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WORKU BY THE SAME AUTHOR 



JULES SANDEAU. La Roche aux 
MouETTES (Extracts). [Nutt's Short 
French Readers ^ 6^.] 

THEOPHILE GAUTIER. Voyage en 
Italie. {^Cambridge University Press, 

EMILE SOUVESTRE. Le Philosophe 
sous les toits (Extracts). [Blackie's 
Little French Classics, ^. ] 

PIERRE CCEUR. L'Ame de Beetho- 
ven. [^Siepmann's French Series. 
Macmillan. 2J.] 



FRENCH IDIOMS AND PROVERBS 



*' Omne epigranwia sit instar apis ; sit aculeus Hit, 
Sint sua mella, sit et corporis exigui^ 

Martial. 

[Thus Englished by Archbishop Trench : 

" Three things must epigrams^ like bees, have all ; 
Its stingy its honey, and its body small.'^'\ 

[And thus by my friend, Mr. F. Storr : 

** An epigram's a bee : 'tis small, has wings 
Of wit ^ a heavy bag of humour, and it stings. ^^^ 

** Celebre dictum, scita quapiam novitate insigne." 

Erasmus. 

'* T'he genius, wit, and spirit of a nation are discovered in its 
proverbs" — Bacon. 

** The people's voice the voice of God we call ; 
And what are proverbs but the people's voice 1 " 

James Howell. 

** What oft was thought, but ne^er so well expressed.'' 

Pope, Essay on Criticism. 

" The wit of one man, the wisdom of many."" — Lord John Russell 
{Quarterly Review^ Sept. 1850). 






FRENCH IDIOMS 
AND PROVERBS 

A COMPANION TO DESHUMBERT's 

"DICTIONARY OF DIFFICULTIES" 



SE Vf PAYEN-PAYNE 

PRINCIPAL OF KENSINGTON COACHING COLLEGE 
ASSISTANT EXAMINER TO THE UNIVERSITY OF LONDON 



FOURTH REV'SED AND ENLARGED EDITION 
[Fifth Thousand] 



LONDON ^' C\\ V 






DAVID NUTT, 57-59 LONG ACRE 
1905 






" Tant aytne on chien qu^on le noiirrist, 
Tant court chanson qtCelle est aprise^ 
Tant garde on fruit quHl se pourrisi, 
Tant bat on place qu^elle est prise. 
Tant tarde on quefaut entreprise, 
Tant se haste on que mal advient, 
Tant embrasse on que chet la prise, 
Tant crie Von Noel qu'il vient'' 

Villon, Ballade des Proverbes. 



PREFACE 

In this edition I have endeavoured to keep down additions 
as much as possible, so as not to overload the book; but 
I have not been sparing in adding cross-references (especi- 
ally in the Index) and quotations from standard authors.. 
These quotations seldom give the first occasion on which 
a proverb has been used, as in most cases it is impossible 
to find it. 

I have placed an asterisk before all recognised pro- 
verbs ; these will serve as a first course for those students 
who do not wish to read through the whole book at once. 
In a few cases I have added explanations of English pro- 
verbs ; during the eleven years I have been using the book 
I have frequently found that pupils were, for instance, as 
ignorant of "to bell the cat" as they were of "attacher le 
grelot." 

I must add a warning to students who use the book 
when translating into French, They must not use ex- 
pressions marked "familiar" or "popular" except when 
writing in a familiar or low-class style. I have included 
these forms, because they are often heard in conversa- 
tion, but they are seldom met with in serious French 
literature. A few blank pages have been added at the 
end for additions. Accents have been placed on capitals 

vii h 



Vlll PREFACE 

to aid the student; they are usually omitted in French 
printing. 

In conclusion, I have to thank Mr. W. G. Lipscomb, 
M.A., Headmaster of Bolton Grammar School, Mr. E. 
Latham, and especially M. Georges Jamin of the 6cole 
Lavoisier, Paris, for valuable suggestions ; while M. Marius 
Deshumbert, and Professor Walter Rippmann, in reading 
through the proof sheets, have made many corrections and 
additions of the greatest value, for which I owe them my 
sincere gratitude. 

DE V. PAYEN-PAYNE. 



AUTHORITIES CONSULTED 



Belcher, H., and Dupuis, A., " Manuel aux examens." 
London, 1885. 

Belcour, G., "English Proverbs." London, 1888. 

BoHN, H. G., " Handbook of Proverbs." London, 1855. 

Cats, Jacob, and Fairlie, R., " Moral Emblems." Lon- 
don, 1 86c. 

DuPLESSis, M. Gratet, " La fleur des Proverbes fran^ais." 
Paris, 1 85 1. 

FuRETikRE, A., "Dictionnaire universel." La Haye, 1727. 

Genin, F., "Recreations philologiques," Paris, 1856. 

Howell, James, "Lexicon Tetraglotton." London, 1660. 

Karcher, T., " Questionnaire frangais." Seventh Edition. 
London, 1886. 

Lacurne de Ste. Palaye, " Dictionnaire historique de 
I'ancien langage frangois." Paris, 1875-82. 

Larchey, Loredan, "Nos vieux Proverbes." Paris, 1886. 

Larousse, p., "Grand Dictionnaire universel du xix^ siecle." 
1865-76. 

Le Roux de Lincy, a. J., " Livre des Proverbes fran- 
gais." 2^ edition. Paris, 1859. 

Littre, E,, "Dictionnaire de la langue frangaise." Paris, 
1863-72. 



X AUTHORITIES CONSULTED 

LouBENS, D., " Proverbes de la langue frangaise." Paris, 
1889. 

Martin, Eman, "Le Courrier de Vaugelas." Paris, 1868. 

QuiTARD, P. M., " Dictionnaire etymologique des Pro- 
verbes." Paris, 1842. 

QuiTARD, P. M., "Etudes sur les Proverbes fran9ais." 
Paris, i860. 

RiGAUD, LuciEN, "Argot moderne." Paris, 1881. 

Tarver, J. C, "Phraseological Dictionary." London, 

1854. 
Trench, R. C, "Proverbs and their Lessons." Sixth 

Edition. London, 1869. 

Quarterly Review. July 1 868. 
Notes and Queries. Passim. 



FRENCH 
IDIOMS AND PROVERBS 



Expressions to which an Asterisk is prefixed are Proverbs. 



Abandon 



- Abattre 



// ne sait ni A ni B = He does not know B 
from a bull's foot; He cannot read; He 
is a perfect ignoramus. 

Atre marque a VA = To stand high in the 
estimation of others. 

[This expression is supposed to have originated in the 
custom of stamping French coin with different letters of 
the alphabet. The mark of the Paris Mint was an "A," 
and its coins were supposed to be of a better quality 
than those stamped at provincial towns. But as this 
custom only began in 1418 by command of the Dauphin, 
son oi Charles VI., and as the saying was known long 
previous, it is more probable that its origin is to be 
sought in the pre-eminence that A has always held in 
all Aryan languages, and that the French have bor- 
rowed it from the Romans. Compare Martial, ii, 57, 
and our A i, at Lloyd's.] 

Tout est a V abandon = Everything is at sixes 
and sevens, in utter neglect, in confusion. 

[Also : Toui va a la derive.] 

^Petite pluie abat grand vent = A little rain 
lays much dust; Often quite a trifle calms 
a torrent of wrath. 

[Compare : 
" Hi motus animorum atque haec certamina tanta 
Pulveris exigui jactu compressa quiescunt." 

Vergil, Georgics, iv. 86-7.] 
A 



FRENCH IDIOMS AND PROVERBS 



Abattre . Abattre de Vouvrage = To get through a great 
{continued) deal of work. 

Aboi . . ^tre aux abois = To be reduced to the last 
extremity ; To be at bay. 

[Compare Boileau : " Des que j'y veux rever, ma 
veine est aux abois."] 

AhondB.nCG* A bondance de biens ne nuit pas = Store is no 
sore; One cannot have too much of a 
good thing. 
^' Parler avec abondance = To speak fluently. 
Parler d^abondance = To speak extempore. 

Abonder . // abonde dans mon sens=Yie is entirely of 
the same opinion as I am ; He has come 
round to my opinion. 

Abord , , II a Vabord rude, inais it s^adoucit bientdt= 
He receives you roughly at first, but that 
soon passes off. 
, A (or, De) prime abord = At first sight ; At 
the first blush. 

Aboutir . Les pourparlers nont pas abouti=ThQ pre- 
liminary negotiations led to nothing. 

Absent . "^^^ Les absents ont toujours tort" = When 
absent, one is never in the right. 
" When a man's away, 
Abuse him you may." 

[N^ricault-Destouches, L' obstacle impr&vu, i, 6.] 

f Absurde . , Ehommeabsurde est celui qui ne change jamais 
= The wise man changes his opinion — the 
fool never. 

[Barth^lemy, Palinode. 1832.] 

Accommodement // est avec k del des accommodeme?its 
— One can arrange things with heaven. 

[Compare Moli^re, Tartufe, iv. 5 : 

'• Le ciel defend, de vrai, certains contentements, 
Mais on trouve avec lui des accommodeinents." 
The scene in which Orgon, hidden beneath the table, 
learns Tartufe's hypocrisy.] 



FRENCH IDIOMS AND PROVERBS 



Accommodement Un mechant accommodement est mieux 
{continued) que k meilleur proces = A bad arrangement 

is better than the best lawsuit. 

Accommoder Je Vaccoitwioderai comme il faut = I will 
give him a good hiding. 
^ // s' acco77Wiode de tout = He is satisfied with 
everything ; He is easy to please. 

Accord . Haccord = Granted. 

Accorder . Accordez mieux vos fltites, sivous voulez reussir 
= You must agree better among your- 
selves if you wish to succeed. 

[Generally in bad sense. " Mettez, pour me jouer, 
vos flutes mieux d'accord." — Moli^re, L'Etourdi, i. 4.] 

S' accorder comme chien et chat = To live a cat 
and dog life. 

ACCOU turner Chose accoutumee n' est pas fort prisee = Fa- 
miliarity breeds contempt. 

[The Latin version of a sentence in Plutarch-'s 
Morals runs : " Nimia familiaritas contemptum parit." 

Fais feste au chien, il te gastera ton habit. 
" Jamais trop compagnon a nul ne te feras 

Car bien que moins de joye moins d'ennuy tu auras. "] 

^ Accrocher Un homme qui se noie s'accroche a tout = A 
drowning man catches at a straw. 
// a accroche sa montre (pop.) = He has 
"popped " his watch. 

[Other popular synonyms are the following : — 

// a mis sa montre au clou (pop.) = His watch is up 

the spout, 

J'ai porti ma montre chez ma tante (pop, ) = My 

watch is at my uncle's.] 

y Acheter . Acheter a vil prix = To buy dirt cheap, for a 
mere song. 
Acheter chat en poche = To buy a pig in a 

poke. 
Acheter par francs et vendre par ecus = To 
buy in the cheapest market and sell in 
the dearest ; To sell at a high profit. 
Achever . Cest un voleur acheve = He is an arrant 
thief. 



FRENCH IDIOMS AND PROVERBS 



Achoppement La pierre d* achoppement = The stumbling- 
block. 

yAcqu^rir . *Le bien vial acquis ne profite jamais = Ill- 
gotten gains benefit no one : Cheats never 
prosper ; 111 got, ill spent. 

AcQUit . . Faire quelque chose par maniere d^ acquit = To 
do something for form's sake, perfunc- 
torily. 

[This is a shortened form oi faire quelque chose pour 
r acquit de sa conscience = to do something to satisfy 
one's conscience.] 

Donner V acquit = To break (at billiards). 
Pour acquit = Received (on bills). 

Acte . . Faire acte de prisence = To put in an appear- 
ance. 

Adieu . . Sans adieu = I shall not say good-bye; I 
shall see you again soon. 

< ["Adieu" is shortened from " Je vous recommande 

41a grace de Dieu." Comp. "Sans adieu, chevalier, 
je crois que nous nous reverrons bientot," — Lesage.] 

Adresse . Le trait est arrive a son adresse = The shaft 
{pr^ arrow) hit the mark ; He took the 
hint. 

Adresser . Vous vous adressez mal ; Vous vous adressez 
bien (ironic.) = You have come to the 
wrong person ; You have mistaken your 
man. 

Advenir . '''Advienne que pourra = Happen what may. 

Affaire . Cela /era parfaitement r affaire = That will 
do capitally ; That will suit down to the 
ground. 
C^est son affaire =-- That is his business, his 

look-out. 
Ca, c'est mon affaire = That is my business ; 

It is no business of yours. 
// est stir de son affaire = He will pay for it ; 
He will catch it. 



FRENCH IDIOMS AND PROVERBS 5 

Affaire . . , Je ne dis pas mes affaires aux auires = I do 
[continued) ^ not tell Others my plans {or business) ; I 

keep my concerns to myself. 
J^e7ttends voire affaire = I see what is to be 

done for you. 
lis parlent affaires = They are talking 

business. 
lis parlent boutique = T\it,-^ are talking shop. 
C'est une triste affaire = It is a sad business. 
Sattirer une tnauvaise affaire = To get into 

a mess, scrape. 
Quand on a de V esprit^ on se tire d'' affaire = 

When one has brains, one gets out of any 

difficulty. 

[Distinguish between se tirer and s'attirer.'] 

Si quelque affaire fimporte^ ne la fais pas par 

procureur = If you want a thing done, do 

it yourself. 
U affaire a ete chaude = It was warm work 

(referring to a fight). 
Une affaire d'honneur = A duel. 
Oil sont mes affaires 1 = Where are my 

things ? 
Les affaires ne vont pas {ne marchent pas) = 

Trade is dull, slack. 

Je suio dans les affaires = I am in business. 

[" Les affaires? C'est bien simple, c'est I'argent des 
autres." — Alex. Dumas fils, La Question d' Argent, 
ii. 7.] 

Melez-vous de vos affaires — Mind your own 

business. 
Avoir affaire = To be occupied. 
Avoir affaire a quelqu^un — To have to speak 

to (to deal with) a person. 

[Sometimes as a threat : 

// avra affaire d nioi = He will have to deal with 
me.] 

Avoir affaire de quelqu'un = To need a per- 
son. 

[" J'ai affaire de vous, ne vous ^loignez pas."] 



6 FRENCH IDIOMS AND PROVERBS 

Affaire. . Avoir son affaire = To have what suits one. 
[continued) J^ai mon affaire = I have found what I 

want, /"ai voire affaire = I have got the 
very thing for you. J I aura son affaire 
(ironic.) = He will catch it. 
,Oest toute une affaire = It is a serious 
matter; It means a lot of bother (<?r, 
trouble). 

C^est une affaire faite = It is as good as 
done. 

Son affaire est faite = He is a dead man (of 
one dying); He is done for; He is a 
ruined man. 

Faire son affaire = (of oneself) To succeed. 
// fait tout doucefnent son affaire = He is 
getting on slowly but surely. 

(Of others) To punish. S^il le rencontre^ 
il lui fera son affaire = If he meets him 
he will give it to him, will " do " for him. 

// a fait ses affaires dans les vins = He made 
his money in the wine trade. 

J^en fats mon affaire = I will take the re- 
sponsibility of the matter; I will see to 
it ; I will take it in hand. 

Vous avez fait la une belle affaire (ironic.) = 
You have made a pretty mess of it. 

Une affaire de rien = A mere nothing, a 
trifle. 
^ // est hors d' affaire — He is out of danger. 

Etre au dessous de ses affaires^ etre au dessus 
de ses affaires (ironic.) = To be unable to 
meet one's liabilities, to be unsuccessful. 

Quelle affaire I En voila une affaire I (ironic.) 
= What a to-do ! What a row about no- 
thing ! 

La belle affaire I = Is that all? (i.e. it is not 
so difficult or important as you seem to 
think). 

// n'y a point de petites affaires = Every trifle 
is of importance. 



FRENCH IDIOMS AND PROVERBS 



Affaire. . Ceux qui n'ont point d'affaires s'en font = 
[continued) Those who have no troubles invent them ; 

Idle people make business for themselves. 
Les affaires sont les affaires = Business is 

business ; One must be serious at work. 
Ce scandale sera V affaire de huit jours = That 

scandal will be a nine days' wonder. 
Dieu nous garde d'un honime qui n'a qu'une 

affaire = God save us from the man of 

one idea. 

[Because he is always talking of it, and tires every 
one. Compare ' ' Beware of the man of one book. "] 

Chacun sait ses affaires = Every one knows 

his own business best. 

*^ demain les affaires serieuses = I will not be 

bothered with business to-day; Time 

enough for business to-morrow. 

[The saying of Archias, governor of Thebes, on re- 
ceiving a letter from Athens warning him of the con- 
spiracy of Pelopidas ; he would not even open the 
letter. Soon after, the conspirators rushed in and 
murdered him and his friends as they were feasting.] 

// vaut mieux avoir affaire a Dieu qu'a ses 
saints = It is better to deal with superiors 
than subordinates. 

[Two quotations from La Fontaine are proverbial : — 
" On ne s'attendait guere 
A voir Ulysse en cette affaire." 

La Tortue et les deux Canards. 
' ' Le moindre grain de mil 
Serait bien mieux mon affaire." 

Le Coq et la Perle. ] 

Affamer . * Ventre affatne n'a point d''oreilles = A hungry 
man will not listen to reason. 
[La Fontaine, Fables, ix. i8.] 

Afficher . Defense d'afficher = Stick no bills. 

Cest un homine qui s'affiche = He is a man 
who tries to get talked about (generally in 
a disparaging sense). 

[Etre afficM is also said of a man who has been 
" posted" at his club.] 



8 FRENCH IDIOMS AND PROVERBS 

Affront . Faire affront a quelqu'un = To shame some 

one in public. 
Le fits fait affront a safamiUe = The son is 

a disgrace to his family. 
Boire {essuyer or avaler) un affront = To 

pocket an insult. 

Affut . . Atre a Paffut = To be watching for a favour- 
able opportunity ; To be on the look-out. 
(See Aguets.) 

Age . . . II est entre deux ages = He is middle-aged. 
// est prisident d'dge = He is chairman by 

seniority. 
Le bas age = Infancy. 
Ze bel age = Childhood ; youth. 

[Some idea is generally understood after le bel age. 
Thus " childhood" is not always the right translation. 
For an author le bel age would be after thirty, for a 
politician later still, and so on. Chicaneau, in Racine's 
Plaideurs, calls sixty le bel age pour plaider (i. 7).] 

Lafleur de Vdge = The prime of life. 
Ze moyen age = The Middle Ages. 

Agir . . // s'agit de. , . = The question is ... ; The 

point is . . . 
// Skagit de votre vie = Your life is at stake. 
// ne Skagit pas de cela = That is not the point. 
II s'agit bien de cela (ironic.) = That is quite 

a secondary consideration. 

Agiter . . Qui s^agite s'enrichit = If you wish to get 
rich, you must work (hustle) ; No pains, 
no gains. 

Agonie . Meme a travers ragonie la passiofi dominante 
se fait voir ^ The. ruling passion is strong 
in death. 

[" EUe a port6 ses sentiments jusqu'a I'agonie." — 

BOSSUET. 

" And you, brave Cobham ! to the latest breath 
Shall feel your ruling passion strong in death." 
Pope, Moral Essays, i. 262.] 

Aguets . // est aux aguets = He is on the watch ; He 
is in ambush. (See Affiit.) 



FRENCH IDIOMS AND PROVERBS 



Aide 



Aider 



Aiguille 



Aiguillon 
Aile, . 



"^Un peu d^ aide fait grand Men = Many hands 
make light work. 

Bon droit a besoin d^aide = Even a good 

cause needs support. 
"^Aide-toi, le del faidera = God helps those 
who help themselves. 

[La Fontaine, Fables, vi. i8, Le Chartier em- 
bourb^, copying Rl^GNlER, Sat. xiii. : 

" Aydez vous seulement et Dieu vous aydera." 
Lat. : Dii facientes adjuvant. 
^SCHYLUS, Persae, 742 : "ZireibovTi cavn^ x^ ^*os 

Sophocles, Camicii, frag. 633, in Dindorfs edition: 
OHk e<TTL Tois ixj] dpQai aviifiaxos T^'^XV- 

Another Greek saying was : ^vv, Adrjvq. koI xeipa 
Klvei = With Minerva on your side, yet use your own 
hand. 

Cromwell is reported to have said at the battle of 
Dunbar : " Trust in God, but keep your powder dry." 

The Basques say : " Quoique Dieu soit bon ouvrier, 
il veut qu'on I'aide."] 

Defil en aiguille = Bit by bit ; One thing 
■ leading to another. 

[" De propos en propos et de fil en eguille." — R^G- 
NIER, Sat. xiii.] 

Raconter de fil en aiguille = To tell the whole 

matter from the beginning. 
Dispu^er sur la pointe d^une aiguille = To 

raise a discussion on a subject of no 

importance ; To split hairs. 
'''Chercher une aiguille dans une botte defoin = 

To look for a needle in a bundle (bottle) 

of hay. 

A dur dne dur aiguillon = In dealing with 
obstinate natures one must use severe 
measures. 

11 en a dans Vaile = He is winged (hurt). 
Le minis tere a du plomb dans Vaile = The 

ministry is nearing its end, is winged. 
// ne bat plus que d^une aile = He is almost 

ruined ; He is on his last legs. 



lO 



FRENCH IDIOMS AND PROVERBS 



Aile. . 

{continued) 



Aimer 



Voler de ses propres ailes 

for oneself. 
J^en tirerai pied on aile 
thing out of it. 



To act {or, shift) 
I will get some- 
to get a leg or 



Air 



[Idiom derived from carving a bird 
a wing oflfit.] 

Cest la plus belle plume de son aile (or, le 
plus beau fleuron de sa couronne) = It is 
the finest gem of his crown. 

*Qui aime bien chatie bien = Spare the rod 
and spoil the child. 

[Proverbs xiii. 24.] 

Aimer quelquun comme la prunelle de ses yeux 
= To love somebody like the apple of 
one's eye. 
^ Quand oji rHa pas ce que Von aime il faut 
aimer ce que Von ^ = If you cannot get 
crumb you had best eat crust. 

[This sentence is found in a letter from Bussy Rabutin 
to Madame de S^vign^, May 23, 1667. 

" Quoniam non potest id fieri quod vis, id velis quod 
possit." — Terence, ^«flfrm, ii, i, 6. " When things 
will not suit our will, it is well to suit our will to 
things." — Arab proverb. 

" Let not what I cannot have 
My peace of mind destroy." 

CoLLEY CiBBER, The Blind Boy.] 

*Qui aime Bertrand^ aime son chien = Love 

me, love my dog. 

["Qui me amat, amat et canem meum." — S. Ber- 
nard, In Fest. S. Mich. Serm., i. sec. 3.] 

*Qui aime bien, tard oublie = True love dies 
hard. 
Qui m'aime me suive = Peril proves who 
dearly loves. 

[Words attributed to Philippe VI. when at a Council 
during his war with Flanders, the Conn^table de Ch&- 
tillon alone stood by him, saying all times were suitable 
to the brave.] 

£n plein air ; Au grand air = In the open 
air. 



FRENCH IDIOMS AND PROVERBS 



Air . . 

[continued) 



To be in a 

draught. 
To be always 



Algebre 



AUemand 



J^tre entre deux airs ) 

Eire dans un courant d'air ] 
Avoir toujours le pied en Pair 

on the go. 
^l parle en Pair = He talks without think- 
ing of what he is saying, at random, not 

seriously. 
Je vais prendre Pair dii bureau = I am just 

going to look in at the office. 
Prendre un air de feu = To go near the fire 

for a few minutes to warm oneself. 
A voire air on ne vous donnerait pas vingt-cinq 

afis = From your looks I should take you 

for less than five-and-twenty. 
Vivre de Pair du temps = To live upon 

nothing {i.e. to eat very little). 
Elle a quelque chose de voire air — She takes 

after you; She looks somewhat like 

you. 
// a un faux air d^avocai = He looks some- 
thing Hke a barrister. 
Ce/a en a ioui Pair = It looks uncommonly 

like it. 
II a un air {or, Pair) commeilfaui = He has 

a very gentlemanly manner. 

C^esi^ de Palgebre pour lui = It is Greek to 
him. 

[' ' C'est de I'hdbreu pour moi. " — Moliere, L'^tourdi, 
iii. 3.] 

Chercher une querelle d^ AUemand = To pick 

a quarrel about nothing, without rhyme 

or reason. 

[This saying has been accounted for as follows : — 
During the thirteenth century there lived in Dauphin^ 
a very pow^erful family of the name of AUeman. They 
were bound together by close ties of relationship ; and 
if any one attacked one member of the clan, he had the 
whole to reckon with. From the vigour with which 
they resented any wrong, no matter how slight, arose 
the expression Une querelle d' AUeman. See M. Jules 
Quicherat's article on La famille des AUeman in the 
Revue historiqxte de la noblesse. Part vi.] 



12 FRENCH IDIOMS AND PROVERBS 

Aller . . '^'Tant va la cruche a Peau qu'a la fin elle se 
casse = The pitcher that often goes to the 
well gets broken at last. 

[This has been travestied : Taiit va la cruche a Veau 
qua la Jin elle s'emplit. The Germans have an equi- 
valent : Der Kriig geht so lange zum Brunnen, bis 
er bricht.'] 

* Doucenient va bien loin = Fair and softly goes 
far ; Slow and sure wins the race. 

[The Italian equivalent is : Chi va piano va sano e va 
lontano. 

' ' Qui trop se h^te en cheminant 
En beau chehiin se fourvoye souvent." 
"On en va mieux quand on va doux." — La Fon- 
taine, Les Cordeliers de Catalogne.'\ 

II y allait du bonheur de ma famille = The 

happiness of my family was at stake. 
Ce jeune homme ira loin = That young man 

will make his way in the world, has a 

future before him. 
Au pis aller = Should the worst come to the 

worst. 
Un pis aller = A makeshift. 
Aller son petit bonhofnme de chemin = To jog 

along quietly. 
^ Cela va tout seul = There is no difficulty in 

the way. 
^Cela va sans dire = That is a matter of 

course ; It stands to reason. 
- Cela va de soi = That follows naturally. 
7/ ne reviendra pas^ allez I = Depend upon 

it, he will not return ! 
Va pour mille francs I = Done ! I'll take 

£40. 
Aller cahin-caha ) (lit.) To limp along. 
Aller dopiri-clopant ] (fig.) To rub along 

quietly, neither very well nor very ill. 
Elle le fait aller = She makes him do what 

she likes. 



