = to be perfect
l'anglais = english    

Hats in St. Tropez (c) Kristin Espinasse
Chapeau! or hats off to you for working on your French a little each day. Please share today's post with a friend who might enjoy the same.

Kristi and Mr Farjon (c) Jean-Marc Espinasse
Photo from 2008. With Mr Farjon, "The Plant Whisperer". 

With an approach that is as charming as it is practical, Espinasse shares her story through the everyday French words and phrases that never seem to make it to American classrooms. Book blurb by Simon and Schuster

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For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

Steve & Maxine

Kristin, we have found an endless supply of cross-cultural idioms without even leaving English speaking countries. It's been very entertaining comparing America with England, since we moved five years ago. Looking forward to adding Francais to the mix in the not-too-distant future.


One of the delights of living in Bilbao for a time is that I get FWAD when it is hot off the "press." I'm doing now with Spanish what you describe with French. I'm worried the Spanish might block some of my French. But in whatever language, I'll continue to lèches les vitrines wherever I am.

Tom from Detroit

"Idiomology" is such a great study. I love the alliterative "twist" on the English idiom you suggested, "Knickers in a knot." I've got an early appointment this morning so, bye bye, I've got to fly.


An especially Southern phrase that I hear from time to time is "Bless her heart, she..." which is followed by a negative comment, such as "couldn't find her way out of a wet bag." The first part is thought to take the sting out of the second and usually gives the speaker permission to proceed with other similar observations.


Last summer, I was with some girlfriends in the south of France. We invited several of my French friends to dinner at our beautiful rented house in Villeneuve-lez-Avignon. One Américaine used the expression "the apple doesn't fall far from the tree" to describe how alike her husband and son are. One Française chimed in with "les chiens ne font pas les chats." We all laughed at the look on her face that clearly showed she knew exactly what we were talking about! That is my favorite French expression!

PS- I put France and the French way up on a pedestal, too... I can't help it. I've been madly in love with the language since 1973.

David Sheegog

My grandfather used to say to me when I complained about his driving, "Son, I can drive a car where most men can't drag a rope."

My father used to say, "The trouble with being a fool is you can't know you're a fool."

One of my friends says, "A man without a maternal instinct has no business in the cattle business."

Jacquie Pope

Being. A Southerner, I will add, "Bless her heart- she has a tongue that can clip a hedge.".
Kristi, you are soooo gifted. I love opening my iPad, finding your and your writing which transports me to where I wish I could be every day. You are such a bright spot in my day and I thank you. Has Miss Jackie rested from her flight and her stateside visit? I know you are all glad to have her home. Oh, the maturing process when we first realize what is happening! More painful than a root canal and childbirth in tandem.
Hope the sun is shining today and the living is easy for you.
Do something wonderful for Kristi.


Living in TN I picked up some cute ones:

It's colder than a witch's tit.
She's not worth a bucket of warm spit.
She doesn't have the sense God gave a goose.

are some of my favorites.

Some of my favorites in French are:

En avoir plein le dos
Accuser quelqu'un d'être un fier imbecile
Bête et mechant.


Kristi Darling,

Of course my favorite is 'The fruit doesn't fall far from the tree'.

I always like to remember my Dad as the greatest storyteller I have ever heard...his stories were the stories of a man finding the beauty and message in all circumstances which crossed his path. He rose every morning with a beer in his hand and rushed out the door to great his destiny. Each day he would return with stories of his adventures, turning the smallest detail into a divine comedy. Someday I must list a few of the incidents so we can pass these moments on to Max and Jackie.



Bruce in northwest Connecticut

My mom used to say, "Just between you, me, and the lamppost." Maybe that's a northeastern variant.

My favorite French idiom is a little too … earthy for this blog, but my second-favorite is "coup de foudre." My favorite American idiom may be "not enough room to swing a dead cat." And my favorite English (i.e., England) idiom is "safe as houses" because I have no idea what it's supposed to mean.


I like "tomber dans les pommes" meaning to faint, and "il y a du monde au balcon" to describe a woman whose figure is of the Dolly Parton build. Another balcony expression I like, Italian this time, is "fuori come un balcone" (literally "outside like a balcony"), which means out of one's mind. There's an Italian popular song from a few years back called Fuori come un balcone, which is where I learned the expression.

"Bob's your uncle" is an English expression that always enchants Americans. It means "and that's all there is to it -- you're done." For example: to make a ham sandwich, you put some ham between two slices of bread, and Bob's your uncle.


