French Idioms

Ne pas mâcher ses mots

Giraffe
Chewing giraffe provided by Wildlife 2008.

This is part of a series on French idiomatic expressions that relate to food. Browse the list of idioms featured so far.

This week’s idiom is, “Ne pas mâcher ses mots.”

Literally translated as, “Not chewing one’s words,” it means expressing one’s opinion plainly and bluntly, with no concern for how it’s going to be received. It is equivalent to the (similarly food-oriented) English expression, “Not mincing words.”

Example: “Les journalistes adorent l’interviewer parce qu’il ne mâche pas ses mots.” “Journalists love to interview him because he doesn’t chew his words.”

Listen to the idiom and example read aloud:

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Long comme un jour sans pain

Baguettes

This is part of a series on French idiomatic expressions that relate to food. Browse the list of idioms featured so far.

This week’s idiom is, “Long comme un jour sans pain.”

A literal translation would be, “as long as a day without bread,” and it is used to express that something is very long — in reference to physical length (a long road, a long list) or, more frequently, to the duration of an event (a long speech, a long wait) — and dreary.

I have found a couple of sources suggesting that an English equivalent was, “like a month of Sundays,” but I’ve never heard or seen it used myself — perhaps one of you can confirm?

Example: “Tu as bien fait de ne pas venir à la conférence, c’était long comme un jour sans pain.” “You did well not to attend the conference, it was as long as a day without bread.”

Listen to the idiom and example read aloud:

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Ménager la chèvre et le chou

Chèvre
Photography by Bertrand.

This is part of a series on French idiomatic expressions that relate to food. Browse the list of idioms featured so far.

This week’s idiom is, “Ménager la chèvre et le chou.”

Translated as, “Accommodating* the goat and the cabbage,” it means trying to please both sides in a situation where the two parties are in fact irreconcilable. It is equivalent to the English expression, “running with the hare and hunting with the hounds,” but it is a lot more common.

It is often used when talking about politics and diplomacy, and in some cases it takes on a slightly negative connotation: it may be implied that the person who’s trying to keep everyone happy is in fact letting the situation drag on, when perhaps a resolute/courageous decision one way or the other would settle the matter more efficiently.

Example: “A force d’essayer de ménager la chèvre et le chou, le maire s’est mis tout le monde à dos.” “The mayor has been trying for so long to accommodate the goat and the cabbage that he’s turned everyone against him.”

Listen to the idiom and example read aloud:

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Retomber comme un soufflé

Soufflé

This is part of a series on French idiomatic expressions that relate to food. Browse the list of idioms featured so far.

This week’s idiom is, “Retomber comme un soufflé.”

Literally translated as, “Falling back like a soufflé,” it is a colloquial expression that means running out of steam in a quick and sudden way: after an initial phase of enthusiasm, an idea, an initiative, or a phenomenon (but not a person) loses momentum, as the interest for it wanes.

Example: “Il y a eu tout un battage médiatique autour du projet, et puis c’est retombé comme un soufflé.” “There was a lot of media hype around the project, and then it fell back like a soufflé.”

Listen to the idiom and example read aloud:

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Avoir/Prendre de la bouteille

Bottles

This is part of a series on French idiomatic expressions that relate to food and wine. Browse the list of idioms featured so far.

This week’s idiom is, “Avoir/Prendre de la bouteille.”

Literally translated as, “Having/Gaining some bottle,” it is a colloquial expression that illustrates the fact that a thing or a person gains value, experience, or wisdom with age.

Example: “L’entretien s’est bien passé, mais ils ont préféré embaucher un commercial qui avait plus de bouteille.” “The interview went well, but they chose to hire a salesman who had more bottle.”

Listen to the idiom and example read aloud:

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