FRENCH IDIOMS AND PROVERBS 



13 



AUer . . Le rouge va Men aux brunes = Red suits dark 
{continued) women well. 

Allans ! = Come, now ! 
Allans done I = You are joking. 



AUumer 



Alors 



Ambre 



Amener 



Ami 



"// n'esl bois si vert qui ne s'allume" (Cle- 
ment Marot) = There is nothing so 
difficult that cannot be done in time. 



Alors comme alors = Wait till that happens, 
and then we will see what is to be 
done. 

Fin comme T ambre = As sharp as a needle. 

[This is said to have originated in the scent of am- 
bergris, which is of a subtle, penetrating nature.] 

Celle preuve est amenee de bien loin = That 
proof is very far-fetched. 

*Qui prete a Vami perd au double = " For loan 
oft loses both itself and friend." 

[Ham/et, i. 3.] 

"^O/i connatt les amis au besoin = A friend in 
need is a friend indeed. 

[Also : Cest dans le malheur qiion connatt ses amis. 

" Chacun se dit ami, maisfou qui sy repose 
Rien nest phis commun que le nom 
Rien nest plus rare que la chose." 

La Fontaine, Fables, iv. 17. 

" Amicus certus in re incerta cernitur." — Ennius. 

"Nihil homini amico est opportuno amicius." — 
Plautus, 

" Vulgare amici nomen, sed rara est fides." — Phae- 
DRUS, ii'i. 9. 

' ' Les amis sont comme les parapluies, on ne les a 
jamais sous la main quand il pleut." — THEODORE DE 
Banville. 

Un veritable ami est un bienfait des dieux. 

Prosperity gains friends, adversity tries them. 

Friends and mules fail us at hard passes. 

In times of prosperity friends will be plenty, 

In times of adversity not one in twenty.] 



H 



FRENCH IDIOMS AND PROVERBS 



Ami . 

(continued) 



Amitid . 
Amour 



Alieux vaut ami en vote que denier en courroie 
= A friend at court is better than 
money. 
11 ne faut prendre de son ami tout ce qu'on 
peut = Friends are like fiddle-strings, they 
must not be screwed too tight. 
*^Zes amis de F heure presente 
Ont la nature du 7nelon, 
II en faut essayer cinquante 
Avant^u'on rencontre un hon!' 
Claude Mermet (1550- 1605). 
= Trust not a new friend nor an old 
enemy; Acquaintances are many, but 
friends are few. 

Faites 7?ies amities a voire frere = Remember 
me kindly to your brother. 

Faites-le pour V amour de moi — Do it for my 

sake. 
L'Amo2ir force ioutes les serrures = Love 
laughs at locksmiths. 
• Vivre d' amour et d^eaufraiche (or, claire) = «To 
live on bread and cheese and kisses. 
*0n revient toujours a ses premieres amours — 
One always returns to one's first love ; 
Who loves well, forgets ill. 
[C. G. Etienne, Joconde, iii. i.] 

, Jamais Pa^nour ne se paye que par V amour = 
Love can neither be bought nor sold, its 
only price is love. 

[" Amour au coeur me poind 
Qiiand bien-aim^ je suis, 
Mais aimer je ne puis 
Quand on ne m'aime point. 
Chacun soit adverti 
De faire comme moi, 
Car d'aimer sans party 
C'est un trop grand esmoy." 

Clement Marot. 

Liebohne Gegenlieb ist wie eine Frage ohne Antwort.] 



FRENCH IDIOMS AND PROVERBS 



15 



Amour. . On dirait quHl le fait pour V amour du bon 
{continued) Dieu = He does it with such bad grace 

that one would say he did it for con- 
science' sake. 

[" Qui que tu sois, voici ton maitre, 
II Test, le fut, ou le doit Stre." 
Voltaire, Inscription pour une statue de [Amour 
dans les Jardins de Maisons. 

"A I'Amour on rdsiste en vain ; 
Qui n'aima jamais aimera demain." 
De Benserade, L Amour, ed. 1690, p. 234.] 

. Amuser le tapis = To talk a great deal with- 
out coming to the point; To talk time 
away. 

Ne vous amusez pas en route = Do not lose 
an instant on the way. 



y<? m'en moque comme de Pan quarante 
don't care a straw for it. 



I 



[There was a superstitioh that the world would 
come to an . end in 1040 ; after it had passed, this 
saying arose. The French also say ' ' Je m'en moque 
comme de Colin-tampon." Colin-tampon is the name 
given to the Swiss roll of the drum ; and as the other 
soldiers in the French army paid no attention to it 
out of jealousy and esprit de corps, this saying arose. 
Another variant is " Je m'en soucie autant qu'un 
poisson d'une pomme."] 

Bon an, *mal an = One year with another; 
On an average. 

Ressembler a Vane de Buridan = Not to know 
what to do. 

[Jean Buridan was a dialectician of the fourteenth cen- 
tury, and Rector of the University of Paris. One of his 
most famous dilemmas was that of the donkey equally 
hungry and thirsty, which was placed halfway between 
a pail of water and a load of hay. If the animal 
had no free-will, it would remain motionless between 
two equal attractions, and so die of hunger and thirst.] 

Contes de Peau d-Ane = Nursery tales. 

[A name derived from a tale of Perrault, in which 
the heroine is so called.] 



i6 



FRENCH IDIOMS AND PROVERBS 



Ane . , Pour un point (or, Faute (Tun point) Martini 

{continued) perdit son dne = For want of a nail the 

shoe was lost {or, the miller lost his 

mare) ; Be careful of trifles. 

[This is said of a person who loses something 
valuable through a trifle. The Abbey of Asello (Latin 
asellus=\i\\.\e. ass) was taken from the Abbot Martin 
on account of his punctuation of a sentence over the 
gateway. \x\%it2k.do{: Porta patens esto,nulliclajidaris 
honesto (Gate be open, and be closed to no honest 
man), he punctuated : Porta patens esto niilli, claudaris 
honesto (Gate, be open to none, be closed to an honest 
man). His successor corrected the mistake, and 
added : Uno pro puncto caruit Martinus Asello.] 

II fait r dne pour avoir du son = He simulates 
stupidity to gain some material advantage. 

Brider un dne par la queue - To do any- 
thing in exactly the wrong manner ; To 
get hold of the wrong end of the stick. 

// ny a point d'dne plus mal bate que celui du 
commun = What is everybody's business 
is nobody's business. 

[Walton, Compleat Angler, Part i. chap, ii.] 

Ange . . &tre aux' anges = To be delighted, in rap- 
tures, in the seventh heaven. 
Un ange bouffi = A chubby child. 

r Anguille . Echapper comme une anguille = To be as 
slippery as an eel. 
^ Quand on veut trap serrer tanguille, elle 
s'echappe = " Much would have more ani ' 
lost all"; He who is too greedy los( 
everything. (See Embrasser.) 
Vouloir rofnpre r anguille au genou = T 

attempt an impossibility. 
// est comme Vanguille de Melun (more cor 
rectly, Languille de Melun\ il crie avan, 
qii'on Vecorche = He is like the eel of 
Melun, he cries out before he is hurt. 

[An actor, called Languille, was once acting the par^ 
of St, Bartholomew at Melun, when he was so fright 
ened at the entry of the executioner to flay him alive 
that he rushed off the stage yelling.] 



FRENCH IDIOMS AND PROVERBS 



17 



Ang^uille , 

(continued) 

Anonyme 



Anse 



*/l y a quelque anguille sous roche — There is 
a snake in the grass ; I can smell a rat. 

[Lat. Latet unguis in /terba.'\ 

Societe anonyme = Limited Liability Company 
(because the names of the shareholders 
are unknown to the public). 

Mitre danser Panse (or, le manche) du panier 
= To make dishonest profits on market- 
ing (of servants); To gain a market-penny. 

Faire le pot (or, panier) a deux arises = To 
put one's arms akimbo, 
[Often said of a gentleman who has a lady on each 



Antan 



" Olc sont les 7ieiges d antan ? " 
snows of yester-year ? 



Where are the 



[Antan is an old French word derived from ante and 
annus. The quotation is the refrain of Fran9ois 
Villon's famous " Ballade des Dames du temps jadis."] 

Apache . Cest un apache (pop.) = He is a hooHgan. 

Apothicaire Cest un apothicaire sans sucre = He is un- 
provided with the necessities of his pro- 
fession. 

[Druggists in France formerly sold sugar which they 
used almost in every preparation. Hence one who 
had no sugar was badly stocked.] 

Apotre . Fair^. le bon apotre = To put on a saintly 
look ; To pretend to be holy. 
[" Tout Picard que j'^tais, j'^tais un bon apotre 

Et je faisais claquer mon fouet tout comma un 
autre." 

Racine, Plaideurs, i. i.] 

. Apparence Pour sauver les apparences = For the sake of 
appearances. 
Selon toute apparence = In all probability. 

Appartenir A tous ceux quHl appartiendra (legal) = To 
all whom it may concern. 

Appat . . *C'est un trop vieux poisson pour mordre a 
Vappdt = He is too old a bird to be 
caught with chaff. 



i8 



FRENCH IDIOMS AND PROVERBS 



Appel . . Faire Fappel = To call the roll. 

i Manquer a T appel = To be missing, absent. 
Battre Vappel = To call to arms. 

Appeler . // appelle les choses par leur now. = He calls a 
spade a spade. 

[" J'appelle un chat un chat, et Rolet un fripon." — 
BoiLEAU, Satires, i. 52.] 

Votla ce que f appelle pleuvoir = This is what 
I call raining with a vengeance. 

Appdtit . Bon appetit = Good appetite ; I hope you 
will enjoy your meal. 
^Lappetit vient en viangeant = One leg of 
mutton helps down another; The more 
one has the more one wants ; Begin to 
eat, you'll soon be hungry. 

["As if increase of appetite had grown 
By what it fed on." 

Hamlet, i. 2. 
" L'app^tit vient en mangeant, disait Angeston, mais 
la soif s'en va en buvant." — Rabelais, Gargantua, i.] 

*// n^est chere que d'appetit = Hunger is the 
best sauce. 

[""H iindvfjLla rov (tLtov bxj/ov.'' 

Xenophon, Cyrop. i. 5, 12.] 

*Pain derobe reveille appetit =^io\Qn joys are 
sweet. 

Apprendre Les malheurs s'apprennent Men vite = 111 news 
flies fast (or, apace). 
Vous apprejidrez avec plaisir , . . .*= You will 
be glad to hear .... 
* Ce fUest pas a un vieux singe qu^on apprend a 
faire des gri?naces (fam.) = One does not 
teach one's grandmother to suck eggs. 
(See Remontrer.) 

[The Greek equivalent was, " To teach an eagle to 
fly," or "to teach a dolphin to swim."— Zenob. ii. 49. 

The Romans said, ' ' Sus Minervam docet. " Cf. 
Cicero, De Oratore, ii. 57,] 



FRENCH IDIOMS AND PROVERBS 



19 



^ Apprenti . "^Apprenti n^est pas maitre = One must not 
expect from a beginner the talent of an 
old hand ; You must spoil before you spin. 
Appui . . Mur a hauteur d'appui = A wall breast high 
(so that one may lean against it). 
Faites la proposition^ firai a Pappui de la 
boule = You make the proposal, and I 
will support it. 

[This idiom comes from the game of bowls, when by 
hitting your partner's ball you may drive it nearer the 
goal, though unable to approach yourself.] 

Appuyer . Votis vous appuyez sur un roseau = You are 
trusting to a broken reed. 

Apr^S . . *Apres lui il faut tirer I'echelle = One cannot 
do better than he has ; No one can come 
up to him in that ; That takes the cake. 

[Com p. MOLIERE, MMecin tnalgrdlui, ii. i.] 

'^Jeter le manche apres la cognee = To throw 
the helve after the hatchet; To give up 
in despair. 
* Apres nous le deluge = A short life and a 
merry one; We need not bother about 
what will happen after we are gone. 
[These words were attributed to Madame de Pompa- 
dour (1721-1764) in reply to those who remonstrated 
with her for her extravagance — "When I am gone, 
the. deluge may come for all I care." (See Desprez, 
Essai sur la Marquise de Pompadour^ a preface to his 
Mimoirs de Madame du Hausset.) The same idea 
occurs in the Greek proverb quoted by Cicero {De 
Finibus, iii. 19), '"EywoO davdvros yaia /j.ixB'^riTco TrvpL" 
Milton suggests Tiberius as saying, ' ' When I die, let 
the earth be rolled in flames." — Reason of Church 
Government, i. 5.] 

Araign^e . Avoir une araignee dans le (or, au) plafond = 

To have a bee in one's bonnet. 
Arbre . . "^ Entre V arbre et r ecorce il ne faut pas mettre le 
doigt = One must not interfere in other 
people's quarrels. 

[This proverb has been travestied by Moliere, who 
makes Sganarelle say: "Apprenez que Cicdron dit 
qu'entre I'arbre et le doigt il ne faut pas mettre 
r^corce," — Le Mddecin malgrd lui, i. 2.] 



20 



FRENCH IDIOMS AND PROVERBS 



Arbre . . Varbre ne tombe pas au premier coup = Every- 
{continued) thing requires time and exertion ; Rome 

was not built in a day. 
Quand F arbre est tofnbe tout le monde court 
aux bra?iches = When the tree falls every 
one goeth to it with his hatchet. 
// s'est toujours tenu au gros de V arbre = He 
has always sided with the stronger side. 

Arc . . . D'ebander Pare ne guerit pas la plate = To 
cease doing mischief does not undo the 
harm one has done. 

Ar^on. . JStre ferme sur les arsons = (lit.) To have a 
firm seat in the saddle; (fig.) Not to 
waver in one's principles. 
// a vide les arsons = He was unhorsed. 

Argent . L^ argent est un ban passe-partout = Gold goes 
in at any gate, except heaven. 

[" Amour fait moult 

Mais argent fait tout."] 

Jktre cousu d'argefit = To be made of money ; 

To be rolling in riches. 
// est charge d'argent conune un crapaud de 

plumes = He is penniless. 
Y alter bonjeu bon argent = To set about a 

thing in earnest. 
* Point d^ argent, point de Suisse = No money, 

no Swiss ; No pay, no piper. 

[In the Middle Ages the Swiss were the chief mer- 
cenaries of Europe, and occasionally had to resort to 
severe measures to obtain their pay. Compare Racine, 
Plaideurs, i, i. One day when the Swiss were asking 
for their pay from the king the French Prime Minister 
said : ' ' The money we have given these Swiss would 
pave a road from Paris to Basle." To which the Swiss 
commander replied : " And the blood we have shed for 
France would fill a river from Basle to Paris ! "] 

Payer argent comptant= To pay ready money; 
To pay in hard cash. 

[Synonyms are : En beaux deniers comptants or, 
en esptces sonnantes et tribuchantes.^ 



FRENCH IDIOMS AND PROVERBS 



21 



Argent . Prendre quelqiie chose pour argent comptant = 
{continued) To take something for gospel. 

/e suis a court d' argent (fam. a sec) = I am 

short of money (/am. hard up, broke). 
*Qui n^a pas argent en bourse^ ait 7niel en 
bouche^ He who has not silver in his 
purse should have honey on his tongue. 
^ * Argent emprunie porte tristesse = He who 
goes a-borrowing goes a-sorrowing. 

Arme . . Representer les amies de Bourges = To look 
stupid. 

[The arms of Bourges are an ass sitting in an arm- 
chair.] 

Les amies sont journalilres = Victory is fickle. 

Arracher . On se farrache = (of persons) He is the rage ; 
(of things) There is a regular scramble 
for it. 

Arracheur Mentir comme un arracheur de dents = To lie 
unblushingly; To lie like an epitaph. 

Arranger Comme vous voila arrange I = What a sight 
you look ! 
y^ /'ai arrange de la bonne mantere = I gave 

him what he richly deserved. 
Arringez-vous = That is your business ; Settle 
it among yourselves. 

Arret . . Mettre un officier aux arrets = To put an 
officer under arrest. 
Gar der les arrets = ^o keep to one's quarters. 
Lever les arrets = To release from arrest. 

Arriver . C^est un homme qui arrivera = He is sure to 
get on in the world. 

■'^ U71 malheur n^ arrive Jamais seul = Misfor- 
tunes never come singly; It never rains 
but it pours. 

"^Cela arrive conwie maree en car^me = That 
comes just in the nick of time (lit* as sea- 
fish in Lent). See Carhne. 



22 



FRENCH IDIOMS AND PROVERBS 



Article . ^tre d, V article de la mort (or, a Vagonie) = 
To be at death's door. 

[Lat. In articulo moriis.] 

Assembler *Qut se ressemdle, s' assemble = Birds of a feather 
flock together ; Like will to like. 

Assiette . // n! est pas dans son assiette = He is not in 
his normal state of mind; He is out of 
sorts; He is not up to the mark. 

Son assiette dine pour lui = He pays for his 
dinner whether he is present or not. 

C'est un casseur d^assiettes — He is a swag- 
gerer (a Mohock, in eighteenth century 
parlance). 

C'est un pique-assiette = He is a parasite, a 
sponge. 

Vassiette des impots = The assessment of 
taxes. 

Attache . Le pauvre homme est toujours {conwie un 
chien) a P attache = The poor man is a 
very slave, is compelled to work hard 
and constantly. 

Attacher . * Attacker le grelot = To bell the cat. 

[La Fontaine, Conseil tenu par les rats. For 
an explanation of the phrase see Grelot.'] 

Attaquer . *Attaquer le taureau par les comes = To seize 
the bull by the horns. 

Atteinte . Porter atteinte {a Phonneur de) = To sully 
(the fair name of). 
Porter atteinte {aux droits de) = To infringe 
(the rights of). 

Atteler . Cest une charrette mal aitelee = They are a 
badly-matched pair. 

Attendre . Une question n'attendait pas F autre = Ques- 
tion quickly followed after question. 
Je m'y attendais = That is just what I ex- 
^ pected. 



FRENCH IDIOMS AND PROVERBS 



23 



Attendre . Attendez-vous-y = You may depend upon it ; 
{continued) (or, ironic.) Don't* you wish you may 

get it ! 
^ Tout vient a point h qui sait atte?idre = Every- 
thing comes to the man who waits; 
Time and patience change the mulberry 
leaf into a silk gown. 
^ On pent s' attendre a tout, surtout a Vinattendu 
= One may expect anything, especially 
the unexpected. 

Attraper . Attrape qui peut! = Scramble for it ! 

Attrapel = i. Catch! 2. Take that! 3. It 
serves you right. 

Audience. Audience a huis clos = A case heard in 
camera. 

Aune . . Les homines ne se mesurent pas ci Vaune = 
Men are not to be judged by their size. 

[M. Thiers, who was very short, used to say: " Les 
liqueurs prdcieuses se conservent dans de petits flacons " 
= Rich wares in small parcels.] 

Savoir ce qu'en vaut Vaune = To know a thing 

to one's cost. 
Mesurer les autres a son aune = To measure 

other people's peck by one's own bushel. 
Tout le long de Vaune = By the yard ; Plenty 

of it. 

Aurore . *7ravail d'aurore a?nene Vor = Early to bed 

and early to rise, makes a man healthy, 

wealthy, and wise. 

[The late H. Stacy Marks, R.A., parodied this: 
' ' Early to bed and early to rise, No use — unless you 
advertise." 

The German equivalent is , " Morgenstund hat Gold 
im Mund " — The morning hour has gold in its mouth. 

This is also found in ItaUan : " Le ore del mattino 
hanno I'oro in bocca."] 

Aussitot . Aussitot dit, aussitot fait = No sooner said 
than done. 

Autant . Cela estfini ou autant vaut = It is as good as 
finished. 



24 



FRENCH IDIOMS AND PROVERBS 



Autant . "^Autant de tetes, autant d'avis = So many men, 
(continued) SO many minds. 

["Quot homines, tot sententias."— Terence, Phor- 
mio, ii. 4. Also : " Autant de gens, autant de sens."] 

Autant lui en pend au nez (or, a roreille) — 

He will get just the same (in bad sense), 
Autant vaut etre 7nordu d^un chien que d^une 

chienne = One evil is as bad as the other. 
Autant dire mille francs = We may as well 

say ^40. (See Alter.) 
Autant vaut celui qui tient que celui qui 

ecorche = The receiver is as bad as the 

thief. 

[A hexameter of Phocyhdes says : 

dfKpbTepoL kXuyjres, Kal 6 de^d/xevos Kal 6 KXexj/as.] 

Cest toujours autant degagne= That's always 
so much to the good. (See Prendre.) 

Alltel . . "^Qui sert a Vautel doit vivre de Vautel= Every 
man must live by his profession. 
// en prendrait sur Vautel = He would rob a 
church. 

Autour . Tourner autour du pot = To beat about the 
bush. 
[German : " Wie die Katze um den Brei laufen."] 

11 nefaut pas confondre autour avec alentour 
= One must not mix up two things en- 
tirely different. 

[The gamin of Paris adds to this saying : " ni intelli- 
gence avec gendarme."] 

Autre . . Comme dit r autre = As the saying is. 

[Or : Comme on dit] 

Nous par/ions de choses et d^autres = \^t were 
speaking of different things. 

Cest tout un ou tout autre == It is either one 
thing or the other. 

L'un vaut V autre = One is as bad as the 
other. 



FRENCH IDIOMS AND PROVERBS 



25 



Autre . . II en salt bien (T autres =YiQ. knows more 
(continued) than one trick. 

Cest une autre paire de manc/ies = Thsit is 
quite another thing; That is a horse of 
another colour. 
// 7i' en fait pas d'autres = That is always the 

way with him ; He is at it again. 
A//ez conter cela a d^autres = Tell that to the 
marines. 
[Often shortened to " ^ (Tautres.'''^ 

Nous autres Anglais sommes trh reserves = We 
English are very reserved. 

[" Nous autres ignorants estions perdus si ce livre ne 
nous eust relevd du bourbier." Montaigne, Essais, 
ii. 4, speaking of Amyot's translation of Plutarch.] 

* Autres temps, autres mceurs = Manners change 

with the times. 
J' en ai vu bien d^ autres = I have outlived 

worse things than that. 

Avaler . Faire avaler des couleuvres a quelqu^un = To 
say very humiliating things to a man 
who, on account of his inferior position, 
is obliged to put up with them ; To make 
any one swallow a bitter pill. 

Avancer . Votre montre avance de dix minutes = Y omx 

watch is ten minutes fast. 

[Compare : " Votre montre retarde de dix minutes " 
=Your watch is ten minutes slow.] 

Cela m^avance bien ! (ironic.) = What good is 

that to me ? 
Vous voila bien avance I (ironic.) = Here you 
are in a pretty mess ! What good have 
you gained by that ? 
Je n^en suis pas plus avance = I am none the 
wiser (or, nearer). 

Avant . . Vous allez trap avant = You are going too 
far. 
lis sont arrives bien avant dans la nuit = 
They arrived very late at night. 



26 

Avare 

Avec 
Averti 

Aveu 



Aveugle 



Avis 



Aviser . 



FRENCH IDIOMS AND PROVERBS 

*A pere avare, enfant prodigue = A miserly 
father has a spendthrift son. 

[" A femme avare, galant escroc." 

La Fontaine, Contes, ii.] 

Avec fa ! (colloquial) = Nonsense ! 

■* Un bon averti (or, prevenu) en vaut deux = 
A man well warned is twice a man ; 
Forewarned, forearmed. 

Oest un homme sans aveu = He is a vaga- 
bond. 

[In feudal times a vassal had to make an avowal to 
his lord of the lands he held, placing them under his 
lord's protection. A man who had no property could 
not do so.] 

*y?/m ne soulage comme un aveu sincere = Open 
confession is good for the soul. 

Crier comme un aveugle {qui a perdu son 
baton or, son chien) = To yell with all 
one's might. 

[A variant is : Crier cotnme un sourd, although deaf 
people generally speak very quietly.] 

// est toujours du bon avis = His opinion is 

always good. 
II y a jour d^avis = There is no hurry ; There 
is plenty of time for consideration. 
*Avis au lecteur = A note to the reader ; A 
word to the wise ; Verb. sap. 
{II) m^est avis qu^il cherche a vous tromper = 
Somehow I think he wants to deceive you. 
*jDeux avis valent mieux qu'un = Two heads 
are better than one. 

[The Greeks said: eh a.vqp, ovheU av-qp^One man, 
no man.] 

Saufavis contraire = Unless I hear {or, write) 
to the contrary. 

Cest un avisi compere — He is a cunning 

fellow. 
On y avisera = We will see to it. 



FRENCH IDIOMS AND PROVERBS 



27 



Aviser . . II ne s'avise jamais de rien = He never thinks 
{continued) of anything ; He has no initiative. 

On ne s'avise jamais de tout = One never 

thinks of everything. 
Ne vous en avisez pas = You had better 

not. 
Un fou avise Men un sage = Good advice 

often comes whence we do not expect it. 
Un verre de vin avise Men un homme = A 

glass of wine puts wit into a man. 

Avoir . [The French use avoir frequently where we use to he, 

as in — Avoir faim, soif, chaud, froid, raison, tort, 
pitit^, honte, peur, soin, besoin, wa/=:To be hungry, 
thirsty, hot, cold, right, wrong, sorry, ashamed, afraid, 
careful, in want, ill.] 

J^aurai raison de son entetemetit = I will 

master his obstinacy. 
J^en ai Men envie = I should like it very 

much. 
Elk n'a pour tout Men que sa beaute = She 
has nothing but her beauty in her favour ; 
Her face is her fortune. 
y'<?« ai pour deux heures = I shall be two 

hours over it. 
J^en ai pour six mois a m^ennuyer = I am 
looking forward to {pr^ in for) six months' 
boredom. 
Vous avez la parole = It is your turn to 

speak. 
Vous avez la main = It's your turn to play 

(at cards). 
Vous avez le de = It's your turn to play (at 

dice). 
// ne fera cela qu'autant que vous Vaurez pour 
agreable = He will never think of doing 
it if you object to it. 
Avoir de quoi (pop.) = To be in easy circum- 
stances. 
pat de quoi payer = I have enough money to 
pay. 



28 FRENCH IDIOMS AND PROVERBS 

Avoir . . II y a de quoi = (lit.) There is good reason ; 
{continued) (ironic.) Tliere is no reason. 