Kristi - I would also like to let you know that as I read your post above I was struck over and over at the high level and beauty your writing has attained this past year. I think this particular post was brilliant from start to finish. Your flow of thoughts and choice of words just sailed into my mind like a fresh breeze from the sea. I do think that when you jumped off of the rocks into the Med last week your broke throiugh the surface a changed woman.



Denise. In Ohio

I am a French teacher in Ohio. I have gotten out of the habit of using those colorful phrases in the classroom. I think, after reading your story, that I need to start using them again. Thanks for the idea, as I start planning for a new year.


Between you, me and the gatepost... is one of my favourites and one I am using a lot at the moment with a girlfriend who is going through a separation.. we are sharing so many stories but it is just between us...

Karrie Barron

I love the various English expressions meaning that a person isn't " all there" in the head :
Sixpence short of a shilling
The lights are on but No- one's in
Doesn't have both oars in the water
A slice short of a loaf

Our wonderful language!

Julie Dufaj

Hailing from southwestern Virginia, my mother's family has a plethora of colorful (and, these days, politically incorrect idioms). Our favorites as children were:
"I'll slap you bald headed" (my friends say this one came to fruition on the head of my poor husband).
"You knuckle-headed varmint" (said with affection, these words never failed to scare us into submission anyway).

Are southerners more violent that northerners? It's a fair question!

Janine Wilson

Hi Kristin!

One of my favorites quotes when toasting someone is "here's looking up your old address!" I wondered where it came from and after a few minutes of research online it seems to be attributed to M*A*S*H's Col. Henry Blake. That show certainly had some great quips!


Herm in Phoenix, AZ

Salut Kristin,

Great idea for a post! It’s hard to remember the phrases when you need them

Out here, country western folks still do a “shake ‘n howdy” when they meet.

I guess my favorite French phrase is “C’est la vie, C’est la guerre, C’est la pomme de terre “which means . . . . Stuff happens

À bientôt

Leslie NYC

He's out there where the buses don't run.(loopy, crazy)
She's two sandwiches short of a picnic.(slow)
This isn't my first time at the rodeo.(I've done this before.)

judith dunn

..........I have always liked.."ma petit chou'.....and
the thought of endearing a cabbage ( because I do not care for them) made me always remember it! Judi from Tallahassee, Fl.

John G. Patte

A French teacher of mine tried to get the class from using literal translations. In that connection, she gave us «quelques expressions idiomatiques françaises» … here are a few I thought were colourful:

Avoir mangé du lion [to have eaten lion’s meat] To have incredible energy

Casser du sucre sur le dos de quelqu’un [To break sugar on someone’s back] To talk about someone behind their back

Couper la poire en deux [To cut the pear in two] To compromise; to split the difference

Entre chien et loup [Between dog and wolf] At dusk

C’est la goutte d’eau qui fait déborder le vase [It’s the water drop that makes the vase overflow] It’s the straw that broke the camel’s back

Faire l’âne pour avoir du son [To play the dockey to get bran] To play dumb

Faire le poireau [To act like a leek] To be kept waiting

Jeter l’argent par les fenêtres [To throw money through the windows] To squander money
anger sur le pouce [To eat on the thumb] To have a bit to eat

Raser les murs [To shave the walls] To keep a low profile

Tomber sur in os [To fall on a bone] To hit a snag
Tondre des œufs [To shave eggs] To be a skinflint
Here are a few English sayings, «des mots de sagesse», that I like although they are not necessarily idiomatic. I am curious to know if there may be French idiomatic expressions along the same line …
1. Some days you’re the pigeon and some days you’re the statue
2. Keep your words soft and sweet in case you must eat them
3. Since it is the early worm that gets eaten by the bird, sleep late!
4. The second mouse gets the cheese
5. Some mistakes are too much fun to make only once
6. A truly happy person is one who can enjoy the scenery on a detour
7. He profits most who serves best. (former Rotary International moto)
8. Drive carefully – it’s not only cars that can be recalled by their Maker.

Judi Miller, Lake Balboa, CA

We could do idioms "till the cows come home," but being "one taco short of a combo plate," I just can't think of more right now! :-). Fun post!

Holly K

My Polish hubby's Mom likes to call him Capusta Glova (not sure of the correct spelling), but it means "Cabbage Head". I like "Nervous as a long tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs", "One can short of a six pack", or, for Upper Peninsula of MI fans: "being Cattywampus" or off center, skewed. My Yooper friends also say when somebody does something really goofy, "That's Norwegian for ya". My Southern pals are apt to exclaim, "Well isn't that just Special", when I've done something particularly dumb, and I know I'm really in bad shape if they say, "Well Bless your heart". They still use the term, "Like Grant (or more accurately, Sherman) through Georgia" to describe utter destruction, or when somebody has really trashed something, and as a Northener, I've been called a "Carpetbagger", when looking to buy Southern property. During a recent visit to Montana, they referred to weird behavior as "just like a Californian", even if you weren't from there!