Je vous de7nande pardon. — // n^y a pas de 

quoi — I beg your pardon. — Pray do not 

mention it. 
J^ai beau dire, il en fera a sa tete = It is 

of no use my talking, he will do as he 

likes. 
Oest un hofnme que fai dans la main = He 

is a man I hold in the hollow of my 

hand, i.e. I can make him do what I like. 
Qu'avez vous 1 fai que je m^ennuie = What 

is the matter with you? The matter is 

that I am bored to death. 
Vous en aurez = You will catch it. 
Contre qui en avez-vous ? = Against whom 

have you a grudge ? 
// n'est rien de tel que d'en avoir = Inhere is 

nothing like money to make one re- 
spected. 
Quand il n^y en a plus ^ il y en a encore = The 

thing is inexhaustible; It is easy to get 

more. 
// n^y a qu^a pleuvoir = It may happen to 

rain ; What if it rains ? 
Je vais lui dire cela. — Non^ il n'aurait qu'a se 

facher = I will tell him that. — No, don't, 

he might get angry. 
^ Cest un homme comme il n^y en a point = He 

is a man who has not his match ; There 

is no equal to him. 

Avril . . En avril 

Ne te decouvre pas d''unfil 

= Change not a clout 

Till May be out. 

[En mai 
Fais ce qu'il te plait.] 



FRENCH IDIOMS AND PROVERBS 



29 



B . . . 
Bacler . . 

Badiner . 

Bagage 

Bagatelle 
Bague . . 



Baguette 
Baiser . 

Baisser 



B. 

Aire marque au b = To be either hump- 
backed, one-eyed, lame, or a stutterer. 

[i.e. bossu, borgne, boiteux, 021 beguej\ 

Bacler son ouvrage = To do one's work 
quickly and badly; To "poHsh off" {or, 
scamp) one's work. 

[Also : travailler a ddpeche-compagnon.'\ 

*'• On ne badine pas avec V amour ^' = Tove is 
not to be trifled with. 

[This is the title of one of Alfred de Musset's 
Proverbes. See Porte. '\ 

Quel est le bagage de cet auteurl = What 
works has that author written ? What is 
that author's output ? 

Flier bagage = To pack up and be off. 

Bagatelles que tout cela — That is all stuff 

and nonsense. 
Vive la bagatelle ! = Away with care ! 

Cette place est une bague au doigt = That posi- 
tion is a sinecure. 

[C'est une bague au doigt is said of any advantageous 
possession of which one can dispose easily. Quitard 
derives it from the custom of the seller of land giving 
to the purchaser as his title a ring on which both had 
sworn. J 

Mener les gens a la baguette = To rule men 
with a rod of iron ; To be a martinet. 

II y a toujours Pun qui baise et V autre qui tend 
lajoue = Love is never exactly reciprocal. 

[Shakespeare, Troilus and Cressida, iv. 5.] 

Baisser Voreille = To look confused (or, 
sheepish.) 

[From the action of dogs when expecting a beating.] 



30 



FRENCH IDIOMS AND PROVERBS 



Baisser . Ma vue baisse = I am getting short-sighted ; 
{^continued) My sight is failing. 

[In this sense baisser means to weaken, and is also 
used of moral and intellectual qualities, as : le sens 
moral a baissi, ma mdmoire baisse."] 

II a donne tete baissee dans le pi^ge {panneau) 
= He ran headlong into the trap. 

/e lui ai fait baisser les yeux = I stared him 
out of countenance. 

// n'a qu'a se baisser pour eti prendre = He 
has only to stoop and pick it up ; He has 
merely to ask for it to get it. 

Balai . . *// n'est rien de tel que balai neuf ^ A new 

broom sweeps clean. 
On lui a donne du balai = They gave him the 

sack {i.e. dismissed him). 
Donner un coup de balai = To make a clean 

sweep. 

Balance . Faire pencher la balance = To turn the scale. 

Balancer // n'y a pas a balancer = We must not hesi- 
tate, but act. 

Balle . . Une balle perdue = A wasted shot ; A useless 
effort. 

Une balle morte = A spent ball. 

A vous la balle = It is now your turn to act. 

Renvoyer la balle = To return the compli- 
ment. 

Prendre la balle au bond = Not to miss an 
opportunity; To take time by the fore- 
lock ; To make hay while the sun shines. 

[Also : Prendre Voccasion aux cheveux. 
Compare : 

" Rem tibi quam nosces, aptam dimittere noli ; 
Fronte capillata post est Occasio calva. " 

Cato, Distichs, ii. 26. 
" Her lockes, that loathly were and hoarie grey, 
Grew all afore, and loosely hong unrold, 
But all behind was bald, and worne away 
That none thereof could ever taken hold." 
Spenser, Faerie Queene, ii. 4, 4. 



FRENCH IDIOMS AND PROVERBS 



31 



Balle . 

{continued) 



I Ballon 



Ban 



Bande . . 

Banquette 
Barbe . . 



Barre . 



" Occasion turneth a bald noddle after she hath 
presented her locks in front and no hold taken." 

Bacon, Essays, xxi. 
" Remember the old adage and make use o't, 
Occasion's bald behind." 

Massinger, Guardian, iv. i.] 

lis' en acquittera bien^ dest un enfant de la balle 
= He will do it well, he is his father's son. 

[Originally this was applied to children of tennis- 
players, but now to all who follow the profession of 
their fathers.] 

// lanfa un ballon d^essai ava?tt de produire 
son grand ouvrage = He sent out a feeler 
before publishing his great work. 

Le rot convoqua le ban et V arriere-ban = The 

king assembled all his dependants. 

[Le ban were the king's direct vassals, such as earls, 
barons, and knights ; Varrih-e-ban were the king's in- 
direct vassals, or the vassals of vassals. "A procla- 
mation whereby all (except some privileged officers and 
^ citizens) that hold their lands of the Crowne, are sum- 
moned to meet at a certaine place, there to attend the 
King whithersoever and against whomsoever he goes." 

— COTGRAVE.] 

Faire bande a part = Not to mix with other 
people. 

[In Parliamentary parlance, "to form a cave" (of 
AduUam).] 

Jouer ,Jevant les ba?iquettes = (of actors) To 
play to empty benches. 

Sa faire la barbe = To shave. 

Rire dans sa barbe = To laugh in one's sleeve. 

[See Cape. This is used always of men, whereas 
rire sous cape is used chiefly of women.] 

Je le lui dirai a sa barbe = I will say it to his 

face. 
Je lui ferai la barbe quand il voudra = I will 

show him who is master whenever he 

likes. 
Vous arrivez trop tard, la barre est tiree = 

You are too late, the line is drawn, the 

list is closed. 



32 



FRENCH IDIOMS AND PROVERBS 



Barre . 

[continued) 



Bas 



Bkt . 



Bataillon 
Bataille 



Je ne fats que toucher barres = I am off again 

immediately. 
J^ai barres sur lui = I have an advantage 

over him ; I have the whip-hand (the 

pull) over him. 

[Expressions taken from the game of barres, or 
prisoner's base.] 

■^^ porte basse, passant courbe = One must 

bow to circumstances. 
// se retira Voreille basse = He went away 

with his tail between his legs. 
Les vainqueurs firent main basse sur les biens 

des habitants = The victors pillaged the 

town. 
Rester chapeau bas = To stand hat in hand. 
// m'a traits de haut en bas = He treated me 

contemptuously. 

Vous ne savez pas oil le bat le blesse = You 
do not know where the shoe pinches 
him. 

[" Je S9ay mieux ou le bas me blesse." Maistre 
Pierre Paihelin, 1. 1357. Bat = pack-saddle. Com- 
pare the German : Jeder weiss am besten wo ihn der 
Schuh driickt. 

The phrase first appears in Plutarch's Life 0/ 
Aimilius Paullus. A certain Roman having forsaken 
his wife, her friends fell out with him and asked what 
fault he found in her ; was she not faithful and fair, 
and had she not borne him many beautiful children ? 
He replied by putting forth his foot and saying: " Is 
not this a goodly shoe? Is it not finely made, and is 
it not new? And yet I dare say there is not one of 
you can tell where it pinches me."] 



Inconnu au bataillon (fam.) = 
him ; No one knows him. 



I don't know 



Cetait une bataille rangee = It was a pitched 

battle. 
Cet argument est son cheval de bataille = That 

argument is his stronghold ; That is his 

great argument. 



FRENCH IDIOMS AND PROVERBS 33 

Bateau . Arriver en trots bateaux = To come with 
great fuss, in great state, with unnecessary 
ceremony. 

[This expression is usually used sarcastically; it 
originates from great personages or rich merchant- 
men being accompanied by ships of war. Compare 
Rabelais, i. 16, and La Fontaine, Fables, ix, 3. 
Le Uopard et le singe qui gagnent de Vargent a la 
foire.l 

Baton . . // travaille a batons rompus = He works by 

fits and starts. 
Conversation a batons rompus = Desultory 

talk. 
// cherchait d nous mettre des batons dans les 

roues = He tried to put a spoke in our 

wheel. 
Ze tour du baton = Perquisites, illicit 

profits. 
Ce sera mon baton de vieillesse = He will be 

my support (consolation) in my old age. 

Battre . . // lui a battu froid = He gave him the cold 
shoulder. 

[Comp. " Majorum ne quis amicus frigore te feriat." 
—Horace, Sat, ii. i.] 

Battre la campagne = i. (lit.) To scour the 
country. 2. (fig.) To talk nonsense. 3. 
(ot invalids) To wander. 4. To beat 
about the bush. 

Battre la breloque {berloque) = To talk non- 
sense. 

Battre le pave = i. To loaf about. 2. To 
wander about in search for work. 

Tout battant neuf = All brand new. 

Battre le chien devant le loup = To pretend to 
be angry with one person to deceive 
another. 

Avoir les yeux battus = To look tired about 
the eyes. 

La fete battait son plein = The entertsiinment 
was at its height. 

c 



34 



FRENCH IDIOMS AND PROVERBS 



Battre . . Battre quelqu^un a plate couture = To beat 
(continued) some One hollow. 

[Literally, to beat some one so hard and thoroughly, 
as to flatten the seams [toutures) of his coat.] 

*Les battus payent V amende = The weakest go 
to the wall ; Those who lose pay. 
Z'un bat les buissons et Vautre pretid les 
oiseaux = One does the work and the 
other reaps the advantage; One man 
starts the game and another kills it. 

*Autant vaut bien battu que mal battu = As 
well be hanged for a sheep as a lamb; 
In for a penny, in for a pound. (See 
Chien.) 

Baume . Je rHai pas foi dans son baume = I have no 
faith in his plan. 

Bavette . Quand les femmes sont ensemble^ elks taillent 
des bavettes a n^en plus finir = When 
women get together they indulge in end- 
less gossip. 

Beau . . Gaucher a la belle itoile = To sleep out of 

doors. 
Dechirer quelqu^un a belles dents = To criticise 

some one mercilessly ; To tear a person's 

reputation to shreds. 
Ilfera beau quand je retournerai chez lui = It 

will be a very fine day when I go to his 

house again {i.e. I shall never go). 
Voir tout en beau = To see everything through 

rose-coloured spectacles. (See A^oir.) 
Faire le beau = (of dogs) To beg. 
II y a beau temps que je ?ie vous at (pas) vu^l 

have not seen you for many a day. 
J^en entends de belles sur votre compte = I hear 

nice goings-on of you. 
// en a fait de belles = He played nice tricks 

{ironic.\ 
11 vous e?i conte de belles = ¥Lq is telling you 

fine tales ; He is taking you in finely. 



FRENCH IDIOMS AND PROVERBS 



35 



Beau . . Vous me la donnez (or, baillez) belle (ironic.) = 
[continued] A pretty tale you are telling me ; Aren't 

you stuffing me up nicely ? 
Ce que vous proposez est bel et bon, mats je 

n'en ferai rien = What you propose is 

all very fine, but I shall do no such 

thing. 
Aire dans de beaux draps = To be in a pretty 

pickle {ironic). 
Vous Vavez echappe belle = Yo\i have had a 

narrow escape {or^ shave). 
// a beau parler, il ne me convaincra pas = It 

is of no use for him to speak, he will not 

convince me ; Let him say what he will, 

he will not convince me. 

[The origin of this use of beau is obscure. Larousse 
suggests the origin may be in the idea of having a 
fine field for operations, which will be of no value, 
as our : " it is all very fine for me to speak. "] 

// reconmien^a de plus belle = He began again 

worse than ever. 
Vous avez beau jeu = i. (lit.) You have 

good cards. 2. (fig.) You have the 

advantage. 
■*Z« belle plume fait le bel oiseau = Fine feathers 

make fine birds. 
Se mettre au beau = (of the weather) To 

clear up. 
Jouer la.belle = To play the rubber (or third 

game, to see which of the players is the 

conqueror). 

Beaucoup "^Beaucoup de bruit pour rien = Much ado 
about nothing. 

Beauts . La beaute ne se mange pas en salade = Beauty 
does not fill the larder ; Prettiness makes 
no pottage. 

Bee , , . // m'a tenu le bee dans I'eau^ He kept me in 
suspense. 



36 



FRENCH IDIOMS AND PROVERBS 



Bee . . Cest un homme qui ne se laisse pas passer la 

{continued) plume par le bec= He is a man not easily 

taken in. 

[Clerks bet a newcomer that he cannot write with a 
pen in his mouth. On his endeavouring to do so, they 
pull the pen sharply through his lips, thus inking his 
face. " Qu'on me fasse passer la plume par lebec." 
MoLifeRE, Les Femmes Savantes, iii. 6.] 

Cest un blanc bec^lA.^ is a beardless boy, 
greenhorn. 

" Souffrez que je lui montre son bee jaune " = 
Allow me to show him he is a silly goose. 

[MOLIERE, LeMalade Imaginaire, iii. 17. Bee jaune 
or bijaune is an allusion to young birds whose beaks are 
generally yellow.] 

// a bee et ongles=lle knows how to defend 

himself. 
Avoir bon bee (fam.) = To be a chatterbox; 

To speak well; To be able to answer 

back. 

["II n'est bon bee que de Paris" is the refrain of 
Villon's " Ballade des Femmes de Paris."] 

B^casse . Oest une beeasse = She is a goose. 
B^cher . Beeher quelquun (fam.) = To pick a person to 
pieces. 

B^ndfice . Sous {ox, par) benefiee (Vinventaire=i. (ht. in 
a legal sense) Without prejudice. 2. (fig.) 
Only to a certain point, conditionally, for 
what it is worth, with a pinch of salt. 

[e.g. II faut croire ce conte sous bdn^fice d'inventaire. 
The origin of the legal phrase arose from the fact that 
an inheritor is liable for the debts of the deceased 
only in proportion to his inheritance, which is verified 
by the inventory. Thus, if the debts are more than 
the inheritance, a sole heir would decline to inherit at all. 
Compare : 

" Un paien, qui sentait quelque peu le fagot 
Et qui croyait en Dieu, pour user de ce mot, 
Par b^n^fice d'inventaire." 

La Fontaine, Fables, iv. 19.] 

// faut prendre le benefiee avee les eharges = 
One must take the rough with the smooth. 



FRENCH IDIOMS AND PROVERBS 



37 



Bercer 
Berger 
Berlue . 

Besogne 
Besoin 

Bete . 



J^ai ete berce de cela = I have heard that from 
my cradle. 

Bon berger tond mats n^ecorche pas = We may 
use but not abuse our subordinates. 

Avoir la berlue (fam.) - To see things which 
do not exist; To have a wrong idea of 
anything. 

Aimer la besogne faite = To hate work ; To 

Hke to get work over. 
Abattre de la besogne = To get through a great 

deal of work. 



"^On connait les ajfiis aic besoin = K friend in 
need is a fPiend indeed. (See Ami.) 

*0n a souvent besoin d^un plus petit que soi = 
A mouse may be of service to a lion. 

[La Fontaine, Fables, ii. ii,] 

''^ Morte la bete^ mort le venin = Dead dogs can- 
not bite ; Dead men tell no tales. 

Cethofnme est ma bete noire {inon cauchemar) = 
That man is my pet aversion ; I hate the 
very sight of that man. 

Fas si bete = Not so green, foolish. 

// est bete a manger du foin = He is a perfect 
idiot. 

[Also : bete comme {un) chou, une oie, un pot, une 
cruche.\ 

*Qui se fait bete, le loup le mange = \{ one is 
too confiding, one is imposed upon. (See 
Brebis.) 
Oest une bonne bete (or, la bete du bon Dieu) 
= He is a good-natured fellow (not over- 
clever). 
Une bete a bon Dieu (or, bete a Dieu) = A 

ladybird. 
Plus Jin que lui n'est pas bete=\t would take 
a smart man to deceive him. 



38 FRENCH IDIOMS AND PROVERBS 

Beurre . On ne pent manier le beurre qu'ofi ne se graisse 
les doigts = One cannot touch pitch with- 
out soiling one's fingers ; If you have to 
do with money, some will stick. 

[" But I think they that touch pitch will be defiled." 
Much Ado about Nothing, iii. 3.] 

II faut faire son beurre = One must make a 
profit ; One must feather one's nest. 

pz entre conune dans du beurre = (fig.) It 
is as easy as anything. 

Bien . . *Ze mieux est fennemi du bien=^Q2iVQ well 

alone. 
Grand bien vous fasse = Much good may it 

do you. • 

Le navire a peri corps et biens = The ship 

went down with all hands on board. 
// a du bien au soleil = He has landed 

property. 
I/s sent stpares de corps et de biens = They 

have had a judicial separation {a ?nensa et 

thoro). 
Tout va bien = It is all right. 
Cest bien fait = It serves you (him, her) 

right. 
Cest bien /w/ = That's he all over. 
On y est trh bien = The accommodation there 

is very good. 
Je suis tres bien ici=l am quite comfortable 

here. 
*Qui est bien qu'il s^y tienne = Rest content 

where thou art; Better dry bread at home 

than roast meat abroad. 
Get ho/rune est tres bien=^ He is a gentleman. 
Mener une entreprise a bien = To bring an 

affair to a successful issue. 
// est sur son bien-dire = He is on his best 

behaviour ; He minds his p's and q's. 
Nous voila bien (ironic.) = Here is a nice state 

of things. 



FRENCH IDIOMS AND PROVERBS 



39 



Bien . . II ne faut attendre son bien que de soi-meme = 
(continued) Always rely on yourself. 

Le bien lui vient en dormant = He becomes ' 

rich without any trouble. 
Tant bien que mal- So-so ; Neither well nor 
ill ; After a fashion. (See Tant.) 

Bientot . Ce/a est bientot dit=Th.2X is easier said than 
done. 

Bile . . Ne pas sefaire de bile (fam.) = To take things 
easily. 

Billet . . Un billet de faire part = A letter by which a 
birth, marriage, or death is made known 
to friends. 

[Cards are used in England for marriages and deaths.] 

Un billet doux = A love letter. 
"^Ah I le bon billet qu'a La Chaire = Promises 
are like pie-crust, made to be broken. 

[The Marquis de la Ch^tre was the lover of the 
celebrated Ninon de I'Enclos {1616-1706). When he 
was obliged to go off to the wars, he made her write 
him a letter promising to remain faithful to him. On 
taking another lover, she remembered the letter she had 
written, and uttered these words, which have become 
proverbial for any worthless promise.] 

Blanc . . J^ai passe une nuit blanche = I have not slept 
a wink all night. 
Dire tantot blanc^ tantot noir = To say first 

one thing and then another. 
Se manger le blanc des yeux = To have a 
furious quarrel. 
*J^ouge le soir et blanc le matin ^ 
C^est lajournee du pelerin =■■ 

Red at night is the shepherd's delight, 
Red in the morning, the shepherd's warn- 
ing. 
Evening red and morning gray 
Are two sure signs of a fine day. 
Bl^ . . . Manger son ble en herbe = To anticipate one's 
revenue. 



40 FRENCH IDIOMS AND PROVERBS 

Bleu . . fen suis tout bleu (fam.) = Well ! I atfi sur- 
prised. 

Bloc . . En bloc = In the mass, in the lump. 

Boire . . Plus il boit, plus il a soif = Ever drunk, ever 
dry. 
*Qin' a bu tHa point de secrets = When wine 
sinks, words swim ; In vino Veritas ; 
Drink washes off the daub, and discovers 
the man ; What the sober man has in his 
heart, the drunkard has on his lips. 

[" La v^ritd sort mieux d'un lonneau qued'un puits." 
AUGIER, VAventurihre, ii. 4.] 

*Le vin est tire^ il faut le boire = You have 
gone too far now to draw back; In for 
a penny, in for a pound. 

[At the siege of Douai in 1667, Louis XIV. found 
himself unexpectedly under a heavy cannonade from 
the besieged city. In compliance with the entreaties of 
those around him, who urged him not to risk so im- 
portant a life, he was about to retire in a somewhat 
unsoldierly and unkingly fashion, when M. de Charost 
rode up and whispered this proverb in his ear. The 
king remained exposed to the fire of the enemy for 
a suitable time, and held in higher honour the coun- 
sellor who had saved him from an unseemly retreat. 
— Trench. " Le vin est tir6, Monsieur, il faut le 
boire " is a line in Regnard's Joueur, iii. 2.] 

Ce n^est pas la mer h boire = That is no very 

difficult matter. 
// boit du lait (fam.) = He is satisfied, happy. 
'''Qui a bu boira = Habit is second nature; If 
you take to the habit of drinking you 
cannot get rid of it. 

[" Et quiconque a jou6, toujours joue et jouera." 
Regnard, Le Joueur, iv, i.] 

Boire comme un trou {une eponge) = To drink 

like a fish. 
Boire un bouillon (lit.) = To swallow water 

(when swimming); To swallow a bitter 

pill ; To lose a lot of money. 
Boire sec = To drink hard ; To drink wine 

neat (without adding water). 



FRENCH IDIOMS AND PROVERBS 4 1 

Boire . . Boire le calice jusqu'd la lie = To drink the 
{continued) cup to the dregs. 

// boirait la mer et ses poissons = Nothing 

can assuage his thirst. 
Croyez cela et buvez de Veau (fam.) = Do not 
believe that, I know it is not true ; Surely 
you are not simple enough to believe that ! 
''' Qui fait la f ante la boit= As you have brewed, 
so you must drink; As you have sown, 
so you must reap; As you make your 
bed, so you must lie on it. 
Boire a tire-larigot = To drink excessively. 

[The origin of this expression is obscure. Larousse 
gives the following explanation, adding that it was 
probably invented to explain the saying, as it can 
be found in no ancient author. " Odo Rigaud was 
formerly Archbishop of Rouen, and in celebration 
of his appointment he had a huge bell cast for his 
cathedral in 1282. This bell was called after him la 
Rigaud. After ringing this bell, the bellringers required 
much wine to refresh them ; hence boire d tire larigot, 
or la Rigaud, meant to drink like one who has been 
ringing a heavy bell." Littrd favours the derivation 
from larigot, or arigot, a little flute, and then the ex- 
pression would be analogous \.o fl liter, a popular word 
for boire. But probably the correct explanation is that 
of Sainte-Palaye, who sayjs that a later meaning of 
arigot was the tap of a cask, so that this being pulled 
out, one could drink more without any delay.] 

Bois . . On Terra de quel bois je me chauffe = They 

will see what stuff I am made of. 
Fairefleche de tout bois = To use every means 

to accomplish an end ; To leave no stone 

unturned. 
// ne s avail plus de quel bois faire fl}che= He 

did not know which way to turn. (See 

Saint and Pied.) 
II est du bois dont on fait les flutes = H e is 

of an easy, pliable disposition {i.e. like 

the flexible reeds of which flutes were 

originally made). 
Nous avojis trouve visage de bois = We found 

nobody at home ; " We found the oak 

sported." 



42 FRENCH IDIOMS AND PROVERBS 

Bois . . Le bois tortu fait le feu droU= The end justi- 
(continued) fies the means. 

Boiteux . // ne faut pas docker devant les boiteux = 
One must not remind people of their 
infirmities. (See Corde.) 

Bombarder // vienf d''etre bombarde membre de ce club — 
He has just been pitchforked into that 
club (over the heads of more deserving 
people). 

Bon . . II la fait courte et bonne — He is having a 

short life and a merry one. 
■^yi quelque chose malheur est bon = It is an ill 
wind that blows nobody any good. 
Dites-moi une bonne fois pourquoi vous etes 

mkontent = Tell me once and for all why 

you are dissatisfied. 
A quoi bon lui dire cela ? = What is the good 

of telling him that ? 
A la bonne heuret= i. Well done ! 2. That 

is something like ! 3. At last ! 4. 

Capital! 
// n^est pas bon a jeter aux chiens = He is 

good for nothing. 
// a bon pied, bon ceil = He is sound, wind 

and limb ; He is hale and hearty. 
Faire bonne mine a mauvais jeu — To put a 

good face on misfortune ; To make the 

best of a bad job. 

[Also : Faire contre fortune bon cceur.] 

*A bon Jour, bonne ceuvre — The better the 
day, tlie better the deed. 
Tout lui est bon = All is fish that comes to 

his net. 
Si bon vous semble=l( you think fit. 
"^Les bons comptes font les bons amis = Short 

reckonings make long friends. 
*A bon vin point d^enseigne = Good wine needs 
no bush. (See Vin.) 



FRENCH IDIOMS AND PROVERBS 



43 



Bon. . . Une bonne futte vaut mieux qu!une mauvaise 
{^continued) attente = Discretion is the better part of 

valour. 
En voila une bonne I (i.e. plaisanterte) ; Elle 
est bonne ^ celle-la I — Oh ! what a good 
joke ! " What a cram ! " That's rather a 
tall story. 
Est-ce quHl est parti pour tout de bon ^ = Has 
he gone for good ? 
Bond . . Faire faux bond= i. To deceive. 2. To fail 
to keep an appointment. 
// ne va que par sauts et par bonds = Yie only 

works by fits and starts. 
Tant de bond que de volee = By hook or by 
crook. 
Bonheur . Au petit bonheur / = I will chance it ! 
Par bonheur = As luck would have it. 
Bonhomme Petit bonhomme vit encore = There's life in 
the old dog yet. 

[An expression derived from a game which consisted 
in lighting a large roll of paper and passing it round a 
circle of people, each one repeating these words. The 
roll would often appear to be out, when a vigorous 
swirl would fan it again into a flame.] 

Boniment Faiseur de bonifnent (pop.) = A cheap-jack, 
clpp-trap speaker. 

\Bonir = to talk like clowns at a fair,] 

Bonjour . C'est simple comme bonjour = It is as easy as 

kiss your hand. 
Bonnet . '''Cest bonnet blanc et blanc bonnet = It is six 
of one and half-a-dozen of the other. 
Oest un des gros bonnets (or, legumes) de 
Vendroit = He is one of the bigwigs of 
the place. 
// a la tete pres du bonnet = He is quick- 
tempered, easily ruffled. 
// a mis son bonnet de tr avers = He is in a 
bad temper ; He got out of bed the wrong 
side. 

[Also : // s'est levd du mauvais coU (or, pied).'] 



44 



FRENCH IDIOMS AND PROVERBS 



Bonnet 

(continued) 



Borgne 

Borne . 
Borner 

Bossu . 
Botte . 



Bouc 



Jeter son bonnet par dessus les moulins (of 
women) = To throw off all restraint ; Not 
to care a straw for what people may think 
of your bad conduct. 

Ce sont deux tetes dans un bonnet = They are 
hand and glove together. 

^tre triste (gai, ironic.) comme un bonnet de 
nuit = To be as dull as ditch water; To be 
in the dumps. 

[Also : Gai comme une porte de prison. '] 

J I a pris cela sous son bonnet = i. He in- 
vented it. 2. He took it upon himself. 

Ses colllgues opinent du bonnet = His colleagues 
agree with what he says (without speaking). 
(See Opiner.) 

**■" Dans le royaume des aveugles les borgnes 
sont ;'<?/>" = Among the blind, the one- 
eyed is king. 

[The quotation comes from J. J, Rousseau's Con- 
fessions, Part i., Bk. v.] 

// est plante la comme une borne - He stands 
there like a post. 

II faut savoir se borner = One must place 
limits on one's desires. 

[" Qui ne sait se borner ne sut jamais dcrire." 

BoiLEAU, Art PoUique, i.] 

Rire comme un bossu = To split one's sides 
with laughter. 

// a mis du foin dans ses bottes = He has 

feathered his nest ; He has taken care of 

number one. 
// est haut comme ma botte = He is a mere 

sixpennyworth of halfpence; He is very 

short. 
A propos de bottes = With reference to nothing 

in particular. 

Cest le bouc emissaire = He is the scapegoat. 



FRENCH IDIOMS AND PROVERBS 



45 



Bouche . Faire la bouche en cceur = To try and look 
amiable; To put on a captivating look; 
To purse up one's lips. 
Cet argumenf me ferma la boucke = Thsit argu- 
ment was a poser for me; I could not 
reply to that. 
II y en avail a bouche que veux-tu = There was 

a plentiful supply of it. 
Je garde cela pour la bonne bouche = I am 
keeping that for the last. 

\_Une bonne bouche = A X\i-h\\..] 

II prend sur sa bouche pour aider ces gens = 

He stints himself to help those people. 
Faire la petite bouche = To be dainty ; To have 

a small appetite ; To be hard .to please. 
Bouche close {cousue) ! = Not a word, mind ! 

"Mum's the word." 
La bouche fendue jusqu aux oreilles = A mouth 

stretching from ear to ear. 
Eire sur sa bouche = To be an epicure. 

Bouchde . Mettre les bouchees doubles = To eat quickly ; 
To hurry. 

Perdre la boule (pop.) = To lose one's head; 
Not to know what one is doing. (See 
Tramontane. ) 

Bourgeois Les officiers etaient en bourgeois (or, en civil) = 

The officers were in plain clothes, in mufti. 

Elk fait une bomie cuisi?ie bourgeoise = She is 

a good plain cook. 
Je pre fids ?nes repas dans une pension bour- 
geoise = I board at a private boarding- 
house. 

*Selon ta bourse gouverne ta bouche =C\i\. your 

coat according to your cloth. 

[" Fond pride of dress is sure a very curse ; 
Ere fancy you consult, consult your purse." 
Benjamin Franklin.] 

Faire bon marche de sa bourse = To say a 
thing has cost less than it has. 



• Boule 



: Bourse 



46 FRENCH IDIOMS AND PROVERBS 

Bourse . Obtenir une bourse au lycee = To gain an 
(continued) exhibition (or, scholarship) at a public 

school. 
Avoir toujours la bourse a la fnain = To have 

always one's hand in one's pocket. 
Loger le diable dans sa bourse = To be penni- 
less. 

[Coins generally had a cross on them, which was a 
protection against the devil, {^q Diable.) Compare 
Goldsmith, Vicar of Wakefield, xxi.— " We have not 
seen the cross of her money. "] 

Amijusqu^h la bourse = A lukewarm friend. 
Sans bourse df<?//Vr= Without any expense. 

Bout . . ////>« ^ /^^w//^r/a;2/= He fired point-blank. 

'''Au bout de Vaune faut (or, manque) le drap = 

• There is an end to everything ; The last 

straw breaks the camel's back. 
// est econome de bouts de chandelle^Yie is 
penny wise and pound foolish. 

[Or, II fait des Economies de bouts de chandelle.'] 

II a ri du bout des Ih'res = He laughed in a 
forced manner. 

// est pohe jusqu'au bout des ongles = He is a 
poet to his finger-tips. 

y> sttis a bout de force = I am exhausted, done 
up. 

Cest le bout du monde = That is the utmost. 

Atre au bout de son rouleau, de sott latin, de 
sa ga?nme = To be at one's wits' end; Not 
to know what to do. 

// repete la 7neme chose a tout bout de champ 
= He repeats the same thing every in- 
stant, every time he has the chance. 

Eh bien I au bout du compte vous avez tort = 
Well ! you are wrong, after all. 

Ma patience est a bout =M.y patience is ex- 
hausted. 

// m^a pousse a bout=He provoked me be- 
yond endurance. 



FRENCH IDIOMS AND PROVERBS 



47 



Bout . . Laisser voir le bout de Poreille = To show 

{continued) One's ignorance {or, true character); To 

show what one is driving at; To show 

the cloven hoof. 

[A reference to the fable of the ass in the lion's skin.] 

Tenir le haut bout = To have the whip 
hand. 

\ Boute-en-train Cest un vrai boute-en-train — He is the 

I very life and soul of the party. 

Bouteille . // n^a rien vu que par le trou (fufie boiiteille = 
He has seen nothing of the world. 
Cest la bouteille a Vencre que cette affaire = 
This is a very obscure matter; That affair 
is as clear as mud. 

Boutique. Toute la boutique (pop.) = The whole show 
{i.e. a thing and everything connected 
t with it) ; The whole boiling ; The whole 

•\ bag of tricks. 

'ti, [Also: tout le tremblement, and, le diable et son 

*' train.'\ 

t^ Braise. . "^Tomber de la poele dans la braise = To fall 
^ out of the frying-pan into the fire. 

Passer sur une chose comjtie un chat stir la 
braise = To pass lightly over a subject. 

Branche . £tre comme roiseau sur la branche = To be 

very unsettled. 

[This generally refers to a man's position in life, 
whether he will stay where he is or be made to leave.] 

Branler . "^Tout ce qui branle ne tontbe pas = A creaking 
gate hangs long. 

Bras . . Bras dessus bras dessous = Arm in arm. 
J'ai les bras rojupus = My arms are tired. 
Cette perte nous coupe bras et jambes = This 

loss cripples us entirely. 
Les bras me tombent de surprise (or, fu^en tom- 

bent) = I am struck dumb with surprise. 
// a le bras long= He has great influence. 



48 



FRENCH IDIOMS AND PROVERBS 



Bras . 

(continued) 



Brebis . 



*Si vous hi en donnez long comme le doigt, il 
en prendra long comme le bras = Give him 
an inch, he will take an ell. 

[" Laissez leur prendre un pied chez vous 
lis en auront bientot pris quatre." 

La Fontaine, Fables, ii. 7. 
German : Wer sich auf den Achseln sitzen lasst, dem 
sitzt man nachher auf dem Kopfe= Who lets one sit on 
his shoulders shall have him presently sit on his head. 

Italian : Si ti lasci metter in spalla il vitello, quindi a 
poco ti metter an la vacca=If thou suffer a calf to be 
laid on thee, within a little they'll clap on the cow.] 

Je rai saisi a bras le corps = I seized him 
round the waist (in a struggle). 

/e rai baitu a tour de bras (or, a bras 
raccourci) = I beat him with all my might. 

Pourquoi restez-vous la les bras croises? = 
Why are you waiting there doing nothing? 

fai ses enfants sur les bras=l have his chil- 
dren on my hands. 

*A brebis tondue Dieu mesure le vent = God 
tempers the wind to the shorn lamb. 

[Also: Dieu donne le froid selon le drap.. This is 
said to occur first in a collection of proverbs made by 
Henri Estienne (Stephanus), 1594. The earliest men- 
tion in English is, I believe, in Sterne's Sentimental 
Journey. 1 

* Qui se fait brebis^ leloup le mange = He who 

is too confiding is imposed upon ; Daub 
yourself with honey and you'll be covered 
with flies. 
^Brebis comptees le loup les mange = Counting 
one's chickens will not keep the fox off; 
If you count your chickens, harm will 
happen to them. 

[Compare Vergil, EcL, vii. 52. This somewhat 
difficult expression can also be translated : "A bold 
thief is not frightened at things being counted." It no 
doubt refers to the old superstition that counting one's 
possessions was followed by misfortune, as in 2 Samuel 
xxiv.] 

* Brebis qui bele perd sa goulee = It is the silent 

sow that sucks the wash. 



FRENCH IDIOMS AND PROVERBS 



49 



Brebis . . La brebis galeuse = The black sheep. 
{continued) // ne faut qu'une brebis galeuse pour infecter 
tout le troupeau = One scabby sheep will 
taint the whole flock ; One ill weed mars 
a whole pot of pottage. 

[Also : Pomme pourrie gate sa compagnie = One 
rotten apple spoils the whole basket. ] 

Bredouille Revenir bredouille = (of sportsmen) To return 
with an empty bag; To have made an 
unsuccessful attempt; To return disap- 
pointed. 
Se coucher bredouille = To go to bed supper- 
less. 

Bride . . *^ cheval donne on ne regarde pas a la bride = 
One does not look a gift-horse in the 
mouth. 
// courait a toute bride (or, a bride abattue) = 

He was running at full speed. 
Je lui at mis la bride sur le cou — I gave him 

full liberty. 
Vous lui te?iez la bride trop haute = You keep 
him too much under restraint. 

Briller . . *Tout ce qui brille (or, reluit) n' est pas or = All 
is not gold that glitters. 

Brin . . Nous, n'avons pas un brin de feu = We have 
not got a bit of fire. 
Oest un beau brin de fille = She is a fine slip 
of a girl. 

Bris^e . . // court sur mes brisees = (lit.) He pursues the 
same game as I do ; (fig.) He poaches on 
my preserves. 

[Bristles = small branches broken from trees and 
dropped on the ground to mark the lair or path of a 
beast.] 

Briser . . Brisons la I = Let us have no more of that ; 
That will do. 

Brochette £tre a la brochette = i. To be brought up 
by hand (of a bird). 2. To be brought 
up tenderly, with too much care. 

D 



50 



FRENCH IDIOMS AND PROVERBS 



Broder . Je crois que vous brodez = (fig.) I think you 
are exaggerating, romancing. 
// brode bie7i = He is good at drawing the 
long bow. 

Brouillard ^tablir une rente sur les brouillards de la Seine 
= To have an income in the clouds {i.e. 
nothing). 

Brouiller . Est-ce que vous vous etes brouillis 1 = Are you 
no longer friends ? 
// a eu le malheur de se brouiller avec la justice 
= He was unfortunate enough to fall out 
with justice {i.e. to be punished by im- 
prisonment, fine, etc.). 

Brouter . *Oii la chlvre est attachee il faut qu'elle broute 
= One must bow to circumstances ; One 
must put up with the inconveniences of 
one's position if one can get nothing 
better; One must not expect more from 
life than life can give; We must take 
things as we find them. 

[" L^ ou la chlvre est lide il faut bien qu'elle y 
broute." — MoLifeRE, Le M^decin malgrd lui, iii. 3.] 

L'herbe sera bien courte s'il ?ie trouve a brouter 

= He would live on nothing ; It will go 

hard if he does not pick up a living. 

Bruit . . Faire plus de bruit que de besogne - To be 

more fussy than industrious. 

'''Grand bruit, petite besogne = The more hurry, 

the less speed ; Great cry, little wool. 

*Qui a bruit de se lever 7natin peut dormir 

jusqu'au soir = A good reputation covers 

many sins. 

Les tonneaux vides sont cet/x qui font le plus 

de bruit = The worst wheel makes the 

most noise. 

BHiler . . lis' est bride la cervelle = He blew his brains out. 
lis tirerent sur lui a brule-pourpoint = They 
fired at him point-blank (so as to burn 
his doublet). 






FRENCH IDIOMS AND PROVERBS 



51 



Bruler . . // ^iia pose cette question a brule-pourpoint = 
[continued) He asked me that question quite unex- 

pectedly. 

Brfiler uue station {une etape) = To run 
through a station {or^ a halting-place) 
without stopping. 

Brfder le pave = To dash along at full speed, 
to "scorch." 

Bruler a petit feu = To wait impatiently, to 
be on thorns. 

Cherchez bien^ vous brulez = Search well, you 
are getting warm. 

[Said to children who are looking for a hidden object, 
and are getting near it.] 

Nous avons bride nos vaisseaux = There is no 
going back now; We mean to fight to 
the last. 

[Agathocles, tyrant of Syracuse, on landing in Africa 
317 B.C., burnt his vessels in order to force his soldiers 
to conquer or to die. William of Normandy (1066) 
and Cortez (1518) did the same.] 

l/n acteur qui brfde les planches = An actor 
who plays with spirit, "go." 

Bruler la politesse = To behave rudely by 
leaving a person abruptly. 

■^// n^y a si petit buisson qui ne porte ombre = 
There is no man, however humble, who 
cannot aid (or, injure) his superior. 
Trouver buissoti creux = To find the birds 
flown. 

* On ne saurait /aire d^une buse un epervier — 
One cannot make a silk purse out of a 
sow's ear. 

[' ' Que I'en ne puet fere espervier 
En nule guise d'ung busart. " 
GuiLLAUME DE LoRRis, Roman de la Rose, 3839. 
Also: D'un goujat on ne pent pas f aire un gentil- 
hontme=l\. takes three generations to make a gentle- 
man ; and D'un sac a charbon il ne saurait sortir 
blanche fari7ie. ] 

But . . . De but en bla7ic = Point-blank ; Abruptly. 



Buisson 



Buse 



52 



FRENCH IDIOMS AND PROVERBS 



ga 



Cabinet 
Cachet 



Cadet . 

Cadran 

Cage . 
Caisse . 



Cale 



Campagne 



Ca a sa petite volonte (fam.) = It has a will 
of its own (in speaking of children, etc.). 

C'est toujours fa = That is something, at any 
rate. 

Fas plus que ca ? ; Rieti que fa? = Is that all ? 

[This is generally used ironically : e.^. Le cocher 
m'a demand^ vingt francs pour aller de la Place de la 
Concorde k Longchamp ! — Rien que 9a?] 

Cet avocat a un bon cabifiet = That barrister 

has a good practice. 
Courir le cachet =^0 go from house to house 

giving private lessons. 

[This expression comes from the custom of the 
master giving to the pupil a number of tickets (called 
cachets) at the first lesson, for which the pupil pays, 
and gives one back at the end of each lesson. J 

Cest le cadet de mes soucis = That is the least 
of my cares; That is the last thing I 
worry about. 

11 a fait le tour du cadran = 1. He has slept 
the clock round. 2. He has worked for 
twelve hours at a stretch. 

''La belle cage ne nourrit pas Voiseau = Fine 
clothes do not fill the stomach. 

// tie7it la caisse = (lit.) He keeps the cash 
account ; (fig.) He holds the purse-strings. 

11 fait la caisse = He is making up his cash 
account. 

Quel est Vetat de voire caisse ? = How much 
cash have you in hand ? 

Eire a fond de cale (fam.) = To be hard up, 

at the end of one's resources. 

[Also more pop. : battre la dtche. See Sec and 
ArgentJl 

En rase (or, pleine) campagne = In the open 
country. 



FRENCH IDIOMS AND PROVERBS 



53 



Campagne 

{continued) 



Camus 



Canard 



Cane 



Capable 



Cape 



Battre la campagne. (See Battre.) 
Se mettre en campagne = (lit, of a general) 
To take the field; (fig.) To canvass or 
look out for a post ; To start working. 

Rendre un ho7nme camus = To stop a man's 
mouth ; To make a man look small. 

// demeura tout camus = He had not a word 
to say for himself; He was " stumped." 

Cette nouvelle n^est qu^un canard — That story 
is all humbug. 

[Canard is an absurd tale mocking the credulity of 
listeners. Littr6 derives the word from the phrase 
vendre a quelqtiun un canard a moitU — to half sell a 
duck to any one, i.e. not to sell it at all, and so, to 
cheat. A moitid was suppressed and un canard came 
to mean a cheat, a sell. Many other explanations are 
given of this word.] 

Faire la cane = To run away ; To show the 

white feather. 

[This expression literally means to bob down, like 
a duck, to escape being shot. The verb caner (=to 
funk) is more often used now, or the less familiar 
caponner. "To show the white feather" arises from 
the fact that white feathers in game-cocks show im- 
purity of breed.] 

// prend un air capable = He puts on a 

bumptious look. 
Cest un homme capable de tout= He is a man 

that would stick at nothing. 

Rtre sous cape (or, sous sa coiffe) = To laugh 
in one's sleeve (generally of women. See 
Barbe.) 

JSPavoir que la cape et Vepee = To be titled 
but penniless (generally used of young 
officers who have nothing but their 
pay). 

Roman de cape et d^epee = A romantic, melo- 
dramatic tale {e.g. Dumas, Les Trots 
Mousquetaires). 



54 



FRENCH IDIOMS AND PROVERBS 



Caract^re 



Carat 



Car^me 



Caque . . "^Z^ caque sent toujours le hareng = What is 
bred in the bone will never come out of 
the flesh. 

["You may break, you may shatter the vase, if you 
will. 
But the scent of the roses will hang round it still. " 
Moore, Farewell.'] 

II a le caractere Hen fait = He is always good- 
tempered. 

// a le caractlre mal fait = He cannot take a 
joke. 

Oest un sot a vingt-quatre carats = He is an 
out-and-out fool, an A i fool. 

[" Enfin quoique ignorante k vingt et trois carats." 
La Fontaine, Fables, vii. 15.] 

*6V/a arrive comnie mars en careine = That 

comes regularly, like clockwork. 
*Cela arrive comme maree en careme = That 

comes very seasonably, just at the right 

time. 
Uneface de careme - A sad, pale, woe-begone 

face (like that of one who has fasted all 

Lent). 
Precher sept ans pour un careme — To do a 

great deal for little good. 

Carpe . . Muet comme une carpe = As dumb as an 

oyster. 
Battler comme une carpe = To yawn one's 

head off. 
Elk fait la carpe pamee (fam.) = She turns up 

the whites of her eyes ; She pretends to 

be ill ; She looks like a dying duck in a 

thunderstorm. 

[Also : Faire des yeux de merlan frit!\ 

Carrd . . £/>^d/^^r/^> ^r^rr/^ = A party composed of two 
ladies and two gentlemen. 
Oest une tete carree = He is an obstinate fellow. 

Carreau . C'est un valet de carreau = He is a con- 
temptible fellow, a snob. 



FRENCH IDIOMS AND PROVERBS 



55 



Carreau . Coucher sur le carreau = To sleep on the floor. 
[continued) II Pa laisse sur le carreau — He killed him 
{pr^ left him for dead on the ground). 
// est reste sur le carreau = He was killed on 
the spot, left for dead on the ground. 
[Formerly the floors of rooms were paved with square 
tiles or bricks called carreaux. Kitchens are still so 
paved in France, and often ground-floor rooms in the 
country.] 

Carte . . Battre les cartes = To shuffle the cards. 

Bonner les cartes = To deal the cards. 

Brouiller les cartes = (fig.) To sow discord. 

Elk lui a tire les cartes = She told his for- 
tune (by cards). 

// a vii le dessous des cartes = He has been 
behind the scenes; he is in the secret, 
"in the know." 

Jouer cartes sur table = To play openly ; To 
act frankly. 

Donner carte blanche = To give full permis- 
sion ; To grant a person full liberty to act 
according to his judgment. 

Je connais la carte du pays = I know the 
country well. 

Oest un homme qui ne perd pas la carte = He 
is a man who keeps his wits about him, 
who has an eye to the main chance. 

Oest un chateau de cartes que cette maison = 
This is a jerry-built house. 

Carton . . Rester dans les cartons = To be pigeon-holed. 
Des objets de carton = (fig.) Gimcrack things. 
Cas . . . C'est bien le cas de le dire = One may indeed 

say so. 
// n'est pas dans le cas de vous nuire = He is 

not in a position to harm you. 
Le cas echeant = In such a case ; If such 

should be the case. 
Cest le cas ou jamais = It is now or never. 
Nous enfaisons grand cas = We value it very 

highly. 



56 



FRENCH IDIOMS AND PROVERBS 



Cas . . . Tout mauvais cas est niable = A man may be 
(continued) expected to deny a deed that he knows to 

be wrong. 
Uft en-cas =-. Something prepared in case of 
need. 

[Formerly this was said of a slight meal placed in a 
bedroom in case one should wake in the night and need 
food. Now it rather refers to anything that can be 
used in case guests arrive unexpectedly. Also of a 
parasol that can be used as an umbrella in case it 
rains. The latter is more usually called un en-tout-cas.] 

Casser . l^ne noce a tout casser (pop.) = A rare old 
jollification. 
Vous me cassez la iete avec voire bruit ■= You 

split my head with your noise. 
Je ne me casse pas la tete avec (or, pour) 
de telles bagatelles = I don't worry my 
head {or, rack my brains) over such 
trifles. 
// nous cassait Vencensoir sur le nez = He was 
smothering us with flatteries. 

[To ' incense ' any one would be to honour or praise 
him, but to break the censer against his nose would be 
overdoing it.] 

Zes fatigues out casse cet homme = Hardships 

have broken that man down. 
J^ai casse une croute — I just had a snack. 
Cet homme casse les vitres = That man speaks 

out boldly, to bring matters to a crisis ; 

That man does not pick and choose his 

words. 
On ne fait pas d' omelettes sans casser des oeufs 

= Nothing is done without trouble and 

sacrifice. 

[A saying attributed to Napoleon I. in defence of the 
great mortality caused by his wars.] 

Payer les pots cassSs = To stand the racket. 
Se casser le nez = i. To fall on one's face. 

2. To knock up against an obstacle. 3. 

To fail in an enterprise. 



FRENCH IDIOMS AND PROVERBS 



57 



Cataplasme C'est comme un cataplasme sur une jambe de 
bois = A nod is as good as a wink to a 
blind horse. 

Catholique Cet individu na pas Pair catholique = That 
man does not look very trustworthy. 
Vofre vin est trop catholique = Y our wine is 
too weak, {i.e. baptised with water). 

Cause . . II park en connaissance de cause = He knows 
what he is talking about. 
J^e ne veux pas y aller et pour cause = I do not 
want to go there, and for a very good reason. 
J^ai toujours pris fait et cause pour vous = I 
have always stood up for you, taken up 
the cudgels in your defence. 
// a eu gain de cause = He gained the day. 
Un avocat sans cause = A briefless barrister. 
Vous etes hors de cause = You are not con- 
cerned in the matter; This has nothing 
to do with you. 

Caution . // est sujet a caution = He is not to be relied 
upon. 

[Cauiion, meaning "bail," implies that he cannot be 
trusted except on bail.] 

Ce . . . A ce que je vois = As far as I can judge. 

Ce que je sais^ c^est que c'est un voleur = All 

I know is that he is a thief. 
Sur ce il s'en alia = After that he went away. 
Ce que dest que de nous ! = What poor mortals 
we are ! 

Ceinture . * Bonne renommee vaut mieux que ceinture doree 
= A good name is better than riches ; 
He who has lost his reputation is a dead 
man among the living. 

\Ceinture here refers to the purse which was in, or 
attached to, the girdle. Compare Proverbs xxii. i, 
"A good name is rather to be chosen than great 
riches," and 

"The purest treasure mortal times afford 
Is spotless reputation ; that away, 
Men are but gilded loam or painted clay." 

Shakespeare, Richard II. i. i.] 



58 FRENCH IDIOMS AND PROVERBS 

Cela . . C^est parler ce/a=-Tha.t is what I call talking. 
C'es^ cect, dest cela = It is sometimes one 

thing, sometimes another. 
J^our faj non I = Not a bit of it ; Certainly 

not. 
// est comme cela = I'hat is his way. 
CUst bien co7nme cela I = That is just it ! ! 
C'est cela meme ! = That's the very thing 
Four cela 7neme = For that very reason. 
N^est-ce que cela ? = Is that all ? 

Cent . . En un mot comme en cent = Once and 
for all. 
Je voiis le donne en cent = I bet you loo to i 

you will not guess it. 
*Cent ans banniere^ cent ans civiere = Up to-day, 
down to-morrow ; Every dog has his day. 

[Banni^re is here used as the mark of nobility. 
Also: Aujourd'/iuic/ievalier, demain vacher. German: 
Heute miry morgen dir. Latin : Hodie mihi, eras tibi.'] 

Cent ans de chagrin ne patent pas un sou de 
dettes = Worrying will not pay your debts. 

Cervelle . Ze scelerat se brula la cervelle = The scoundrel 
blew his brains out. 

[Also, more pop., " se faire sauter le caisson."] 

Chacun . *Alacourduroichacunpoursoi=Y.y^xyvs\zx\ 

for himself and the devil take the hind-^ 

most. (See Sauver.) 

Chacun cherche son semblable = Like will t( 

like. (See Pot and Tel) 

[" Entre gens de m^me nature 
L'amiti^ se fait et dure 
Mais entre gens de contraire nature 
Ni amour ni amiti6 dure."] 

Chair . . Cela fait venir la chair de poule — That makes 
one's flesh creep. 
Je Vai vu en chair et en os = I saw him in 

flesh and blood. 
Ni chair ni poisson = Neither fish, flesh, nor 
fowl. 



FRENCH IDIOMS AND PROVERBS 



59 



Chaise . Etre assis entre deux chaises = To fall between 
two stools. (See Chasser.) 

Chambre . II y a Men des chambres a louer dans sa tete = 
He is an empty-headed fellow. 

Chameau Rejeter le moucheron et avaler le chameau = 
To strain at a gnat and swallow a camel. 

Champ . II est fou a courir les champs = H& is as mad 

as a March hare. 
Nous prendrons la clef des champs = ^^0. shall 

take the key of the street {i.e., run 

away). 
Un rien le met aux champs = A trifle throws 

him into a passion, bewilders him. 
£tre aux champs = To be put out, bewildered, 

angry. 
Prendre du champ — To take a run (before 

leap) ; To have room before one (for an 

effort). 