Caroline CA

"Hablar por los codos" in spanish was a vivid image for me in high school ( talk non-stop, be a chatterbox )
Does anyone know a similar idiom in french for when we say in english: " She talks her head off "


My dad used to say, about a very small car or a very small space, "I had to step outside to change my mind."

Holly K

My Belgian Grandmother (French speaking) used to say in French (I'm not sure of the spelling) "Somebody's cooking" when it was hot, but she meant the Devil was cooking. If anybody would care to translate, I would love to have it in the correct French!

Holly K

Just thought of another fav: "If you can't run with the Big Dogs, you'd better stay on the porch" has led to Tshirts that say "Big Dog"!

Young E. Paciello

Kristin - it's been a while since I've added "mon grain de sel" but one of my favorite French idioms is for cooking without measuring which is "mesurer au pif" (with your nose, i.e, by how it smells, which in turn is an oxymoron, since measuring is an exact science and proceeding by intuition is the exact opposite!)


"Don't get your tits in a tangle" is a fave of mine... I doubt whether anyone will get theirs in said state by reading "knickers" here...... Thanks, Kristi for another thought-provoking post!

Young E. Paciello

For Caroline in Ca: she talks her head off in French would translate "elle est bavarde comme une pie" (she talks as much as a mockingbird).
One of my favorite English idioms is "the elevator doesn't go to the top floor" for someone who is not all there in his mind.

Odile   CA

An old paper back (Livre de poche) about "les expressions populaires et leur origine" is LA PUCE a L'OREILLE, de Claude Dunneton. (for fluent French speakers).
On se regale!

Odile CA

Anne Winner Anderson

raining cats and dogs
snowing to beat the band
crying up a storm


Many years ago I had a Swiss/German couple(the brother of a good friend) stay with me for 3 months to improve on their English while taking a class at the local college. Without thinking many times I used idioms and would get a blank look and have to explain. The one that comes to mind is "Stop on a dime."
I certainly find it much more fun learning French when idioms and phrases.
I meant to comment on your rock climbing adventure to the little beach. It was a delightful read by a woman who appears to be rediscovering the fun side of herself and that relentless adventurous husband of hers.

Mollie Baker

To the idioms that imply someone isn't "all there in the head", I would add:

"He's not playing with a full deck"
"She's half a bubble off plumb" (my wood-worker husband's favorite!)

Kristin Espinasse

Thank you, Joie, for your comment about the rock climbing :-) -- and thanks everyone for these delightful expressions. I really appreciate our English idioms (so many of these crack me up--and they really help keep us all down to earth. How can we take ourselves so seriously after reading some of these :-)

Bill Facker

In relation to many things: "more _________ than Carter has little liver pills".

Please pardon me for the following ... but my dear Father and his Southern Colorado buddies said it so often, it is ingrained in my consciousness with a loving smile:

"Colder than a witches tit in a brass bra"

Joan Linneman

It's amazing the number of expressions we have for "not all there." I person I know is not so polite about it. He says "dumb as a box of rocks" and "dumb as a bag of hammers." Personally, I like "loopier than a pot holder." For "raining cats and dogs" I have heard "Il pleut comme la vache qui pisse!" Not to mention (but here I go)that we get "pissed off" while les francais get "enmerde". I'm crazy about both languages. A friend of mine said that only in English do "fat chance" and "slim chance" mean the same thing.
Bon weekend a tous! Joan L.

Ellen from BH

I got very strange looks in a French household once when I asked the cook if I could "give her a hand" in the kitchen. Years later, I found out that "donne la main" in French means to strike someone!

My fav French expression for frustration is "Il ne manquait que de ca!" - roughly translated as "That's the last straw" - literally "That was the only thing missing!"

A few English expressions that come to mind that I secretly enjoy (but don't use myself in polite company):
Referring to a wornout barfly type: "Looked like she was rode hard and put away wet"
"I didn't just fall off the turnip truck"
"Lights are on but no one's home"
and "Bat-s--t crazy"
A variation on "knickers in a knot" is "undies in a bundle."
Fun post and comments!

N, San Antonio, Texas

Laughed all the way to the end of the comments. Thanks everyone! Words are so fun. Some that I have heard that I think are funny -

"busier than a one armed paper hanger" "bats in the belfry"

"don't fix it if it ain't broke"

As I think of others will send them on. Interesting idea for a book. As I think of them will send them on. Have a great weekend.