[" lis prirent du champ et coururent I'un sur I'autre 
avec furie." — Chateaubriand, Dernier des Aben- 
cdrages, 185.] 

Chance . Chance vaut mieux que Men jouer = Luck is 
better than wit or brains. 
// n^est chance qui ne retourne = The luck 
muot change. 

Chandelle *A chaque saint sa chandelle = Honour to whom 
honour is due ; Every lawyer must have 
his fee. 
// vous doit une belle chandelle = He ought to 
be very grateful to you. 

[An allusion to the custom of burning candles before 
the altars of Saints, as a mark of gratitude, considered 
due to them.] 

Voir des chandelles (or, milk chandelles) = 
"To see stars." (See Etoile.) 

Donner une chandelle a Dieu et une au 
diable = To try and keep in with both 
parties. 



6o 



FRENCH IDIOMS AND PROVERBS 



Chandelle "^Lejeu ne vaut pas la chandelle = The game is 
{continued) not worth the candle; It is not worth 

while. 

\i.e., when the stakes are not sufficient to pay for 
the candle burnt during the game.] 

*C^est une economie de bouts de chandelle = 
That is penny-wise and pound-foolish ; 
That is spoiling the ship for a ha'porth 
(halfpennyworth) of tar ; That is a cheese- 
paring policy. 
Bniler la cha?idelle par les deux bouts = To 
burn the candle at both ends. 

Change . Donner le change = To put off the scent, to 

mislead. 

Vous ne ?ne ferez pas prendre le change = You 

will not impose upon me, put me on the 

wrong scent. 

[Expressions taken from hunting, where the dogs 
leave the track of the game they have raised, to run on 
another scent.] 

Je lui ai rendu le change = I paid him back 
in his own coin. (See Monnaie.) 

Changer . Changer son cheval borgne contre un aveugle 
= To lose in an exchange. 

Chanson . II en a Pair et la chanson = He looks it 
every inch ; He has both the appearance . 
and the actuality. 
C^est Pair qui fait la chanson = Words de- 
pend much on the tone in which theyj 
are spoken ; It is not so much what you 
say as the way in which you say it. 

Chanter . *// chante toujours la meme chanson = He is 
always harping on the same string. 

[" Cantilenam eandem canere," 

Terence, Phormio, iii. 2, 10. 
" Chorda qui semper oberrat eadem." 

Horace, Ars Poet, 356.] 

* Tel chante qui ne rit pas = The heart may be 
sad though the face be gay. 



FRENCH IDIOMS AND PROVERBS 



6i 



Chanter . Oest conwie si je chantais = It is like talking 
{continued) to the air, preaching in the desert. 

Je lui ai chante sa gamme ^- I lectured him 

severely. 
Une porte nial graissee chante = One must pay 

well to keep persons quiet. 
-£■//<? chante a /aire pitie = She sings most 

wretchedly. 
Chanter juste = To sing in tune. 
Si fa vous chante (fam.) == If you are in the 

mood for it. 

Chapeau . Void la reine^ chapeau bas ! = Here is the 
Queen, hats off. 

Chapelet . Le chapelet commence a se defiler = The asso- 
ciation is beginning to break up. 

Difiler (or, dire) son chapelet = To say all 
one has to say. 

// n^a pas gagne cela en disant son chapelet = 
He did not get that for nothing. 

Chapon . *Qui chapon mange, chapon lui vient = He 
that has plenty shall have more. 

Charbonnier*Cy^^r/^^//«/Vr est maitre chez lui (or, chez 
soi) = Every one is master in his own 
house; An Englishman's house is his 
castle. 

[In the Commentaires de Blaise de Monluc, Mardchal 
de France (ed. Alphonse de Ruble, pour la SociM de 
V Histoire de France, tome iii. p. 482, Paris, 1867), in a 
remonstrance to the king he says : ' ' car chacun est 
roy en sa maison, comme respondit le charbonnier k 
votre ayeul." M. de Ruble appends this note : " Fran- 
9ois P'", k la suite d'une chasse qui I'avait s6par^ de sa 
suite, se perdit dans une forSt et chercha un asile dans 
la cabane d'un charbonnier. L'homme dtait absent ; 
le roi ne trouva que la charbonniere , s'empara du 
meilleur siege et demanda k souper. La femme voulut 
attendre I'arrivde de son mari. A son retour, celui-ci 
reprit brusquement son si^ge et offrit un simple esca- 
beau au roi : ' Je prendz cette chaise,' dit-il, ' parce 
qu'elle est k moi : 

Or, par droit et par raison, 
Chacun est maitre en sa maison.' 



62 



FRENCH IDIOMS AND PROVERBS 



{continued) 



Charge 



Charbonnier ^^ ^°^' cfaarm^ de n'etre point reconnu, oWit a son hote. 
On soupa d'un quartier de chevreuil tu6 en cachette, 
on m^dit du roi, des tailles qu'il venait d'ordonner et 
surtout de sa s6vdrit6 pour la chasse. Le lendemain, 
Francois se fit connaitre. Le charbonnier se crut perdu, 
mais le roi le rassura, et, pour prix de son hospitality, 
lui accorda de grandes faveurs, entre autres le droit de 
chasser. A son retour a la cour, il rapporta le r^cit de 
son aventure et surtout le proverbe qu'il venait d'ap- 
prendre." Also in La Belle Arsene, comMie-ft'erie de 
C. S. Favart, acted before the king in 1773, we find 
this proverb (Act iv. Sc. 2).] 

Cela est a ma charge = I have to pay for it ; 

That falls on me. 
Ce/a m'est a charge = That is a burden to me. 
CUst entendu^ a la charge d'autant (or, de 

revanche) = I will do the same for you ; 

One good turn deserves another. 

Charity . *Charite Men ordonnie commence par soi-meme 
= Charity begins at home. 

[" Proximus sum egomet mihi." = I myself am nearest 
to myself. —Terence.] 

La charite, sHl vous plait ! = Please give me 
a penny ! 

Charlemagne Faire Charlemagne = To leave off a winner, 
without giving one's adversaries a chance 
of revenge. 



Charrette 



[G^nin explains this as a shortened form of faire 
comme Charletnagne, who died without losing any of 
the conquests he had made.] 

Mettre la charrette (or, charrue) devant les 
bceufs = To put the cart before the 
horse. 






[Lucian says : i) cLfia^a rbv ^ovv '^Xkci ■- 
drags the ox,] 



: The waggon 



Chasser 



Mieux vaut etre cheval que charrette = Better 
lead than be led. 

Faire tin chasse-croisc --= To go to and fro in 
all directions ; to exchange places ; to 
play at "puss in the corner." 



FRENCH IDIOMS AND PROVERBS 63 

Chasser . "^^^ Chassez le naturelj il revient au galop" = 
(continued) What is bred in the bone will never come 

out of the flesh. . 

[Destouches, Le Glorieux, iii. 5. Comp. Horace, 
Ep. I., X. 24: " naturam expellas furca, tamen usque 
recurret," and La Fontaine, Fables, ii. 18 : 
" Tant le naturel a de force ! 
II se inoque de tout . . , 
Qu'on lui ferme la porta au nez 
II reviendra par les fen^tres." 
Frederick the Great wrote to Voltaire (19th March 
1771) : " Chassez les pr^jug^s par la porte, ils revien- 
dront par la fendtre." 

Also : Qui naquit chat court apres les souris.] 

*Qu{ deux choses chasse^ ni Pune ni V autre ne 

prend = Between two stools one falls to 

the ground. 
Ne chassez pas deux lievres ct lafois = Do not 

have too many irons in the fire. 
// chasse de race = He is a chip of the old 

block. 
[/n clou chasse V autre — One idea drives away 

another. 

Chat . . "^^ hon chat bon rat = A Roland for an Oliver ; 
Tit for tat ; Diamond cut diamond. 
*Chat echaude cramt Veau froide = A burnt 
child dreads the fire; Once bit, twice 
shy. 

[The Jewish Rabbis said : " One bitten by a serpent 
is afraid of a rope's end." 

Hesiod says : " Even a fool after suffering gets him 
knowledge"; the Italians: "Can scotato da I'acqua 
calda ha paura poi della fredda " = A dog burnt by hot 
water afterwards fears cold.] 

fappelle un chat un chat = I call a spade a 

spade. (See Appeler.) 
Avoir U7i chat dans la gorge = To have 

phlegm {or^ frog) in the throat; To be 

hoarse. 
*Nous avons d'atitres chats (or, chiens) a 
fouetter = We have other fish to fry. 



64 



FRENCH IDIOMS AND PROVERBS 



Chat . . // n'y a pas la de q%ioi fouetter un chat = It is 
{continued) not worth getting angry about. 

*JVe revetV/ons pas k chat qui dori = Let sleep- 
ing dogs lie. 
*Le chat parti les souris dansent = When the 

cat's away the mice will play. 
*La nuit tons les chats sont gris = At night one 
may easily be mistaken ; At night beauty 
is of no account ; When candles are away, 
all cats are grey. 
*Chat botte rCattrape pas de souris = A muffled 
cat catches no mice. 
Comine chat sur braise = Like a cat on hot 

bricks. 
// n'y a pas un chat = There is not a 

soul. 
Alter comvie un chat maigre = To run like a 
lamplighter. (See Verrier.) 

Chateau . Faire des chateaux en Espagne = To build 
castles in the air. 

[This expression is found from the thirteenth century. 
The explanation that would ascribe it to the followers 
of the Due d'Anjou when he became Philippe V. 
of Spain must therefore be incorrect. The phrases 
"Chateaux en Asie, en Albanie " were also used, so 
that it comes to mean ' ' to build castles in foreign 
countries, where one is not," and hence " to indulge in 
illusions." — LiTTRit, s.v. 

"Chatiaus en Espagne." — Guillaume de Lorris, 
Roman de la Rose, 1. 2530. 

' ' De quoi sert-il de bastir des chasteaux en Espagne 
puisqu'il faut habiter en France?" St. Francois de 
Sales, lettre 856.] 

Chaud . . Pleurer d chaudes larmes = To cry bitterly. 

*Tomber de fievre en chaud mal = To fall out 
of the frying-pan into the fire. 
Cela ne me fait ?ii froid ni chaud — That is 

indifferent to me. 
// a les pieds bien chauds = He is in very easy 
circumstances. 



Chaudron ^Petit chaudron^ grandes 
pitchers have long ears. 



oreilles = Little 



FRENCH IDIOMS AND PROVERBS 



65 



Chauffer . Cest un bain qui chauffe = There is a shower 
coming on. 

[When it feels close, or when the sun is seen for a 
few minutes through the clouds, it is looked upon as a 
sign of rain.] 

Ce finest pas pour vous que le four chauffe = 
All these preparations are not for you. 

Chausser I^es cordonniers sent les plus mal chausses = 
The shoemaker's wife goes the worst 
shod. 

Chauve . Chauve coitime mon genou (fam.) = As bald 
as a coot, as a billiard ball. 

Chef . . Elle a une grande fortune de son chef = She 
has a large fortune in her own right. 
Faire une chose de son chef — To do a thing 
on one's own responsibility. 

Chemin . Che?nin faisant = On the way. 

Le chemin de velours = The primrose path. 
En tout pays it y a une lieue de mauvais chemin 
= (fig.) In every enterprise difficulties 
have to be encountered. 
// ne faut pas y aller par quatre chemins = 
You must not beat about the bush ; You 
must go straight to the point ; You must 
not mince matters; It's no good shilly- 
shallying. 
"^Qui trap se hate reste en chemin = The more 
haste, the less speed ; Slow and sure wins 
the race. (See Hate.) 
*Le che??ttn le plus long est souvent le plus court 
= The longest way round often proves to 
be the shortest; A short cut may be a' 
very long way home. 
Prendre le che7?tin de Vecole (or, des ecoliers) = 
To take the longest way (a roundabout 
way). 
■^^ chemin battu il ne croit pas d'herbe = (fig.) 
There is no profit in an affair in which 
many are engaged. 



66 



FRENCH IDIOMS AND PROVERBS 



Chemin . Sefrayer un chemin avec les coiides = To elbow 
{continued) one's way through a crowd. 

Chetninde // faut /aire une croix a la cheminee = *' We 
must chalk it up " (of an event that seldom 
happens.) 
Sous le manteau de la cheminee = Secretly, sub 
rosa. 

Chevalj . *^ cheval donne on ne regarde pas a la bride 

(or, a la dent) = One does not look a 

gift-horse in the mouth. 

[Late Latin: "Si quis det mannos, ne quaere in 
dentibus annos. "] 

On loge a pied et a cheval = Good entertain- 
ment (accommodation) for man and 
beast. 

Boeil du mattre engraisse le cheval = Matters 
prosper under the master's eye. 

["II n'est pour voir que I'oeil du maitre." 

La Fontaine, Fables, iv. 21.] 

// est aise dialler a pied quand on tient son 
cheval par la bride = It is easy to stoop 
from state when that state can be resumed 
at will. 

// n^est si bon cheval qui ne bronche = I'he 
best horse may stumble; Accidents will 
happen. 

[Also : // n^esi si don charretier qui ne verse."] 

II a change son cheval borgne contre un aveugle 
= He has changed for the worse; He 
has made a bad bargain. 

Monter sur ses grands chevaux = To ride the 

high horse. 

[A reference to the big war horses used by knights in 
battle.] 

J^e lui ai ecrit une lettre a cheval =-- I wrote 

him a severe letter. 
// est toujours a cheval sur V etiquette — He is 

a stickler for etiquette. 



FRENCH IDIOMS AND PROVERBS 



67 



Cheval . // est bon cheval de trompette = He is not 
[continued] easily dismayed. 

Un cheval a deux fi?is = A horse for riding 

or driving. 
f ai une fievre de cheval = I am in a high fever. 

Chevalier Un chevalier d^industrie = A swindler, a man 
who lives by his wits. 

Cheveux . Cette comparaison est tiree par les cheveiix = 

That comparison is somewhat far-fetched. 

O71 7ie peut pre7idre aux cheveux un homrne 

r«5(? = One cannot get blood from a stone. 

(See Huile.) 

En cheveux (of a woman) = Bareheaded. 

[Of a man : tcte nue.] 

Les cheveux en brosse = Hair cut short (stand- 
ing up like the bristles of a brush). 

Prendre V occasion aux cheveux = To take time 
by the forelock. (See Balk.) 

Avoir mal aux cheveux (fam ) = To have a 
head {ie. a head-ache in the morning 
after a drinking bout.) 

Cheville . Vous ne lui allez pas a la cheville = You are 
a pigmy compared with him ; You are no 
match for him at all. 
La cheville ouvriere = The mainspring, pivot. 

Chevre . ^Menager la chevre et le chou = To run with 
the hare and hunt with the hounds. 

[The French refers to the tale of the man in charge 
of a wolf, a goat, and a cabbage. He came to a river 
which lie had to cross ; but the ferry-boat was so small 
that he could only take one of his charges with him. 
His difficulty was to get them across, for if he left the 
wolf and goat together, the wolf would eat the goat ; 
and if he left the goat with the cabbage the goat would 
eat it.] 

* Oil la chevre est attachee ilfaut qu^elle broute — 
One must put up with the inconveniences 
of one's position if one can get nothing 
better; We must not expect more from 
life than life can give us. 



68 FRENCH IDIOMS AND PROVERBS 

Chez . . *// rHy a pas de petit chez soi = There is no 
place like home; Home is home, be it 
ever so humble ; East, west, home is 
best. 

[Also : Un petit chez soi vaut mieux qu'u?i grand 
chez les autres. 

" My house, my house, though thou art small, 
Thou art to me the Escuriall. " 

George Herbert, Jacula Prudentium.'\ 

Chien . . Oest le chien de Jean de Nivelle^ it s^enfuit 
quand on Vappelle = The more you call 
him, the more he runs away, like John de 
Nivelle's dog. 

[Jean de Nivelle was the eldest son of Jean II., Due 
de Montmorency, and was born about 1423. Having 
been summoned to appear before the Judges at Paris 
for having espoused the cause of the Duke of Burgundy 
against the wishes of the king, Louis XI., and of his 
father, who disinherited him, he fled to Flanders, where 
his wife had property. He therefore became an object 
of scorn to the people for refusing to answer the sum- 
mons of his king, and they called him chien : the saying 
ought to run : C'est CE chieti de Jean de Nivelle. La 
Fontaine evidently thought the phrase referred to a real 
dog when he wrote : — 

' ' Una traitresse voix bien souvent vous appelle, 
Ne vous pressez done nullement, 
Ce n'^tait pas un sot, non, non et croyez m'en, 
Que le chien de Jean de Nivelle." 
Compare the Italian : — 

Far come il can d'Arlotto que chiamoto se la batte.] 

* Qui veut noyer son chien V accuse de la rage — 
Give your dog a bad name and hang 
him. 

[Quos Jupiter vuit perdere prius dementat.] 

Jt jette ma langue aux chiens = I give it up 
(of riddles, etc.). 

[Also : fe donne ma langue aux chats.^ 

Nous sommes sortis entre chien et loup = We 
went out at dusk, between the lights. 

\i.e. when you could easily mistake a wolf for a dog ; 
or, as others say, between the time when the watch-dog 
is let loose and the time when the wolf comes out of 
the wood.] 



FRENCH IDIOMS AND PROVERBS 69 

Chien . . Un chien regarde bien un eveque = A cat may 
{continued) look at a king. 

II fait U7i chien de tet?ips (or, un te?}ips de chien) 
(fam.) = It is wretched weather. 

Cest saint Roch et son chien que ces deux 
personnes-la = The?>e, two persons are in- 
separable. 
'^'^on chien chasse de race = Like sire, like son ; 
Cat after kind. 

Cest le chien du jardinier qui ne mange pas de 
choux et n'en laisse pas manger aux autres 
= He is a dog in the manger. 

Ecorcher son chien pour en avoir la peau = 
To sacrifice something important for a 
small return. 

Chien qui aboie ne niord pas = His bark is 
worse than his bite. 

[Also: Tel fieri qui ne tue pas, and Chat miauleur ne 
fut jamais bon chasseur, nonplus qu'homtne sage caque- 
teur.] 

Mutant vaut etre mordu d^un chieti que dune 

chienne = As well be hanged for a sheep 

as a lamb ; What is the use of choosing 

between two evils ? 
On Va regu comme un chien dans un jeu de 

quilles = He was as welcome as a dog at 

a wedding. 
*// nefautpas se nioquer des chiens (or, du loup) 

avant qu'on ne soit hors du bois = Do not 

holloa before you are out of the wood. 
// n' attache pas ses chiens avec des saucisses ~ 

He is a regular miser. 
Chien hargneux a toujours Poreille dechiree = 

Quarrelsome folk are always in the wars. 
Jamais bon chien n'a ronge bon os = A good 

dog rarely gets a good bone ; Men rarely 

get their deserts. 
Se regarder en chiens de faience = To look at 

one another without talking (like stuck 

pigs). 



70 FRENCH IDIOMS AND PROVERBS 

Chiffon . Nous causions chiffons (of women) = We were 
chattering about dress. 

Chiffonner EUe a une petite mine chiffonnee='ShQ has 
irregular features, but her expression is 
pleasing. 

Chbmer . "^C homer les fetes avant qu^elles ne soient venues 
= To count one's chickens before they are 
hatched. • 

[" Laissons venir la fete avant que la chomer." 

MOLIERE, Le Ddpit Amoureux, i. i.] 

Cest un saint qu'on ne chome point = He is in 
no great repute. 

[" L'honneur est un vieux saint que Ton ne chome 
plus." Rii;gnier, Satires, xiii.] 

Chose . . Dites bien des choses de ma part a votre frere = 
Remember me kindly to your brother. 

Rester tout chose = To be confused. 

// etait tout chose = He was out of sorts ; out 
of spirits ; cast down. 

Monsieur Chose (or, Alachin) - " Mr. What's- 
his-name." 

Chou . . On V envoy a planter ses choux = He was dis- 
missed. 
Alter planter ses choux (or, garder les dindons) 

= To retire into the country. 
Chou pour chou — Taking one. thing with 
another. 

[The whole expression is : Chou pour chou, Auber- 
viiliers vaut bien /'(2rij = Aubervilliers is as good as 
Paris, if it come to counting cabbages, i.e., each thing 
has its particular merits. Aubervilliers is a suburb of 
Paris, noted for its market gardens.] 

BUe comme {un) chou {un pot, ntie cruche, une 

oie) = As stupid as an owl. 

Mon petit chou = yiy little darling. 

[This has nothing to do with a cabbage, but with a 
kind of puff pastry filled with cream, in the shape of a 
cabbage.] 

Faire ses choux gras d'une chose = To enjoy a 
thing that others despise. 



FRENCH IDIOMS AND PROVERBS 



71 



Ciel . . Remuer del et ferre = To move heaven and 
earth ; To leave no stone unturned. 

Circular . Circulez, Messieurs ! = Move on, please ! (cry 
of policemen). ' 

Clair . . Farkr clair et net=To s^Q2i\i^\2im\y. 

Je rHy vols pas clair=\ cannot see, it is too 

dark. 
Clair comme le Jour (or, comme le soleil en plein 
midi) = As plain as a pikestaff; As clear 
as noonday. 

Classe . , A la rentree des classes = When school re- 
opens. 

Clef ... Mettre la clef sous la porte = To run away 
from one's creditors ; "To bolt." 
La clef dont on se serf est toufottrs claire ^ One 
does not get rusty in what one does every 
day. 

Clerc . , Un pas de clerc = A blunder ; A false step. 

// ne faut pas parler latin devant les clercs = Do 
not correct a specialist on his subject. 

[" Les plus grands clercs ne sont pas les plus fins." 
Rl^GNlER, Satires, iii.] 

Cliche . . Ses plaisanteries ne sont que des clichis = His 
jokes are stereotyped. 

Clin , , , En un din d^cnil^ In a twinkling. 
Cloche . * Qui n^ entend qu' une cloche n^entend qu'un son = 
One should hear both sides of a question. 
// est temps de fondre la cloche = The time for 

action has arrived. 
Demenager a la cloche de bois (fam.) = To 
shoot the moon ; To leave a house with- 
out paying one's rent or one's creditors. 
Clocher . II n* a Jamais perdu son clocher de vue = He 
(subst.) has never been out of his parish. 

II faut placer le clocher au milieu du village = 
What is meant for the benefit of all should 
be within reach of all. 

\e.^. a lamp in the middle of the table.] 



72 



FRENCH IDIOMS AND PROVERBS 



Clocher . Avoir la maladie du docker =To be homesick. 

[continued) [Also more often : Avoir It tnal du pays."] 

Clocher . Ce n^est pas mal, mais il y a encore quelque 
(verb) chose qui cloche = It is not bad, but there is 

still something wrong. 
* Toute comparaison cloche [or, peche\ = Com- 
parisons are odious. 

Clou . . Cela ne vaut pas un clou a soufflet='V\i2X is 
not worth a straw (lit. a tin-tack). 
Je lui ai rive son clou (pop.)^I shut his 
mouth ; That was a poser for him. 

["Vous avez fort bien fait de lui river son clou." 
Regnard, Le Distrait, iv. 7.] 

Un clou chasse P autre — One idea drives away 

another. 
Le clou de V Exposition = The chief attraction 

of the Exhibition. 

Cocagne . Cest un pays de cocagne = It is a land flow- 
ing with milk and honey. 

[' ' Paris est pour le riche un pays de cocagne ; 
Sans sortir de la ville il trouve la campagne." 

BoiLEAU, Satires, vi.] 

Le mat de cocagne = The greasy pole. 

Coche . . Cest la mouche du coche = He is a regular 
busybody. 
[La Fontaine, Fables, vii. 9, imitated from ^sop.] 

Cochon . N'ous navons pas garde les cochons ensemble 
(pop.) = We have not been dragged up 
together. 

[The reply to a man who presumes upon acquaint- 
ance, and needs putting down.] 

Coeur . . A contre cceur= ReluctSLntly. 

A coeur joie^'Yo one's heart's content. 

De gaiete de cceur= Out of sheer wanton- 
ness. 

// ra fait de boti coeur = He did it wil- 
lingly. 



FRENCH IDIOMS AND PROVERBS 73 

Cceur . . Diner par casur= To go without a dinner; 
{contimied) To dine with Duke Humphrey. 

[Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester, son of Henry IV., 
was renowned for his hospitality. At his death it was re- 
ported that he would have a monument in S. Paul's, but 
he was buried at S. Alban's Abbey. S. Paul's was at 
that time the common lounge of the town, and when 
the promenaders left for dinner, those who had no 
dinner to go to, used to say they would stay behind 
and look for the monument of the Good Duke. A 
similar saying was, " To sup with Sir Thomas 
Gresham," the Exchange, built by him, being a place 
of resort.] 

Vous Vavez blesse au coeur = You have wounded 

his feelings. 
C'esf un creve coeur = It is a heart-rending 

thing. 
"^Loin des yeux, loin du coeur — Out of sight, 

out of mind. 
// a cela a coeur = i. He is striving hard to 

do it. 2. He takes a lively interest 

in it. 
Cela me tient au coeur =1 have set my heart 

upon it. 
// a mal au coeur = He is feeling sick. 
// a une maladie de coeur = He has heart 

disease. 
E lie fait la bouche en coeur ='^\\q puts on a 

captivating look ; She purses up her lips. 
Elk a le cosur gros == She is ready to cry; She 

is heavy-hearted. 
Si le coeur vous en dit= If you feel like it ; If 

you have a mind to. 
Je veux en avoir le coeur net = I must clear 

that up. 
// a le cceur sur les levres= i. He always says 

what he thinks (and this is always some- 
thing good and kind); He is open-hearted. 

2. He feels sick. 
Atre plein de coeur = To be full of generosity; 

To be noble-minded; To have a high 

sense of one's duties towards others. 



74 



FRENCH IDIOMS AND PROVERBS 



Coeur . . Avoir le caur sur la main = To be open- 
(continued) hearted, frank. 

Un serrement de cceur =^ A sinking at the 
heart; A feeling of oppression and sad- 
ness. 

Coiffer. . Voila Phomme dont elk est coiffee ^l^h^xe. is 

the man with whom she is smitten. 
Atre ne coiffe = To be born with a silver 

spoon in one's mouth (literally, with a 

caul). 
Coiffer sainte Catherine = To remain an old 

maid. 

Coin . . Cet homme mourra au coin dhin bois (or, d'une 
haie) = That man will die in a ditch. 

Collier . // est franc du collier = (of a horse) He pulls 
freely; (of a man) He never shirks his 
work. 
Reprendre le collier de misere = To return to 
drudgery, to the old routine. 

Comble . Le feu detruisit le batiment defond en comble = 
The fire completely gutted the building. 

£lle est au comble de ses desirs = She is at the 
very height of her wishes. 

Pour comble de malheur^ il tomba malade = 
To crown his misfortune, he fell ill. 

Comit^ . Venez demain, nous serons en petit comite = 
Come to-morrow, there will be only a few 
intimate friends. 

Comme . Comme ci, comme ^a = So-so ; indifferently. 

Je ne Pai pas dit, mais cest tout comme = I 

did not say so, but it is just as if I did. 
Oest tout coffime = It comes to the same 
thing. 

Commencer *iV'a pas fait qui commence = The beginning 
is not everything. 
[" Qui commence le mieux ne fait rien s'il n'acheve." 

CORNEILLE.l 



} 



FRENCH IDIOMS AND PROVERBS 75 

Commencer *A moitie fait qui commence bien = Well begun 
[continued) is half done ; A good beginning is half 

the battle. 

[" Uties vespres bien sontit'es sont a demy dictes." 

Rabelais, Gargantua, cxl. 
Also : Matines bien sonnies sont a moitid dites. 
Barbe bien savonnde est a moitid rasde.] 

*Qui comjjience vial finit mal = A bad day 
never has a good night. 

Commode Le patron n^ est pas commode (fam.)=The 
master (boss) knows all our tricks, is not 
easily taken in, is very strict, is not an 
easy customer to deal with. 

Compagnie // ma fausse compag?iie=YlQ. gave me the 
slip; He did not keep his appointment. 
Vous me traitez cojume si fetais compagnie = 

You treat me as if I were somebody. 
// n^y a si bonne compagnie qui ne se quitte = 
The best of friends must part. 
Compagnon Traiter quelqu'ufi de pair a compagnoji = To 
treat any one as an equal ; To be " hail- 
fellow-well-met " (cheek by jowl) with any 
one. 
"^ Qui a compag7ion a maitre = One is often 
obliged to give way to the wishes of those 
wifh whom one is associated. 

Compas . Avoir le compas dans Pceil (fam.) = To have a 
good eye for distances. 

Compere . Cest un ruse compare = He is a sly dog, a 
cunning old fox. (See Fin and Mouche^ 

[Other equivalents are: unfin (or, fiitd) matois (vide 
MOLIERE, George Dandin, i. 2, ad Jin.), une fine 
mouche.'] 

Compliment Sans compli7nent= Really ; sincerely ; I mean 
really what I say. 

Compte . Void voire argent^ voyez si vous avez votre 
co7fipte = Here is your money, see if it is 
right. 
Frreur n' est pas compte = Errors excepted. 



76 



FRENCH IDIOMS AND PROVERBS 



Compte . Je renonce a ce commerce, car je n'y trouve pas 
{continued) tnofi coiiipte=\ am giving up this business, 

for I make nothing by it. 
Ne roffensez pas, car vous n^y trouverez pas 

voire co?npte = Do not offend him, for you 

would get more than you cared for. 
Nous nous amusons a bon compte = We amuse 

ourselves at a small cost. 
Vous etes loin du compte = You are out in your 

reckoning. 
On peut toujour s a bon co?npte revenir = There 

is no harm in examining an account 

twice. 
Je mets cela en ligne de compte = I take that 

into account. 
Faisons un compte rond= Let us make it even 

money. 
Pour se rendre compte de la chose = To get a 

clear idea of the matter. 
Nous sommes de compte a demi dans Pentreprise 

= We are partners on equal terms in the 

venture; We are going halves in the 

venture. 
A chacun son compte — To give every one his 

due. 
All boutdu compte = Upon the whole; After all. 
En fin de coinpte = i^W..) When the addition is 

made ; (fig.) When all is told ; When all 

is said and done. 
// a son compte (or, Son compte est regie) = i . 

(lit.) He has his due. 2. (pop.) He is 

done for. (See Affaire^ 

Compter . // lui compte les morceaux = He grudges him 
the very food he eats. 
* Qui compte sans son hole compte deux fots = 
He who reckons without his host must 
reckon again ; Don't count your chickens 
before they are hatched. (See Chomer 
and Feau.) 
Comptez dessus = Depend upon it. 



FRENCH IDIOMS AND PROVERBS 



77 



Concurrence Vous pouvez /aire des conimandes en nion 
nom jusqua concurrence de ^,000 francs — 
You can order goods in my name to the 
amount of ;£^2oo. 

Conduire . // conduit Men sa barque = (fig.) He plays his 
cards well. 

Conduite . Tous ses camarades lui firent la conduite = All 
his companions saw him off. 

Confesser Cest le diabh a confesser = It is terribly 
hard to do. 

Confession On lui donnerait le bon Dieu sans confession = 
They would trust him to any extent 
(because of his saintly appearance). 

Connaissance Bn connaissance de ^«?^i'^ = Knowingly. 

Je suis en pays de connaissance = I am among 
people I know, among old friends. 

Connaitre // est connu comme le loup blanc = He is 

known to everybody. 
// gagne a etre connu = He improves upon 

acquaintance. 
Je ne le connais ni d'Eve ni d^Adam = I do 

not know' him from Adam. 
Je ne le connais ni de pres ni de loin = I do 

not know him at all. 
En chi,ffres connus = In plain figures. 
Vous y connais sez-vous en vins ? = Are you a 

judge of wine ? 
Je m'y connais = I understand all about it ; I 

am an authority on it. 
Connu I (fam.) = That is an old tale. 
Je la connais^ celle-la (pop.) = That is nothing 

new ; I've been " had " before. 

Conseil . 'M parti pris pas de conseil = Advice is useless 
to one who has made up his mind. 
"^La nuit porte conseil = Sleep upon it ; Time 
will show a plan. 
// a bieniot assemble son conseil = He makes 
up his mind without consulting any one. 



78 



FRENCH IDIOMS AND PROVERBS 



Conseiller " Aimez qu'on vous conseille et non pas qu!on 
vous loue " = Prefer advice to praise. 

[BoiLEAU, Art Podtique, i. 192.] 

Consentir '''Qiii ne dit ?not consent = Silence gives con- 
sent. 

Consequence Ce/a ne tire pas a consequence = Tliat is of 
no importance. 

Conte . . Des contes a dormir debout = Tedious, non- 
sensical tales ; Old wives' tales. 

Contentement * Contentement passe richesse = Enough is 
as good as a feast. 

Center . // vous en conte de belles = He is deceiving 
you finely ; He is telling you fine tales. 

Controle . Vous etes porte sur le conirole = Your name is 
placed on the roll. 

Controler U'ne chaine controlee = A hall-marked chain. 

Convertir Vous prechez U7i converti = You are talking to 
a man who thinks with you. 

Coq . . // est comme un coq en pate = He is in clover. 

[Lit. one kept separately from the others to be 
fattened ; pdie is its food. Comme rats en paille is 
sometimes used.] 

// est le coq Ju village = He is the cock of the^ 
walk. 

Des coq-a-Vdne = Cock and bull stories ; Dis- 
connected rigmaroles. 

Coquille . ^ qui vendez-vous vos coquillesi - Tell that 
to the marines. (See Autre.) 
[Charles d'Orl6ans, Rondeau, 148.] 

Kentrer dans sa coqtiille = To draw in one's 

horns. 
11 fait bien valoir ses coquilles = He praises 

his goods too much. 

Cor . . . A cor et a cri = With hue and cry ; Vehe- 
mently. 
Demander a cor et a cri = To clamour for. 



FRENCH IDIOMS AND PROVERBS 



79 



Corde . . J^tre au bout de sa corde (or, son rouleau) = 
To be at the end of one's tether; To 
have no more to say. 

Vous verrez beau jeu si la corde ne rbmpt = 
You will see fine fun if no accident 
happens, if no hitch occurs. 

Cette affaire a passe a fleur de corde = That 
business only just succeeded. 

Cet homme file sa corde = That man will 
bring himself to the gallows. 

// ne faut pas parler de corde dans la maison 
d'un pendu = We must not make personal 
remarks ; We must not allude to the 
skeleton in the cupboard. (See Boiteux.) 

II a de la corde de pendu dans sa poche = He 
has the devil's own luck. 

[A piece of the rope with which a man had been 
hanged was, and is even now, considered as a charm 
against ill-luck. Archbishop Trench adduces other 
proverbs in reference to the man whose luck never for- 
sakes him, so that from the very things which would be 
another man's ruin, he extricates himself not only with- 
out harm but with credit : e.g. the Arabic : ' ' Cast him 
into the Nile, and he will come up with a fish in his 
mouth " ; the German : ' ' Wiirf ' er einen Groschen aufs 
Dach, fiel' ihm ein Taler herunter" = If he threw a 
penny on to the roof, a dollar would come back to him.] 

// tient la corde = He is leading ; He is first 

fa/ourite. 
Vous iouchez la corde sensible = You are 

touching the sore point. 
Ne touchez pas cette corde = (fig.) Do not 

speak of that. 
Cela est use jusqu^ a la corde = (lit.) That is 

worn threadbare ; (fig.) That is thoroughly 

hackneyed. 

Cordeau . Aux Etats-Unis les rues sont tirees au cordeau 
= In the United States the streets are 
perfectly straight. 

Cordon . Cordon^ sHl vous plait = Open the door, 
please (to porters in Paris). 



8o 



FRENCH IDIOMS AND PROVERBS 



Corne . . Ne faiies pas de comes a ce livre = Do not 
dog's-ear that book." 

Corneilles Bayer aux corneilles = To stare {or^ gape) 
about vacantly. 

Corps . . Cest un drole de corps = He is an odd fellow, 

a queer fish. 
Nous verrons ce quHl a dans le corps = We 

will see what he is made of. 
// s^est jete a corps perdu dans cette affaire = 

He threw himself headlong {pr^ with might 

and main) into the matter. 
Je le saisis a bras le corps = I seized him 

round the waist (in a struggle). 
lis se sont battus corps a corps = They fought 

hand to hand. 
/e Tai fait a nion corps defendant = I did it 

reluctantly, in self-defence. 
Prendre du corps = To get fat. 
11 a Vame chevilUe dans le corps = He has as 

many lives as a cat. 

Corsaire . '*'A corsaire, corsaire et demi = Set a thief to 
catch a thief. 

[" Ars deluditur arte." — Cato. 
"A trompeur, trompeur et demy." — Charles 
d'Orli^ans, Rondel, 46.] 

* Corsaires contre corsaires ne font pas leurs 
affaires = Dog does not eat dog. (See 
Loup}) 

[" Corsaires contre corsaires, 

L'un I'autre s'attaquantne font pas leurs affaires." — 
La Fontaine, Tribut envoys par les animaux a Alex- 
andre, imitating R^gnier, Satire xii,, ad Jin., who took 
it from the Spanish De corsario a corsario no se llevan 
que los barriles.'] 

Corvee . C^est une vraie corvee I = What a nuisance ! 
What a bore ! 

\Corvde originally referred to feudal forced labour. 
It is now a military term, and means " fatigue duty " : 
hence, any unpleasant task.] 

C6te . . On lui compterait les cotes = He is nothing 
but skin and bone. 



FRENCH IDIOMS AND PROVERBS 



8l 



Cote . . ^tre sur le cote (or, flanc) = To be on one's 

back, ill. 
Mettre les rieurs de son cote = To turn the 

laugh against a man. 
Vous etes du bon cote = You are on the right 

side. 
Vous Hes du cote du vianche = You are on the 

winning side. 
Donner a cote = To miss the mark. 

Colon . . Depuis sa faillite il file un mauvais coton 
(fam.) = Since his failure, his health {or^ 
reputation) has entirely broken down. 

Coucher . On est plus couche que debout = Life is short 
compared with eternity. 

/e rat couche en joue = I aimed at him. 

Coucher dans son fourreau = To go to sleep 
without undressing ; To turn in all stand- 
ing (nav.). 
*Comme on fait son lit^ on se couche = As you 
make your bed, so you must lie on it. 

Se coucher comme les poules = To go to bed 
with the sun, very early. 

Coucher sur la dure = To lie on the ground, 
on the floor. 

Coude . . II ne $2 mouche pas du coude (fam.) = i. He 
is no fool. 2. He does things in grand 
style. (See Pied.) 
II a vial au coude (fam.) = He is very lazy. 
(See Main.) 

Coudde . Avoir les coudees /ranches = (lit.) To have 
elbow-room ; (fig.) To have full scope. 

Coudre . On ne salt quelle piece y coudre = One does 
not know how to prevent {or^ cure) it. 

Coule . . C^est un honwie a la coule (pop.) = He is a 
smart, knowing chap. 

[Compare : // la connait dans les coins, celui-ld = \ie 
knows his business in every corner.] 



82 



FRENCH IDIOMS AND PROVERBS 



Couler . Ce quHl dit coule de source = What he says 
comes from the heart, comes fluently from 
his Hps. 
Ce/a coule de source = That follows naturally. 
Couler a fond = (of ships) To founder ; (of 
persons) To be ruined. 
*Il faul laisser couler Veau = What can't be 
cured must be endured. 

Coulisse . Faire les yeux en coulisse = To make sheep's 
eyes ; To ogle. 

Coup . . *jFalre d'une pierre deux coups = To kill two 

birds with one stone. 
Cette demarche a parte coup = That step told, 

had its effect. 
Sans coup ferir = Without striking a blow. 
// a fait un bon coup = He has made a good 

bargain. 
// vient de faire un mauvais coup = He has 

just committed a crime. 
Pour le coup il ne m^echappera pas = This 

time he will not escape me. 
J^irai a coup sur = I shall go to a certainty. 
C^est donner un coup d^epee dans Veau = It is 

an unsuccessful attempt. (See Eau.) 
II m'a porte un coup fourre = He struck me 

a blow in the dark. 

[This is a term derived from fencing ; un coup fourri 
is a blow struck at an adversary at the same moment 
that he strikes.] 

Le coup vaut la balk = It is worth trying. 

Ilfaut toujours qu^elle donne son coup de patte 
= She always makes sarcastic {or, un- 
pleasant) remarks. 

Cest un coup monte = It is a pre-arranged 
affair. 

On lui a monte le coup = They induced him 
to do it ; They deceived him. 

// a bu un coup de trop = He has had a drop 
too much. 



FRENCH IDIOMS AND PROVERBS 83 

Coup . . C^est venu apres coup = It came too late, 
{continued) after the event. 

J^aire les cent coups = To amuse oneself 
^ noisily ; To play all sorts of tricks. 

£fre aux cent coups = To be half mad (dis- 
tracted) with anxiety ; To be in the great- 
est difficulties. 

Oest un coup qui porte = That is a home- 
thrust. 

Avoir un coup de 7narteau = To be a little 
touched. 

fai ecrit trois lettres coup sur coup = 1 wrote 
three letters one after the other. 

Un coup de sang = A rush of blood to the 
head. 

Un coup de Jarnac = A treacherous blow ; A 
blow below the belt. 

[In a duel before the whole Court in 1547, Gui 
Chabot, Seigneur de Jarnac, wounded his adversary, 
La Chataigneraie, with an unfair stroke. La Ch^tai- 
gneraie refused to survive such an affront, tore off the 
bandages placed over his wound, and bled to death.] 

Un coup de fouet = (lit.) A crack of a whip ; 
(fig.) A sudden contraction of the muscles 
of the leg (or back). 

Un coup d'etat = A sudden, unexpected act 
of policy; A violent change in the Govern- 
ment {e.g. 18 brumaire 1799, or 2 
decembre 185 1). 

Un coup defion (fam.) = A finishing touch. 

DoJiner le coup de grace = To give the finish- 
ing stroke. 

// gagna milk fratics tout d'un coup — He 
won ^40 at one shot, all at once, at 
one "go." 

// s'en alia tout a coup = He went away 

suddenly, abruptly. 

{Tout d'un coup and tout d coup are frequently used 
indiscriminately, even by PYench people.] 

Un coup de tete = A moment of passion ; a 
rash action. 



84 



FRENCH IDIOMS AND PROVERBS 



Coup . . Dontier un coup de main = To give a helping 
[continued) hand. 

fai 7nanque ?non coup = I missed my shot ; 

I failed. 
lis Vo7it vioulu de coups = They beat him 
black and blue. 

[A well-known quotation from Corneille runs : 
' ' Mes pareils a deux fois ne se font pas connaitre 
Et pour leurs coups d'essai veulent des coups de 
maitre." — Le Cid, ii. 2.] 



Coupe . 



■*^// y a loin de la coupe aux levres = There is 
many a slip 'twixt the cup and the lip. 

[The Greek troWa fiera^ii ir^Xei kOXikos xal xe^Xcos 
UKpov is said to have had its origin in the following 
circumstances : — Anceaus, an ancient King of Samos, 
treated with extreme cruelty his slaves who were 
planting a vineyard for him ; until at length one more 
ill-used than the rest prophesied that for his cruelty he 
should never drink of its wine. When the first vintage 
was over the master bade this slave fill him a goblet, 
and, taking it in his hands, he taunted him with the 
failure of his prophecy. The slave answered with these 
words ; and as he was speaking news was brought of 
a huge wild boar that was wasting the vineyard. Set- 
ting down the untasted cup and snatching up a spear 
the master went out to meet the wild boar and was 
slain in the encounter. Compare the Latin : Inter 
calicem et os multa cadunt ; and the Spanish : De la 
mano a la boca se pierde la sopa. 
Other variants in French are : 

Entre la bouche et le verre 

Le vin souvent tombe d terre. 

Vin versd nest pas avaU. 

En amour, en cour, et a la chasse, 

Chacun ne prend ce qu'il pourchasse."] 

Mettre en coupe reglee = (lit.) To cut down 
periodically (of forests) ; (fig.) To lay 
regularly under contribution. 



Couper . // s'est coupe dans ses r/ponses = He contra- 
dicted himself in his answers. 

// lui a coupe la parole = He interrupted him. 

Son pere lui a coupi les vivres = His father 
stopped his allowance. 



FRENCH IDIOMS AND PROVERBS 



8s 



Couper . Ce verre de bicre m^a coupe les jambes = My 
[cotitinued) legs feel shaky after that glass of beer. 

Couper un cheveu en quatre = To split hairs. 
Coupons le cable = Let us take the decisive 
step. 

[Sieyes, June lo, 1789.] 

Ce/a lui a coupe le sifflet (pop.) = That 

stopped his mouth ; That shut him up. 
Je vats y couper {^o^.) = I am going to "cut" 
that ; I am not going to do it. 

Courage . Prenez voire courage a deux mains = Summon 
up all your courage. 
Courage I tout finira bien = Cheer up ! all 
will yet be well. 

Courant . Je vous krirai fin courant (commercial) = I 
will write to you at the end of the 
present month. 
Je 7ie suis pas au courant de V affaire = I have 
not the latest information on the point; 
I am not up (well posted) in the matter. 

Courir . . Par le te?nps qui r^2^/-/ = Nowadays ; As times 
. go. 
Etrefou a courtr les chafnps = To be as mad 

a£ a March hare. 
Nous courons menie fortune = We are rowing 

in the same boat. 
" Pien ne sert de courir, il faut partir a 

point'' = It is no good hurrying if you 

have not started in time. 

[La Fontaine, Le lievre et la tortue, vi. 10.] 

Courrier . Repondez par retour du courrier = Answer by 
return of post. 
Faire son courrier (commercial) = To write 
one's letters. 

Courroie . II faut lui serrer la courroie = We must curtail 
his allowance; We must keep him on short 
commons. 



86 



FRENCH IDIOMS AND PROVERBS 



Courroie 

{continued) 

Cours . 



Court . 



Couteau 



Couter . 

Coutume . 

Coutumier 
Couture . 



Faire du cuir (Vautrui large courroie = To be 
generous with other people's money. 

Les pieces des Etats du Pape n ont plus cours = 
The coins of the Papal States are no 
longer legal tender. 

C/n capitaine au long cours = A captain of a 

trading vessel going to foreign ports. 
Je suis reste court = I did not know what to say. 

Je Vai pris a court = I took him unawares. 

II se trouve a court {d' argent) = He is short 
of money. 

Dites cela tout court =S2iy that and no more. 

// Pa appele Jean tout court = He called him 
simply {or^ just) John (without Mr. or sur- 
name). 

lis sont a couteaux tires = They are at daggers 
drawn. 

[Formerly : lis en sont aux couteaux tiris.'\ 

Aller en Flandre sans couteau = To embark 
in an enterprise without the necessary 
resources. 

[Also : Aller aux mitres sans crochet.'] 
Cest com7ne le couteau de Jeannot=Th2i\. is 
like the Irishman's gun (said of anything 
that has been mended so often as to 
have nothing of the original left). 

Rien ne lui coute= He sticks at nothing; He 

spares no trouble. 
Coiite que coiite - Cost what it may. 
Couter les yeux de la tete = To cost a small 

fortune, a fearful lot of money. 

* Une fois n'est pas coutume = It is only this 
once ; One swallow does not ^make a 
summer ; Once does not count. 

// est coutumier du fatt=lX. is not the first 

time he has done it. 
lis etaient battus a plate couture = They were 

beaten hollow. 



FRENCH IDIOMS AND PROVERBS 



S7 



Couvercle 
Couvert . 



Couvercle digne du chaudron = The lid matches 
the caldron ; They are a precious pair ; 
Arcades ambo. 



Mettez le convert^ Lay the cloth (for dinner). 
Mettez un couvei't de plus = Put another knife 

and fork (for another guest); Lay for 

one more. 

Cracher . Cest son pere tout crache (fam.) = He is the 
very spit {pr^ less fam., image) of his father. 
// a crache en Pair et fa lui est retombe sur le 
nez (pop.) = He wished to do harm to 
another but it recoiled on himself. 
// ne crache pas dessus= He does not despise 
it ; He likes it very much. 

Crdmaill^re Pendre la cremaillere = To give a house 
warming. 

[Cremaillere = tige de far suspendue au dessus du 
foyer d'une chemin^e garnie de crans, qui permettent 
de la fixer plus ou moins haut, et termin^e par un bout 
recourW auquel on accroche une marmite. Compare 
Longfellow's poem " The Hanging of the Crane."] 

Crever . Le roi Jean a creve les yeux a Arthur = King 
John caused Arthur's eyes to be put out. 
Je ne voyais pas mon livre^ cependant il me 
crevait les yeux = I did not see my book, 
yft it was staring me in the face (right 
under my nose). 

Cri . . . II ny a qu'un cri sur son compte = lLherQ is 
only one opinion about him. 

Elle poussa les hauls cris = She screamed at 
the top of her voice ; She complained 
loudly. 

Cest le dernier cri= It is the last thing out. 

Cribler . Crible de mitraille = Riddled with grape-shot. 
Crible de dettes = Over head and ears in debt. 

Crier . . Crier fafnine sur un tas de ble = To cry out 
for what one has in plenty. 
Plumer la poiile sans la /aire crier = To fleece 
a person adroitly, without his perceiving it. 



88 
Crin . 

Crochet 
Croire . 



Croix 
Croquer 



Cm 



FRENCH IDIOMS AND PROVERBS 

Un republicain a tons crins = Every inch a 
republican. 

[Properly of a horse with flowing mane and tail, 
hence thorough, strong.] 

// a trente ans, et cependant il vit aiix crochets 
de sa m^re=He is thirty years old, and 
yet his mother has to keep him. 

// s'en croit beaucoup — He thinks a great deal 
of himself. 

Cest a rHy pas croire = It is not to be be- 
lieved ; It is so extraordinary (incredible, 
preposterous) that we can hardly believe it. 

A Ten croire il a eu tous les prix = If he is to 
be believed he won all the prizes. 

" Et chacun croit fort aisement 

Ce qu'il craint et ce qu'il desire J^ 
= The wish is father to the thought. 

[La Fontaine, Fables, i. 6. Le loup et le renard. 
Compare 2 Henry IV., iv, 5. 

" Fere libenter homines id quod volunt credunt." — 
CiESAR, iii. 18.] 

Aller au devant de quelqu'un avec la croix et 
'la banniere = To receive any one with great 
fuss and ceremony (often used ironically). 

Voire enfant est gentil a croquer =Y our child 
is a charming little fellow. 

// croquait le marmot = He was dancing 
attendance ; He was cooling his heels. 

[Littr^ gives as the explanation of this obscure ex- 
pression that artists while waiting for their patrons used 
to draw pictures of little monkeys {marmot) in the 
vestibule. Others assert that in the antechambers of the 
rich were to be found dishes of cakes in the form of 
little monkeys, which visitors used to eat {croquer) 
whilst waiting. But both explanations need confirma- 
tion.] 

Sagenouiller a cru = To kneel on the bare 
ground, on the cold stone (without a 
hassock or carpet). 

[Literally, to kneel on the bare knee, but the quality 
has passed from the person to the object,] 

C^est de son cru = That is of his own creation. 



FRENCH IDIOMS AND PROVERBS 



89 



Cruche . Cest une vraie cruche (fam.) = She is a silly 
goose. 

Cuir . . Pester entre cuir et chair (fam.) = To fume 
inwardly. 
Faire des cuirs - To drop one's h's. 

[Really these are faults made by uneducated French 
people in pronunciation, consisting in sounding s for /, 
or vice versa, when running their words together or in 
pronouncing these letters when they do not occur, as : 
Us dtaient zici, for Us dtaient ici.'] 

Cuirasse . I^s observations glissent sur lui comme sur une 
euirasse = Blsime slips off him as water off 
a duck's back. 

Cuire . . Vous viendrez cuire a mon four = Some day 
you will need my assistance. 

// vous en cuira = Yqu will smart for it. 

Avoir son pain cuit = To have one's bread 
and cheese, a competency. 

Culbute . *^« bout du fosse la culbute = At the end of 
the run comes the fall. 

[This expression refers to those who, from careless- 
ness or wrong-headedness, are resigned to the conse- 
quences of their bad conduct.] 

Cuver . . Cuver son vin = To sleep oneself sober. 



Dame . . l/ne grande dame de par le monde = A great 
lady in the eyes of the world. 

[This should be written Une grande dame de la part 
du monde. Littr6 points out that the error in spelling 
par for part is a very old one ; it would appear to date 
from the thirteenth century from the examples he quotes. 
De par le monde must be derived from de parte mundi, 
as de per was never used.] 

Darner . Damer le pion a quelquun — To outwit some 
one. 