Joanne Ablan

Hi, Kristin, I also had a French teacher who taught idiomatique
expressions. I absolutely loved her class and sadly, she has
passed on now. Some she taught us are:
se vendre comme des petits pains = to sell like hotcakes
faire d'une pierre deux coups = to kill 2 birds with one stone
dans tous les coins et recoins= in every nook and cranny
decouvrir le pot aux roses=to get to the bottom of it
occupez-vous de ce qui vous regarde!=mind your own business!
avoir du toupet=you have some nerve
c'est le bouquet=that's the last straw
les cheveux en bataille=a bad hair day
Joanne, Carmel-by-the-Sea, CA, USA

Stacy ~ Sweet Life Farm

Oh, Kristi, this was fun! Love all these light-hearted, hilarious and sometimes crazy expressions.

Jean Lillibridge

How about "je parle francais comme une vache espanole. "


My husband, who is from Montréal, says that in Québec they have something similar to "Between you and me and the gatepost." The Québecois say, "Entre toi pi moi pi l'poêle à bois," meaning "Between you and me and the wood stove."


I just realized that "l'poêle" is Québec slang. In proper French it would be, "Entre toi et moi et le poêle à bois." While I'm at it, I may as well throw out full-on Québec slang... "Entre toé pi moé pi l'poêle à bois." Fun stuff for sure!


What a great post and wonderful comments. This is one of the best things about your blog - the idioms we don't learn in textbooks. I can think of "a sight for sore eyes" and "a shot in the arm." Here in Miami, where we learn Spanish too, when a situation is "un arroz con mango" [rice with mango], it means total chaos.

Susan Naperville, IL USA

I've always liked "It's raining cats and dogs." My high school french teacher said a regional equivalent in French (which he assured us does not sound as vulgar in French as it does in English) is "Il pleut comme une vache qui pisse." In English I also like "He's not the sharpest tool in the shed" (he's not intelligent), it "doesn't cut the mustard" (it's not good enough) and "to be on one's very last nerve" (to exasperate or annoy someone to excess).

Cyn Parsons

I work with a translation group, and the French contingent did a word for word of 'he led her down the primrose path'. They did think the appearance of a garden, all of a sudden, was odd, but it went right over their heads. Of course, the French counter-idiom would be 'il l'a menée en bateau'.

Kitty Wilson

A few common ones in my life, some are irish-canadian, some of unknown origin:

Butter wouldn't melt in her mouth -- she's not all she seems
Not the sharpest knife in the drawer – slow witted
A man after me own heart – a decent fellow
Scarce as hen's teeth – very rare
I need to go see a man about a dog – need to use the loo
pull the wool over your eyes – fool or deceive
pull my leg – tease and deceive
give sass – be impudent
give lip -- (same)
give a bill of goods – lie, deceive
give me the pip – annoy me a lot
drive me up the wall -- (same)
crazy as a loon – daft, insane
dull as a month of Sundays -- boring
sawing logs – snoring loudly
Take the stuffing out – be very tiring
promise the moon – make extravagant offers
swear a blue streak -- use a lot of profanity
She's a knockout – very beautiful
Honest as the day is long -- trustworthy
A horse of a different colour -- a different topic
His goose is cooked -- he has failed
She chewed me out -- scolded me
Get in a flap -- be upset
etc etc etc!!

Barbara B.

Just want to say how much pleasure I find each time I check in here. You have a beautiful, informative site that feels like coming home, even though I am not French.
Best of luck with blessings always.

Barbara B.

Cynthia Lewis (Eastern Shore of Maryland)

What fun! Thanks for writing about idioms and inviting everyone to add "their two cents worth". Bon week-end to all.

Pennie in Canada

Here's one I heard in the mid-west describing someone who is hard to please: They wouldn't be happy if you hung them with a new rope. What fun to read everyone's posts!

Barbara Penn - Palmdale, California

Favorite idioms:

British English:

You look like a wet weekend.= You look down in the mouth, depressed.

She can talk for England. = She's a chatterbox.

Southern U.S.:

He/she/it's as useless as tits on a boar hog.= He/she/it is worthless.

She had a real hissy fit.= She was really upset.


Un beso sin bigote es como un huevo sin sal.= A kiss without a mustache is like an egg without salt! (This was fine when my husband had a mustache!) (No English equivalent.)