[From the game of draughts, dame = a king, pion = 
a man.] 



90 



FRENCH IDIOMS AND PROVERBS 



Damner . Cet homme est son ante dainnee — That man 
does his dirty work for him, is his tool. 

[The man who does the dirty work knows he is 
damning his soul by doing it, but does it all the same 
for the money or interest it brings him.] 

Danger . // n'y a pas de danger -"Ho fear of that; 
Don't you fret ! 

Danser . // ne sait sur quel pied danser= He does not 

know which way to turn. 
li en dansera en fair = He will swing for it. 
Danser devant le buffet = To have nothing to 

eat. 

Dater . . Cet evenement date de loin = That event hap- 
pened long ago. 

Dd , , , A vous le de=lt is your turn to play (at dice). 
[See Avoir.] 
Ne nous flattez pas le de = Speak out without 
any reserve. 

[Flatter le d^ is to let the dice slide gently out of the 
box.] 

" Car niadame a jaser tient le de tout lejour^* 
= Madame engrosses the conversation all- 
day long. 

[MOLlfeRE, Tartufe, i. i.] 

Ddbandade lis laisserent tout a la debandade = They left 
all at sixes and sevens, in confusion. 
Ftiir a la debandade = To fly helter-skelter. 

D^bit . . Le ministre lui a accordk un debit de tabac = 
The minister has given him a license to 
sell tobacco. 

[The sale of tobacco, snuff, gunpowder, and cards is 
a Government monopoly in France.] 

Debout . *Mieux vaut goujat debout qu^empereur enterrk 

= " A living dog is better than a dead 

;' lion." — Ecclesiastes ix. 4. 

[La Fontaine, La Matrone (TAphhe. Goujat first 
meant a soldier's servant (as here), now it means a 
hodman, or bricklayer's apprentice, hence a vulgar, 
coarse fellow, a bungler.] 



FRENCH IDIOMS AND PROVERBS 



91 



Debout 

(continued) 

Ddbrider 



Ceia ne tient pas debout = That won't hold 
water. 



// a ecrit vingt pages sans d'ebrider = He has 
written twenty pages at a stretch. 

Ddchausser // ne faut pas se dechausser pour manger cela 
= It is not worth while sitting down to eat 
that. 

[The ancients were in the habit of reclining bare-foot 
at their meals.] 

Ddcoiffer ^Decoiffer {Decouvrir) St. Pierre pour coiffer 
St. Paul = To rob Peter to pay Paul. 

Decouvrir On a dicouvert le pot aux roses = They have 
discovered the mystery, the secret. 
JEtre a decouvert = To be unprotected, undis- 
guised. 

Decrocher Un dkrochez-moi-^a (pop.) =- A reach-me- 
down (second-hand garment). 

Dedans . Elle est tout en dedans = She is not com- 
municative. 
On Va mis dedans (fam.) = i. They took him 
in {i.e. they deceived him). 2. They ran 
him in {i.e. they put him in prison). 

[The second meaning is more often translated : " On 
I'a coffrd."] 

Comme un nigaud, fai donne dedans = Like a 

goose, I fell into the trap. 
/e ne sais si je suis dedans ou dehors = I do 
not know which side to take; I do not 
know whether I have made a profit or 
not. 

Ddfaire . II a le visage defait = He has a pale, worn- 
out look. 

Defaite Cette marchandise est d'une bonne difaite = 

These goods have a quick sale. 

Ddfaut . Attaquez-le au defaut de la cuirasse = Attack 
him on his weak point. 

Defense . Defense d'afficher = Stick no bills. 



92 



FRENCH IDIOMS AND PROVERBS 



Defense . 

{continued) 

Degainer . 



Defense d^entrer = No admittance. 
Defense d'entrer sous peine d^ amende = Tres- 
passers will be prosecuted. 

Eire brave jusqu'au degainer = To be brave 
until it come to blows. 

[Dtfgatner = to unsheathe a sword.] 

Degourdir I/s auront a se digourdir ou a diguerpir = 
They will either have to wake up or to 
clear out. 

Se degourdir les jambes = To stretch one's 
legs ; To go out for a run. 

Faire le degoute = To be fastidious, dainty. 

Si f'avais la fortune de Rothschild^ je serais, 
content. — Vous n'etes pas degoutil = If I hadl 
Rothschild's fortune I should be satisfied.] 
— I should rather think so ! 

Sauver le dehors ■= To save appearances. 

// n'a pas de dehors = His personal appear- 
ance is not prepossessing ; He looks] 
nobody. 

jEn flagrant delit = In the very act ; red- 
handed. 

[Lat. In ficLgrante delicto. '\ 

Diloger sans tatnbour ni trompette = To leave 
without beat of drum. 

Avec lui dest toujours demain = He always 
procrastinates. 

Demandeur ^^ beau demandeur beau refuseur = Diamonc 
cut diamond. 

[i.e. "If you are not ashamed to ask, I am not 
ashamed to refuse. "] 

D^manger La langue lui d^mange = He longs to speak 
He is dying to put in a word. 

Denier . Cet homme n'a pas un denier vaillant = That 

man is not worth a brass farthing. 

Rendre compfe a livres^ sous et deniers = T< 

give an account to the uttermost farthingJ 



Degouter 

Dehors 

Ddlit . 

Deloger 
Demain 



FRENCH IDIOMS AND PROVERBS 



Dent . . J^ai les dents Men longues aujourd'hui 

very hungry to-day. 
Je suis sur hs dents = I am done up. 
Jpai une dent contre lui = I have a grudge 

against him. 

[Also : Je Im garde un chien de ma chienne (pop.).] 

Aidant prendre la lune avec les dents = You 
might just as well try and scale the moon. 

Manger du bout des dents = To eat without 
an appetite ; To eat daintily. 

[" Dente superbo." — Horace, Satires, ii. 6, 87. 
Compare : rire du bout des dents.'] 

Dechirer quelqu'un a belles dents = To tear a 
person's reputation to shreds. 

[Also more forcibly : Passer quelqu'un a tadac] 

D^pense . *Zes folks depenses refroidissent la cuisine = 
Wilful waste makes woeful want. 

Ddplaire . Quil ne vous en dSplaise = With your permis- 
sion ; By your leave ; If you'll allow me ; 
An it please you. 

[Sometimes shortened to : Ne vous d^plaise, as in La 
Fontaine, Fables, i. i. The sense is often ironical, 
and means, " whether you like it or not."] 

D^pourvu Au d&pourvu = Unprepared. 

Derate . Courir comme un derate = To go like a shot ; 
To run like mad. 

[^afe= spleen. The Greeks believed that men and 
animals ran faster if their spleen was removed. ' ' On 
sait que I'extirpation de la rate se pratiquait chez les 
coureurs d'antiquit^ pour 6viter I'essoufFlement." — 
CouvREUR, Les Merveilles du Corps humain. Comp. 
Pliny, xxvi. 13.] 

Dernier . Une representation du dernier vulgaire = A 
display vulgar to the last degree ; A very 
low show. 



93 
I am %hjU.*-^ 



Ce que vous dites 1^ est du dernier bourgeois." 
MOLi^RE, Les Pr^cieuses Ridicules, sc. 5.] 



94 
D^sirer 



FRENCH IDIOMS AND PROVERBS 



*Flus on desire tine chose ^ plus elle se fait 
attendre = A watched pot never boils. 
Ce/a laisse a desirer = There is room for im- 
provement. 

D^SOrienter /e suis desoriente = i. I am disconcerted. 
2. I am out of my element ; I do not 
feel at home ; I have lost my bearings. 

Desserrer Je riai pas desserri lejs dents = I never opened 
my lips, 

Dessus . Par dessus k 7?iarchi = Into the bargain ; 

Over and above. 
// n^y a rien an dessus de cela = That beats 

everything. 
Sens dessus dessous = All upside down ; 

Topsy-turvy. 
lis ont eu le dessus = They got the best of it. 

[^Avoir le dessous— \o get the worst of it.] 

Prendre le dessus = I'o gain the upper hand. 
J^en ai par dessus la tete = I am worried out 

of my life with it. 
// le /era par dessus Vepaule — He will never 

do it. 

[Comp. " over the left," in schoolboy slang.] 

11 nCa regarde par dessus Pepaule = He looked 
at me contemptuously. 

Destinee . On n^echappe pas a sa destinee = He that is 
born to be hanged will never be drowned. 

Detente • // est dur a la detente = (fig.) He is close- 
fisted, a miser. 

Ddterrer . // a Pair d'un deterre = He looks as pale as 
death, as pale as a ghost. 

Ddtour . Faire un detour = To go a roundabout way. 
// est sans detour = He is straightforward. 

Dette . . // est crible de dettes = He is head over ears in 
debt. 

[For cribU one finds accabU, perdu, or aMm^.] 



FRENCH IDIOMS AND PROVERBS 



95 



Dette . . Des dettes criardes = Small debts to trades- 
{continued) people or workmen (who are continually 

asking for their money). 

Deuil . . fen at fait mon deuil = I have resigned 
myself to the loss of it. 

Deux . . Maintenant^ a nous deux ! --= Now I will settle 

with you ; Now is the time for a private 

explanation ; Now to business. 

'^Deux s'amusent, trots s^embetent (fam.) = Two's 

company, three's none. 

Tons les deux jours ; De deux jours Vun = 

Every other day. 
Piquer des deux = To spur on one's horse ; 
To rush forward. 

Devant . "^Les premiers vont devant = First come, first 
served. 
// faut prendre les devants = One must be 

first in the field. 
A lions au-devant de lui= Let us go and meet 
him. 

Divider . Mathurift divide lejars (pop.) = Jack Tar is 
spinning a yarn. 

Devoir . // doit au tiers et au quart {a Jean et a Paul) 
= ile owes money to everybody. 
// doit plus d^ argent qu^il n'est gros = He owes 
more money than he can pay. 
'*'Qui a terrne ne doit rien = No one need pay 

before a debt is due. 
"^Qui fie doit rien ?i^a rien a craindre = Out of 

debt, out of danger. 
*A chacun son du = Give the devil his due ; 

Every man is worth his hire. 
'''Fais ce que dois, advienne que pourra = Do 
your duty, come what may. 
Dusseje en mourir = Were I to die for it. 
Chose convenue, chose due = A promise must 
be kept. 



96 FRENCH IDIOMS AND PROVERBS 

Ddvolu . J^ai jeti mon devolu sur cela = I have fixed 
my choice upon that. 

Devotion . // rHest de devotion que de jmne pretre = En- 
thusiasm wears out in time ; New brooms 
sweep clean. (See Balai). 

Diable . Oest le diable qui bat sa femme et qui ?narie 

sa fille = It is raining and the sun is 

shining at the same time. 
Tirer le diable par la queue = To be always 

hard up for a living. 
Faire le diable a quatre = To make a terrible 

noise ; To play all sorts of tricks. (See 

Quatre.) 
Le diable chante la grand^messe = He hides 

his vices under the cloak of religion. 
C^est le diable a confesser = It is terribly hard 

to do. 
// a le diable au corps = He is never still, 

quite unmanageable, very energetic. 
Oest un air de porter le diable en terre = It 

is an air to conjure up the devil. 
*/l n'est pas si diable qu'il est noir = The 

devil is not as black as he is painted. 

[Or : Le diable nest pas si noir quit en a I'air.] 

Se demener conwie un diable dans un benitier 
= To rush about half-mad. 

Loger le diable dans sa bourse — To be penni- 
less. (See Bourse.) 

[" Et logeant le diable en sa bourse, 
C'est i dire, n'y logeant rien." 

La Fontaine, Fables, ix. i6.] 

Quand le diable fut vieux il se fit ermite = 
The devil was sick, the devil a monk 
would be, The devil was well, the devil a 
monk was he ! 

[Compare the Italian : 

Passata il punto, gabbato il santo = The peril past, 
the saint mocked. 

Also : The river past and God forgotten.] 



FRENCH IDIOMS AND PROVERBS 



97 



Diable . 

[cotitinued) 



Dieu . . 

Diffdrer . 
Diligence 
Dindon 
Dire . , 



Aller au diable Vauveri (corrupted into au 
vert) = To go very far away, a devil of a 
way; To disappear. 

[The Carthusians having been given a large building 
at Gentilly by St. Louis, coveted the abandoned man- 
sion of Vauvert { — vallon vert), which they could see 
from their windows. But to ask for it without a valid 
reason was to court refusal. So they caused it to be 
haunted by evil spirits, and the king was soon glad to 
get rid of this uncanny possession. It is needless to 
add that the spirits were exorcised directly the monks 
took possession. It stood in the rue de Vauvert, be- 
yond the Luxembourg, which was until lately called 
the rue d' Efifer. As this was then a remote suburb of 
Paris, the expression was equivalent to going to the 
end of the town, and thus, very far off.] 

C^est la le diable (or, le hie) = There is the 

rub. 
Elk a la beaute du diable = All her beauty 

consists in her youth and freshness. 
jFait a la diable (i.e. a la maniere du diable) 

= Done anyhow, in a slipshod way. 

A Dieu ne plaise ! = God forbid ! 

Jurer ses grands dieux = To afifirm vehe- 
mently ; To swear by all that one holds 
sacred. 

■^CV ^ui est differe 7i^ est pas perdu = All is not 
lost chat is delayed. 

[German : Aufgeschoben ist nicht aufgehoben.] 

Voyager par la diligence d' Adam = To travel 
on shanks' nag. 
[German : Auf Schusters Rappen.] 

Cest mi franc dindon = He is a thorough 

goose. 
£tre le dindon de la farce = To be the dupe. 

Pour tout dire = In a word. 

Cest tout dire = That is saying all, enough. 

\e.g. ' ' Get homme est-il honnete ? " — ' ' Je lui ai 
pr6t6 500 fr. il y a deux ans et il n'a jamais voulu me 
rendre un sou. C'est tout dire. "] 

Pour ainsi dire = So to speak. 

G 



98 



FRENCH IDIOMS AND PROVERBS 



Dire . . Je ne voi/s dis que ca = I cannot tell you any 
{continued) more, but it is a fact. 

[This can also be translated : " I can tell you ! " as 
in " Je me suis bien amus6, je ne vous dis que 9a ! "] 

Pour mieux dire = Or rather. 

y<? me le suis tenupour dit = I took it for granted. 

Soit dit enire nous = Quite between ourselves. 

Cela est hen a dire, mais . . . = That is all 
very well for a speech, but . • . ; That is 
all very fine, but . . . 

// est sensible au quen dira-t-on = He is sensi- 
tive to public opinion ; He is easily 
influenced by what people say about him, 
by what Mrs. Grundy will say. 

// etait dit que farriverais trap tard = The 
Fates had willed that I should come too 
late. 

Quand je vous le disais I (or, Je vous r avals 
bien dit f) = I told you so ! 

A/i ! vous m^en direz tant! = i . Well, that alters" 
the case ! 2. Ah ! now I understand, why 
did you not say so at first? 3. There's^ 
no going against such a reason as that. 
[This expression has almost as many meanings 
n'est-ce pas. The above are a few of them. It is oftei 
used ironically.] 

A qui le dites-vous ^ = Am I not perfectl] 

aware of it ? Don't I know it ? 
Au dire de tout le ?nonde= According to what 

everybody says ; According to the genei 

opinion. 
Je Viral dire a Rome = It is so unlikely, that 

if it happens I will undertake a pilgrimage 

to Rome ; 111 eat my hat. 

[Corap. Racine, Epigramme III. Sur Andromaque.'] 

Cela ne me dit rien = That has no effect 
upon me ; I have no desire for it. 

Discretion On fwus donna du vin a discretion = They 
gave us as much wine as we wanted (wine 
ad libitum). 



FRENCH IDIOMS AND PROVERBS 



99 



Distance . La distance grandit tout prestige = 

" 'Tis distance lends enchantment to the 

view, 
And robes the mountain in its azure hue." 

[Campbell, Pleasures of Hope, i. 7.] 

Doigt . • Je lui ai donne sur les doigts = I rapped his 
knuckles (lit. and fig.). 

// y met les qiiatre doigts et le pouce = (lit.) 
He eats greedily ; (fig.) He acts clumsily. 

lis soni comme les deux doigts de la main = 
They are hand and glove together, inse- 
parable. 

Vous avez juis le doigt dessus = You have hit 
the right nail on the head ; You have 
touched the spot. 

Mo?i petit doigt me Va dit = A little bird told 
me so. 

// etait a deux doigts de la mort = He was at 
death's door, within an ace of death. 

Se fourrer le doigt dans Poeil jusqu^au coude 
(pop.) = To deceive oneself most blindly ; 
To put one's foot in it. 

Savoir sur le bout du doigt = To know per- 
fectly ; To have at one's finger-ends. 

// lui obeit au doigt et a Pceil = He is at his 
beck and call. 

Un doigt de vin (fam.) = A toothful of wine. 

Dommage Cest dommage I = What a pity. 

Donner . Us lui en ont donne tout du long de Vaune = 

They beat him black and blue. 

Je vous le donne en dix = I bet you ten to 

one you will not guess it. 

"^Qui donne tot do?tne deux fois = He gives 

twice who gives in a trice. 

["Bis dat qui celeriter dat. "— PuBLius Syr US. Cito, 
which is now used instead of celeriter, appears to be a 



later alteration. 



Le regiment a donne 
engaged. 



The regiment has 



FRENCH IDIOMS AND PROVERBS 



Donner 

{continued) 



Dormir 



Dos 



On ne lui donnerait pas quarante ans = You 

would not take him for forty. 
On fen donnera des tabliers propres pour les 

salir = You ask too much. 
J'ai passe quinze jours a Paris et je 7fien suis 

donne = I spent a fortnight in Paris, and 

I thoroughly enjoyed myself. 

[This idiom implies movement, excitement, &c.] 

Dor77iir sur les deux oreilles = (lit.) To sleep 
soundly ; (fig.) To have no cause for 
anxiety. 

Dormir comme une mar7notte, comme un sabot, 
conime une souche, les (or, a) poings fermes 
= To sleep like a top, like a log. 

Dormir la grasse matinee = To lie late in bed. 

// nous a dit des confes a dormir debout = He 
told us tedious, nonsensical tales, old 
wives' tales. 



1 



[" rpawj/ C^Xos."- 
' * Aniles fabellae. 



■Plato, Rep. 350 E. 
—Cicero.] 



is as good as 



'''Qui dort dine = Sleeping 

eating. 
*Qui a renotnmee de se lever matin peut dormir 

jusqu^a midi = A good reputation covers 

a multitude of sins. 
Dormir en gendarme = To sleep with one 

eye open. 

*Il ne se laisse pas manger la laine sur le dos = 
He is not the man to let himself be made 
a fool of; He will not allow people to 
take the food out of his mouth; He will 
not tamely submit to any imposition. 

Le juge les a renvoyes dos a dos = The judge 
nonsuited them both. 

II fait le gros dos = He gives himself airs. 

En dos d'dne = Sloping on both sides, sharp- 
ridged. 

Je me suis mis le Juge a dos = I have made 
an enemy of the judge. 



FRENCH IDIOMS AND PROVERBS 



Dos 

{co7itinued) 



Double 



Douceur 



Doute . . 

Douter . 
Douzaine 
Dragee . 
Dragon . 

Drap . . 

Drapeau . 



fe7i ai plein le dos (pop.) = I am sick and 

tired of it. 
// a bon dos = His back is broad enough to 

stand a good deal. 

Cest un double coquin = He is a thorough 

rascal. 
Cest un homme double = He is a double-faced 

man. 

"^ Plus fait douceur que violence = Kindness does 
more than harshness ; More flies are 
caught with honey than with vinegar. 
[La Fontaine, Fables, vi. 3.] 
II faudra le prendre en douceur = Yo\i must 
tackle him gently. 

Cela ne fait aucun doute = There is no doubt 

about it. 
Z>ans le doute abstiens-toi = When in doubt, 

do nothing. 

Je ne me doutais de rien = I did not suspect 

anything. 
/e m'en doutais = I thought so. 

Cest unpoHe comme on en trouve a la douzaine 
= He is a very minor poet. 

[Rj^GNlER, Sat. iv.] 

Tenir la dragee haute a quelqu^un = To make 
a person pay well {or, wait a long time) 
for what he desires. 

Cette femme est un vrai dragon = i. That 
woman is a virago. 2. That woman is 
very masculine (in appearance and man- 
ners). 

Je suis dans de beaux draps = I am in a fine 

mess, in a pretty pickle. 
// voudrait avoir le drap et Pargent — He 

would like to have his cake and eat it too. 
£lle a deja un fits sous les drapeaux = She 

already has a son in the army. 



I02 FRENCH IDIOMS AND PROVERBS 

Droit . . Remettez ceci a qui de droit == Give this to the 
proper person, to the person who has a 
right to it. 

II f era droit a voire demande = He will accede 
to your request. 

II fait son droit = He is studying for the bar. 

Drole . . Cest un drole de corps = He is a queer fish. 

C'est un mauvais drole = He is a downright 
scamp. 

Dm . . . Frapper fort et dru = To strike with might 
and main. 



Hau . . ^// n'est pire eau que Peau qui dort = Still 
waters run deep. 
*Oest porter de Peau a la mer (or, riviere) = It 
is carrying coals to Newcastle. 

[The Greek equivalent was FXaO/cas ets 'A^Tji'as = 
Owls to Athens; the Hebrew "Enchantments to 
Egypt," and the Late Latin " Indulgences to Rome."] 

Cet ho7mjie aime a pecher en eau trouble = That 
man likes fishing in troubled waters. 
*Ils se ressemblent comme deux gouttes d^eau = 
They are as like as two peas. 

Tout va a vau Peau = All is going to wreck 
and ruin. 

^A vau Veau — With the current.] 
Pendant Pinondation le toil de cette fnaison 

e'tait afieur d'eau = During the flood the 

top of that house was on a level with the 

water. 
Cest un don?ieur d^eau benite de cour == He 

makes empty promises. 
Les eaux sont basses chez lui= He is hard up ; 

He is in low water. 
Cest do7iner un coup d^epee dans Peau — It is 

useless trouble, an unsuccessful attempt. 

[" 'Ev ^ha.ri ypd<peiv."— Plato, Phaedrus, 276 c] 



FRENCH IDIOMS AND PROVERBS 



T03 



Eau . . Faire venir I'eau au motdin = To bring grist 

{continued) tO the mill. 

Faire venir Veau a la botiche = To make one's 
mouth water. 
"^Veau va toujours au moulin = Property always 
goes to those who have some already ; 
Money makes money ; Nothing succeeds 
like success. 
D'ici la il passern Men de Peau sous le pont = 
It will be a long time before that happens. 
Mettre de Veau dans son z//;^ = (fig.) To come 
down a peg. 
'''Veau qui tombe gouite agoutte cave la pierre = 
Dropping water will wear away a stone. 

[Ovid begins a line with ' ' Gutta cavat lapidem " an 
abbreviation of the proverb ' ' Gutta cavat lapidem non 
vi sed saepe cadendo." 

" Stillicidi casus lapidem cavat." — Lucretius, 
i- 313.] 
* Une goutte d'cau suffit pour faire diborder un 
vase plein = The last straw breaks the 
camel's back. 
jVager enfre deux eaux = (lit.) To swim under 
water; (fig.) To run with the hare and 
hunt with the hounds. 
Faire eau (of boats) = To spring a leak. 
Fdire de Veau (of boats) = To take in fresh 

water. 
Laissez couler Veau = Do not be anxious 
about what cannot be helped ; Don't cry 
over spilt milk. 
Cela s^en est allc eti eau de boudin = That 
collapsed utterly, came to nothing. 
[The more correct form is .vV« alter en aune de 
boudin, alluding to Perrault's tale of Les Souhaits 
Ridicules.'] 

Echapper Ce mot m^est cchappe = That word escaped 
me inadvertently (/.^., I did not mean to 
say it). 
Ce mot m'a khappe = I have forgotten that 
word. 



I04 



FRENCH IDIOMS AND PROVERBS 



6ch^ant . 
fechelle . 



Le cas ccheant= Should such a thing happen ; 
If such should be the case. 



Faire la courte echelle a quelquhin = To allow 
some one to climb on one's shoulders to 
scale a height ; To give a lift to some one. 

Aprh lui il faut tirer Pkhelle = One cannot 
do better than he has {pr^ does) ; He beats 
the record, takes the cake. 

tcole . . Faire Vicole buissonniere = To play truant. 
Fat're une kole = To make a blunder. 
Faire ecole = To found {or^ to be a leader of) 
a school of art, literature, music, &c. 

tcolier . Faire un tour cT^colier =To play a schoolboy 
trick. 
Faire une faute d'ecolier= To make a foolish 
mistake. 

tconomie *// ny a pas de petites economies = K penny 
saved is a penny earned ; Take care of 
the pence and the pounds will take care 
of themselves. 

[Also : Les petites dconomies font les bonnes maisons.} 

tcorcher. '''Jamais beau parler n'Scorcha la langue = Fair 

words never did harm ; Civility costs 

nothing. 

II ecorche le f ran fats =YLe. murders French. 

// ecorche Vafiguille par la queue = He sets 

(goes) the wrong way to work. 

tcorner . II fait un vent a ecorner (or, decorner) un bosuf 
= The wind is enough to blow one's 
head off. 

Ecot . . Chacun a paye son ecot = Each paid for himself. 

tcouter . Com?ne cet homme s'ecoute ! = What care that 
man takes of himself! 
Cest un ecoute s'il pleut=Yie is a man who 
cannot be relied upon. 

[Mills were so called which depended for their motive- 
power on rain-water and consequently were continually 
stopping.] 



FRENCH IDIOMS AND PROVERBS 



105 



Ecouter 

{conthiued) 

6crire . 
6cuelle 
6curie 



Effet 
6gal 



6glise . . 

^lan . . 
Embarras 



// n^ecoute que (Tune oreiV/e^He pays very 
little attention. 

Ecrire de bonne encjx a quelqu^un = To write 
to some one in strong terms. 

Etre propre comme une ecuelle de chat= To be 
very dirty. 

"^Fermer V^curie quand les chevaux sont dehors 
= To lock the stable door when the steed 
is stolen. 
C'esf un cheval a Vecurie = It is a white 
elephant. 

Cela fait de r effet = That looks well ; That is 

showy ; That makes a fine display. 
Cela me fait cet effet = Tha.t seems so to me. 

Cela m'est egal= It is all the same to me ; I 
don't care. 

Tout lui est egal= Everything is the same to 
him. 

D'^gal a egal = i. Between equals. 2. On 
equal terms. 