Barbara P. (California)


Our dear Kristi,
Another beautifully written and wonderful post(as always!)
I loved learning so many different expressions but also enjoyed all the comments!
Love, Natalia XO


By the hair of the dog that bit you.


The one that sticks out from my high school French classes was my teacher's favorite: Avec la bouche fermé, on n'attrappe pas de mouches. in other words, be smart and shut up! (Pardon any errors...I never saw it written, just heard it spoken DAILY!)


I don't mean to "let the cat out of the bag", but your posts always have information that I find to be "handy as a pocket on a shirt".

And while one should never buy a "pig in a poke" and "let sleeping dogs lie", "once in a blue moon" you just have to "take a leap of faith" and do "whatever floats your boat".

Well, it's time for me to "hit the hay", so I'll stop "bending your ear" and "put a sock in it". :)

Great post, Kristin! I wish I could illustrate these little idioms to go along with this comment! :D


Another few English (vs. American) idioms:

She's daft as a brush (more common, I think, in the north of England)

I laughed like a drain

He hasn't got a brass farthing (he's poor -- that's one for anyone who remembers pre-decimal currency)

He can talk the hind leg off a donkey

She's up the spout (= she's pregnant)

Then it all went pear shaped (= went wrong)

Kristin Espinasse

LOL and thank you Sherrill. Love it!

Ruth Massaro

Fabulous post, Kristi, and I love all the comments--I've learned a lot! we say "undies in a bunch"--close to "bundle" as someone said. You chose my favorite French ones, and I'll add: "Donner la langue au chat" (to give your tongue to the cat) to mean, "I give up" (on guessing a riddle, for instance). Merci!

Lisa A.,Los Angeles, CA

I always liked: "When Shit Hits the Fan"...look out!" hehehe :)
When a reaction was about to happen; either something bad or funny was about to happen.

Or how about: "I'll keep an eye out for ya"
Someone letting you know that they are looking out for you in a good way.

Tam A-G, Anchorage, AK

My French students loved producing visuals of French idioms. "Il pleut comme une vache qui pisse" was a favorite drawing for middle-school students, bien sur! I love "faire le mur" - to sneak out - because you can easily imagine see the kid against the wall heading for the door
and "Va te faire cuire un oeuf" - equivalent to "go jump in the lake."

Eileen deCamp

Hi Kristin,
I have always heard this one being from Georgia...."Don't get your panties in a wad" - "Don't beat around the bush" - my dad used to say "Not in Your Life"

Diane Young

Well, I'll be a monkey's uncle! Never saw so many idioms before. Great fun. When I was in a French class a few years ago, a man had a book of idioms, which we all enjoyed hearing.

Bill Facker

A NOTE TO ALL FWAD READERS: Last night I sat down and read Blossoming in Provence yet again. What a beautiful book it is. I do hope all of you have it sitting in your bookshelves. If you don't, I urge you to add this wonderful expression of Kristin's talent and effort to your home. She gives so much of herself to all of us and I hope you will take a moment to reward her efforts by purchasing her book and treating yourself to a truly excellent view of life through her eyes. Thank you, Kristin, for continuing to share yourself with all of us. Aloha!


Hi Kristi ! This was a truly interesting post and I enjoyed reading all the comments. This is a French idiomatic expression I like and that could be used to translate "fly off in a rage": prendre la mouche. We also say : "quelle mouche l'a piqué?" (= which fly stung him?) = pourquoi s'est-il mis en colère brusquement et sans raison apparente?
I notice your readers are very fond of "il pleut comme vache qui pisse" (no article though before "vache"!) I can suggest two similar but less trivial expressions : "il pleut des cordes" and "il pleut à verse".
To translate "she talks her head off", we might also say : c'est un vrai moulin à paroles !
A sight for sore eyes = (welcome) ça réchauffait le coeur; (derogatory) c'était à pleurer !
A shot in the arm = un coup de fouet / un stimulant.
I am a native French speaker and would like to share with you two of my favourite sayings "on n'apprend pas aux vieux singes à faire la grimace" = don't teach your grandmother to suck eggs; donner de la confiture aux cochons = to throw pearls before swine.


Love the emails! I am returning to French study after being away for many years. One of my favorite idioms to describe the appearance of someone is to say that he/she "looks like they've been drug through a knothole."


Between you and me etc: entre quatre yeux (or) entre quat'z yeux
Never: Quand les poules auront des dents (when hens will have teeth)
Be wrong: Se mettre le doight dans l'oeil (jusqu'au coude) (Tu put your finger in your eye - up to the elbow)


Aaaand another one:
Péter plus haut que son cul (not very polite) To fart higher than you b-m

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