C'est egal, je me suis joliment afnuse = Any- 
how (All the same), I enjoyed myself very 
much. 

*Fres *2e teglise, loin de Dieu = The nearer the 
church, the farther from God. 
Gueux comme un rat d^eglise = As poor as a 
church mouse. 

Prendre son elan = To take one's spring 
(before a jump). 

JVe faites done pas tant d! embarras =T>o not 

make such a fuss. 
Ce n^ est pas P embarr as = There, is no great 

difficulty in it ; After all ; For the matter 

of that. 
Elle na que Veiiibarras du choix = ^\\e has 

only too much to choose from. 



io6 



FRENCH IDIOMS AND PROVERBS 



Emblde . La lot passu d'emblee = The law passed straight 
off, by acclamation. 
//a ete recu (Hemblee = He passed his examina- 
tion the first time he went up, without 
any difficulty. 

Embrasser *Qui trop embrasse mal etreint= Grasp all, lose 
all. 

[" Qui totum vult totum perdit."— Publius Syrus. 
d Qui tout convoite tout perd. 

L'avarice rompt le sac. 
Too much is stark naught. 

" Oh, the little more, and how much it is ! 
And the little less, and what worlds away ! " 
Browning, Dramatic Lyrics, 

* By the Fireside, 39.] 

Employer // a employe le vert et le sec pour y parvenir = 
He left no stone unturned to secure suc- 
cess. 

Emporter Se77iporter comme une soupe au lait =To be 

very hasty-tempered. 
Ne faites pas attention a ses menaces^ autant en 

emporte le vetit = Pay no attention to his 

threats, they are as light as air. 
jEmporter ses cliques et ses claques =^1^0 clear 

off, bag and baggage. 
Oest une reponse a r emporte-piece = It is a 

very cutting answer, and to the point. 

[y4 remporte-pi^ce=C\ii out by a machine-punch.] 

Cela m^effiporte la bouche =-- It burns my 
mouth {i.e. it is too highly spiced). 

Empress^ // fait Pempresse aupres de sa vieille tante = 
He pays marked attention to his old 
aunt. 

Empninter Elk a un air eniprunte = She looks awkward, 
embarrassed, affected. 
JVe choisit pas qui emprunte — l^eggaxs cannot 
be choosers. 



[" Qui empruncte ne choisist mie." 

Maistre Pierre Pathelin, 



79' 



FRENCH IDIOMS AND PROVERBS 



107 



Encensoir Casser le nez a quelqu'un a coups (Tencensoir 
= To flatter some one fulsomely to his 
face. (See Casser.) 

Enchere . Payer la folk enchere = To pay for one's rash- 
ness, for one's folly. 

[When a man bids at an auction and does not pay 
for what he has bought, the lot is put up again and he 
has to pay the difference (if any) between the price it is 
then sold at and the price he bid for it.] 

Enchere au rabais = A Dutch auction. 

Enclume . /e suis entre renclu?ne et le marfeau = I am in 

a dilemma ; I am between the devil and 

the deep sea. 
*// frappe toujours sur la 7nenie enclume = He 

is always harping on the same string. 
'^A dure enclume marteau de plume = The 

strokes of adversity find the wise man 

unmoved. 

[" Impavidum ferient ruinae." 

Horace, Odes, iii. 3.] 

Endroit . Frapper au bon endroit = To touch the right 
spring; To hit the right nail on the head; 
To hit the mark ; To touch the spot. 

Endimancher Des gens endimanches^-Yc^ rigged out in 
their Sunday best. 

Enfant . Des ^ if ants per dus (military) = A forlorn hope. 
Un enfant terrible = A child who tells awk- 
ward truths. 

[Gavarni, the caricaturist, published a series of 
sketches in 1865 under the title of " Les Enfants 
Terribles."] 

Elle a deux enfants du premier lit= She has 

two children by her first husband. 
Oest U7i enfant de la balle = He is his father's 

son ; He follows the profession of his 

father. (See Balle.) 
Cest bien Penfafit de sa mere = He is the very 

image of his mother. 
Eaire Penfant = To behave childishly (on 

purpose). 



io8 



FRENCH IDIOMS AND PROVERBS 



Enfiler 
Enfonceur 

Engrenage 
Enlever . 
Ennemi . 

Enseigne 



Je ne suis pas id pour enfiler des perks = \ am 

not here to waste my time. 
Cela ne s^enfile pas co??ime des perles = That is 

by no means an easy matter. 
C'esf U7i enfonceur de portes ouvertes= i. He 

is a braggart. 2. He takes a deal of 

trouble to solve a difficulty which does 

not exist. 

J^tre pris dans l' engrenage = To be caught in 
the toils. 

On enleva les journaux comnie du pain = The 
papers sold like hot rolls, like wild-fire. 

// n'y a pas de petit ennemi =^v&ry enemy is 
to be feared. 

[" Croire qu'un faible ennemi ne pent pas nuire, c'est 
croire qu'une 6tincelle ne peut pas causer un incendie." 
Sa'adi.] 

Nous sommes loges a la meme enseigne = We. 
are both in the same predicament, in the 
same boat. 



A 



[" €v yap T(fi avT(f ifffiev CK&ixfxaTi." 
St. Clement's Epistle to the Church of Corinth.] 



telles enseignes = In proof whereof; So 
much so that. 
Je ne le croirai qua bonnes enseignes = I shall 
only believe it upon good authority. 

Entendre // entend a demi mot = He can take a hint. 

*A bon entendeur, salut=A word to the wise 

is enough ; Verbum sap. 

["A bon entendeur ne fault qu'une parole."— 
Rabelais, Pantagruel, v. 7.] 

// n^ entend pas de cette oreille -^ (fig.) He will 

listen to nothing on that subject. 
Vous ne vous y e?ttendez pas — You do not 

know how to set about it, how to manage it. 
// n^ entend pas raillerie la-dessus = i. You 

must not speak lightly of that before him. 

2. He will not be trifled with on that 

point. 



FRENCH IDIOMS AND PROVERBS 



109 



Entendre Entendre la railkrie = To know how to be 
[continued) witty ; To be a good hand at chaff. 

Entendre railkrie = Not to be offended at a 

joke ; To stand chaff well. 
// ny entend pas malice = i. He does not 
mean any harm ; He means no more than 
he says. 2. He takes it innocently. 
Eaire Pentefidu = To put on a knowing look. 
*// n'est pire sourd que celui qui ne veut pas 
entendre = None so deaf as those who will 
not hear. 

Entente . Un mot a double entente = A word {pr^ remark) 
with two meanings. 

Enterrer . *Mieux vaut goujat debout qu^empereur enterre 
= A living dog is better than a dead lion. 

Envie . . J'ai bien envie d'aller a Paris avec vous = I 

have a good mind to go to Paris with you. 
// ne porte envie a person?! e = He envies no 

one. 
// ne fait envie a personne = No one envies 

him. 
Si P envie m'en prend= If I feel inclined to 

do it. 

Envoyer . Je Pai envoye promener (or, fam., paitre)^! 
sent him about his business. 

Ep^e . . C'est son epee de chevet= i. That is his trusty 
counsellor. 2. That is what he is always 
talking about. 

[Literally, a sword that hung at the head of a bed to 
guard one from nocturnal attacks. 

" Voila leur ^p^e de chevet, de I'argent." — Moliere, 
VAvare, iii. 5.] 

Passer aufil de Pepee=^To put to the sword. 
Qui porte epee porte paix = One sword keeps 

another in its scabbard; Si vis pacem, 

para bellum. 

Epervier . "^Mariage d'epervier, la femelle vaut ?nieux que 
le male = The grey mare is the better 
horse. 



no FRENCH IDIOMS AND PROVERBS 

Hpine . . Tirer une ^phie du pied a quelqii'un = To take 
a thorn out of some one's side; To get 
some one over a difficulty. 

Hpingle . // est toujours tire a quatre epingles = He 
always looks as if he came out of a band- 
box. 
J^ai tire mon epiiigle du jeu = I have saved 
my stake ; I got well out of a bad job. 

[Une locution qui vient d'un jeu de petites fiUes : 
elles mettent des Epingles dans un rond, et, avec une 
balle qui, lancde contra le mur, revient vers le rond, 
elles essayent d'en faire sortir les Epingles : quand on 
fait sortir sa mise, on dit qu'on retire son ^pingle 
du jeu.] 

Une ^pingle par jour fait huit sous par an = A 
pin a day is a groat a year. 

Eponge . Passons PepOTige la-dessus = Let us say no 
more about it ; Let us forget all about it ; 
Let bygones be bygones. 

6preiive . C'est un ami a toute epreuve = He is a well- 
tried, faithful, trusty friend. 

Epuiser . V edition est epuisee = The book is out of 
print 

Equipde . Ohl la belle equipeel = Here's a pretty 
kettle of fish ! 

Ergot . . Se dresser sur ses ergots = To stand on one's 
dignity. 

Esprit . . Je suis Men dans son esprit =Yie has a good 

opinion of me. 
Oil avez-vous done V esprit ^ =^^\\2X are you 

thinking of? 
// a Vesprit aux talons = He shines at the 

wrong end ; He is not witty. 
// a Vesprit de Pescalier= He never thinks of 

the right answer at the proper moment. 

[i.e. He thinks of the right answer going down the 
staircase, after leaving the room.] 

Faire de r esprit = To try and be witty. 



FRENCH IDIOMS AND PROVERBS 



Esprit." . II a de V esprit comme quatre=We. is very 
[continued) witty. 

L^ esprit court les rues = \^\\. is a drug in the 

market. 
Avoir r esprit Men fait = To be good-tem- 
pered. 
Les grands esprits se rencontrent = Gx&2Lt wits 
always jump together ; We both said the 
same thing at the same moment. 

Essuyer . Essuyer les pldtres = To move into a newly- 
built house before the walls are dry ; (fig.) 
To experience the disadvantages of a 
beginning. 

Estomac Avoir Vestomac dans les talons = Tq be as 
hungry as a hunter. 

^tat . . Nous faisons peu d^etat de cet homme = We 

consider that man very little; We take 

little account of that man. 
De son e'tat^ By profession, by trade. 
/e Vai mis hors d^etat de vous nuire = I have 

put it out of his power to harm you. 
I^our un rien il se met dans tous ses etats (fam.) 

= He gets very excited over a mere trifle. 
LEtat^ c^est moil = The State ! I am the 

State. 

[Chi^ruel, Histoirede F Administration monarchique 
en France, Livre II, p. 32.] 

6toffe . . II y a de Vetoffe dans cet en/ant = There is grit 
in that boy. 

^toile . . yoir des etoiles {la lune) en plein midi=To 
receive a violent blow in the eye, so as to 
" see stars." 

l&tourdir . Etourdir la grosse /aim = To take the edge 

off one's appetite.* . 
Etre . . /e ny suis pour personne = I am not at home 

to anybody. 
yi? n'y suis pour rien = I have nothing to do 

with it ; I have no hand in it. 



112 



FRENCH IDIOMS AND PROVERBS 



Etre . . Vous n^y etes pas = You do not understand it ; 
{continued) " You are out of it." 

y'jF suisyfy resfe='Here I am, here I stop. 
[Marshal MacMahon in the trenches before the 
Malakoff, Sept. 9, 1855.] 

CeUe fot's, fa y est = Now it is done, and no 

mistake. 
y<? n^en suis plus = I am no longer one of the 

party ; I no longer belong to it. 
// n'en a rien ete = Nothing came of it. 
// en a ete pour sa peine = ^q had his trouble 

for nothing. 
// en sera ce qu'il vous plaira = lt shall be 

just as you please. 
Je ?ie sais plus oil fen suis = i . I have lost 

the place where I left off (in reading, etc.). 

2. I do not know what I am about. 
Je suis tres Men avec lui^ I am on very good 

terms with him. 
Etes-vous de la noce? = KxQ you one of the 

wedding party ? 
Etes-vous des notres = Are you one of our 

party ? Are you one of us ? Do you think 

as we do ? 
Voila ce que c'est que de se mettre en colhre = 

That is the consequence of losing one's 

temper. 
Je suis a ritroit= I am cramped for room. 
*0n ne peut pas etre et avoir ete = One. cannot 

have one's cake and eat it. (See Drap.) 

6trenne . Tu n'en auras pas V^trenne — You will not be 
the first to use it. 

6trier . . II a le pied a retrier= He is ready to start. 

Buvez le coup de lVtrier= Drink the stirrup- 
cup. 

A franc etrier=kX. full speed. (See Bride 
and Train!) 

fevangile . Cest VEvangile (or, d est parole d^Avangile) = 
It is gospel truth. 






FRENCH IDIOMS AND PROVERBS 



113 



ExCUSer . '''Qui s^excuse, s^accuse=^li you try to excuse 
yourself you practically acknowledge that 
you have done wrong ; A guilty con- 
science needs no accuser. 
Excusez du peu (ironic.) = Only that? How 
modest ! 

Example . II prhha d^exemple = He practised what he 
preached ; He set the example. 
'^Peu de lecons^ heaucoup d'exemples = Precepts 
lead, examples draw ; It is easiest learning 
at another's cost. 

Experience * Experience passe science = Experience is the 
best master ; Experientia docet. 

[" Experience is the best of schoolmasters, only the 
school fees are heavy." Carlyle, Misc. Essays, 
i- 137.] 

Extreme . Les extremes se touchent = Extremes meet ; 
Too far east is west ; Too much care may 
be as bad as downright negligence. 



F. 

Fabrique Cest de sa fabrique = That is of his inven- 
tioij. 
Marque de fabrique = Trade-mark. 

Face . . // /era face a tout = He will meet every 
demand. 
Ce portrait est pris de face = That portrait 

is taken full face. 
Jouer a pile ou face = To play at heads or 

tails, pitch and toss. 
// /e regarda bien en face = He looked him 
straight in the face. 

Fa^on . . Donner un ouvrage a fafon = To put out a 
job to be done. 
On travaille a facon (of small tailors, etc.) = 
People's own materials made up. 

H 



114 



FRENCH IDIOMS AND PROVERBS 



Fa^on . . Cest un conte de sa facon = It is a story of 
{continued) his owii invention. 

Maintenant qu!il est riche, il s'en donne de la 
bonne fafon = Now he is rich, he refuses 
himself nothing. 
Je lui dirai fnafafon de penser = I'll give him 

a piece of my mind. 
Une fafon de parler = A form of speech ; A 
way of speaking (not to be taken literally). 

[e.g. " Quand je dis qu'il n'est jamais venu en 
Angleterre c'est une fafon de parler, car il a pass6 huit 
jours a Douvres il y a dix ans."] 

Cet homme n'a ni mine ni fafon = That man 
has neither grace nor good looks ; That 
man is as awkward as he is ugly. 

C^est lui qui fait les sottises et c'est ?noi qui eni 
paye la fapn = He commits the mistakes] 
and I have to pay for them. 

// a bonne fafon = He has good style ; He] 
is well got up. 

De toute fa^on il a tort = At any rate he isj 
wrong ; Whichever way you look at it, he] 
is wrong. 

Sans fafon = Without ceremony, without 
fuss. 

Defapn ou d* autre = SomeJhow or other. 

Fagot . . C'est un vrai fagot d'epines = He is a regular 
bear. 
*// y a fagots et fagots = There are men and 
men ; All men are not alike. 

[MOLliRE, Le MMecin malgrd lui, i, 6.] 

Sentir le fagot = i. To be tainted with heresy 
(obsolete). 2. Not to be quite honest. 

Fagoter . Comme vous voila fagotee ! = How awkwardly 
you are dressed ! What a fright (or, 
dowdy) you look ! 

[" Pour moi, quand une femme a le don de se taire, 
Eiat-elle en vrai niagot tout le corps fagots, 
Je lui voudrais donner le prix de la beauts." 

CORNEILLE, Le Menteur,^ 



FRENCH IDIOMS AND PROVERBS 115 

Faillir . . J'aifailli tomber = I very nearly fell. 

Faim . . Cest la faim qui epouse la soif =-- They are 
both very poor ; It is one beggar marrying 
another. 
. "^^ La faim chasse le loup hors du bois = Hunger 
tames the lion ; Hunger will break through 
stone walls. 

Faire . • Rien tCy fait = Nothing has any effect 

upon him (orj on it); It is all of no 

use. 

Comment est-il fait 1 = What sort of a man 

is he? 

*Ce qui est fait est fait = It is no good crying 

over spilt milk. 
'*'0n ne pent faire qu^en faisant =-■ Practice 
makes perfect. 
Faire la Saint-Lundi = To do no work on 
Monday. (See Lundi.) 

[Colloquially : Faire le Lundi. ] 

Tdchez de faire quelques provisions = Try and 

collect some provisions. 
Faire dix ans de travaux force's = To undergo 

ten years' penal servitude. 
// est bon de se faire a la fatigue = It is good 

to accustom oneself to fatigue. 
Coquelin fait le role principal = Coquelin is 

taking the principal part. 
On le fait riche = He is said to be rich. 
Cela ne me fait ni chaud ni froid = It is all 

the same to me. 
fe n'ai que faire de vos co?iseils = I do not care 

a jot for your advice ; I do not want your 

advice. 
*Qui bienfera, bien (se) trouvera = Who works 

well will have a good reward. 
// ne faut pas me la faire (pop.) = You must 

not try that on with me. 
Coinbien faites-vous cette etoffe ? = How much 

are you asking for this stuff? 



Il6 FRENCH IDIOMS AND PROVERBS 

Faire . . // (time a ce guon fasse cas de ltd = He likes 
(continued) to be made a fuss of. 

II fait bien son chemin = He is getting on in 

the world. 
I/s ne font qu^un — They are hand and glove 

together. 
Cela fait beaucoup = That makes a great 

difference. 
Ce/a me fait sortir des gonds = That exaspe- 
rates me. 
// faut faire mousser sa marchandise = One 

must puff one's goods. 
Qu^est-ce que cela me fait ? = What is that to 

me? 
Faire huit kilometres a pied^ a cheval, en 

voiture = To walk, ride, drive, five miles. 
Le vert fait bien avec le rose = Green goes j 

well with pink ; Pink and green are fit for' 

a queen. 
Faire des siennes = To be at one's old tricks. 
// n'en fait qu'd sa volonte = He is self- 
willed. 
C^est a faire a vous de reussir ^- You are the 

man to succeed. 
C'en est fait de lui = He is done for ; It is 

all up with him. 
Ce qui est fait n^est pas a faire — Better to 

finish it now than to leave it. 
Ce n^est ni fait ni a faire = It is done, but 

badly, (in a slovenly fashion). 
Ilfaitchervivre a Londres = Living in London 

is dear. 
Que faire ? = What am I {or, are we) to 

do ? What is to be done ? 
Pourquoi faire ? = What for ? 
Comment faire 1 ~y^\\2X is to be done? 
Que voulez-vous que fy fasse ? = How can I 

help it? What would you have me do? 

It is no business of mine. 
fe ne saurais qu'y faire = 1 cannot help it. 



FRENCH IDIOMS AND PROVERBS 



17 



Faire . . ^^ chose faite point de remMe = What is done 
{contifiued) cannot be undone. 

Laissez-le faire = Do not interfere with him. 

Si faire se peut= If possible. 

Ceia nefait rien ^ That does not matter. 

// rCenfera rien = He will do nothing of the 

sort. 
Je nCy fais = I am getting used to it. 
Cest bien fait = It serves him {pr^ her, you) 

right. 
Quel temps fait-il? = What is the weather 

like? 
Quel temps ilfait ! = What weather this is ! 
Paris ne s^ est pas fait en un jour = Rome was 

not built in a day. 
II s'est fait jardinier =Yl& became a gardener. 
Elle se fait vieille = She is getting old. 
Pour se faire la main = To get one's hand in 

(i.e. to get accustomed to the work). 
Se faire jour a travers la foule = To force 

one's way through the crowd. 
Je me fdis fort de le faire = I feel quite 

confident of doing it. 
Coquelin sail le mieux se faire une tete = 

Coquelin is the cleverest at altering his 

features, at making up. 
Cela se fait maintenant = That is the fashion 

now. 
Cela ne se fait pas = That is not proper ; 

That is not the correct thing. 

Faiseur . Cest un faiseur d'embarras = He is a fussy 
personage. 

Fait . . Cela est de mon fait = That is my doing. 

Venons au fait = Let us come to the point. 

Mettez-moi au fait de ce qui s'est passe = Tell 
me what happened. 

// lui a dit son fait = He told him what he 
thought of him {not complimentary) ; He 
gave him a bit of his mind. 



Il8 FRENCH IDIOMS AND PROVERBS 

Fait . . Si fait! = Yes, indeed! On the contrary! 

{continued) Cette place est votre fait = That situation is 

just the thing for you. 
Je suis stir de mon fait = I am sure of what 

I am saying ; I know what I am about. 
Cest un fait accompli = It is done and cannot 

be undone. 
Travailler a prix fait (or, a forfait) = To 

work at an agreed price ; Vo work by the 

piece. 
Prendre quelqu'un sur le fait = To take any 

one in the act. 
// a pr is fait et cause pour moi= He stood up 

for me ; He took my part.. 

Falloir • . Vhomtne qu'il faut = The very man (for a 

post). 
// lefaut= It must be so. 
// fallait voir comme il etait content = You 

should have seen how happy he was. 
Feu s'en fallut quHl ne fiit refu = He was 

all but received; He failed for a few 

marks. 

[Latin : Haud multum abfuit quin. . . .] 

Oest un homme comme il faut = He is a 

perfect gentleman. 
C^est un homme comme il en faut= He is one 

of the right sort. 

[Sometimes in bad sense : He is the sort of man we 
want to do that dirty work.] 

Cest un homfne comme il en faudrait beaucoup 
= I wish more men were like him (be- 
cause of his straightforward or courageous 
nature). 

S'il ?i est pas unfripon, il ne s' en faut guere — 
If he is not a rascal, he is precious near it. 

// s^en faut beaucoup que Vun ait autant de 
merite que rautre='VheTQ is a great differ- 
ence in merit between the two. 



FRENCH IDIOMS AND PROVERBS 



119 



Falloir . // s'en faut de beaucoup que leur nombre soit 

(continued) complet =. Their number is far from being 

complete. 

[The former of these two idioms should refer to 
quality, the latter to quantity.] 

Farine . . J^es gens de meme farine = Persons of the 
same kidney (generally in a bad sense) ; 
People tarred with the same brush. 

Fat . . . "Z^ bruit est pour lefat, la plainte pour le sot^ 
Vhonnete homme trovipe s' eloigne et ne ditmot" 
— Rows are for muffs, 'tis only fools complain. 
The gentleman deceived will grin and bear 
the pain. 

[La Noue, La Coquette corrigde, i. 3 (1756).] 
Faute . . Rien ne vous /era faute = You will want for 

nothing. 
// ne se fait faute de rien = He denies himself 

nothing. 
C'est une faute d^ inattention = It is a slip. 
Oest une faute d* impression = It is a misprint. 
// ne se fait pas faute de se plaindre = He 

complains freely. 
Faute de mieux = For want of something 

better. 

Faux . . Chanter faux = To sing out of tune. 

Faireun faux pas = (lit.) To stumble; (fig.) 

To make a slip ; To commit a mistake. 
Vous faites fausse route = You are taking the 

wrong road ; You are on the wrong track. 
Cette poutre porte a faux = That beam does 

not rest properly on its support. 
Cette remarque a porte a faux = That remark 

was not to the point, was not conclusive. 
Faux conime un jeton = As false as Judas ; 

As false as a die. 
Je niinscris en faux contre cette assertion = I 

emphatically deny the truth of that asser- 
tion. 

Fde . • . C'est la fee Carabosse = She is an old hag. 



FRENCH IDIOMS AND PROVERBS 



Feler . . ^^ Les pots feUs sont ceux qui durent k plus = 
The door with the creaking hinge hangs 
longest ; The cracked pitcher goes oftenest 
to the well. 

Femme • *Femme qui parte comme homine et geline qui 
chante cofnme coq ne sont bonnes a tenir = 
A whistling woman and a crowing hen 
Are good for neither cocks nor men. 

[" G'est chose qui moult me deplaist, 
Quand poule parle et coq se taist. " 

Roman de la Rose. 
" La poule ne doit pas chanter devant le coq." 

MOLl^RE, Z^s Femtnes Savantes, v. 3.] 

*Prends k premier conseil d^une femtne et non le 
second = A woman's instinct is better than 
her reason. 

[Montaigne coined the phrase V esprit primesautier 
to describe this feminine peculiarity of either seeing a 
thing at once or not at all.] 

Femme sotte se connait a la cotte = A foolish 

woman is known by her finery. 
Ce que femme veut Dieu le veut = Woman 
must have her way. 
* Souvent femme varie, 
Bienfol est qui s^y fie = 

Between a woman's yes and no, 
There's no room for a pin to go. 
A woman's mind 
And winter wind 
Change oft. 

[These words are said to have been written by Fran- 
9ois I. on two little leaded panes in his room at the 
castle of Chambord, about ten miles from Blois. 
Brantome says that while talking with his sister, Mar- 
guerite d'Angoulfime, he engraved the saying with a 
diamond ring. Report has it that Louis XIV. broke 
the glass with his stick at the request of Mademoiselle 
de la Valliere. However that may be, the visitor to 
Chambord will see that the words have been rewritten 
on the window.] 

Ciel pommele et femme fardie ne sont pas de 
longue duree = A mackerel sky, not long 
wet and not long dry 






FRENCH IDIOMS AND PROVERBS 



Fenetre 



Fer 



Ferir 
Ferr^ 

Fete 



Feu 



II faut passer par la ou par la fenetre = It is 
absolutely inevitable. 

'^ II faut battre le fer pendant qu'il est chaud = 

You must strike while the iron is hot. 

[" Ce pendant que le fer est chault il le fault battre." 
—Rabelais, Pantagruel, ii. 31.] 

Cela ne vaut pas les quatre fers d'un chien = 
That is not worth a rap, a fig (/>., 
nothing, for a dog is not shod). 

// tomba les quatre fers en /Wr=(lit.) He fell 
on his back ; (fig.) He was struck all of a 
heap. 

II y a quelque fer qui loche = There is a hitch 
somewhere. (See Cloc/ier.) 

Sans coup firir = Without striking a blow. 

\raphie = He is well up 



// est f err e sur la 
in geography. 

*Ce n^est pas tous les jours fete = Christmas 

comes but once a year. 
Faire fete a quelqu^un = To welcome some 

one heartily. 
Je me fats une fete de passer huit jours a la 

campagne = I look forward with pleasure 

to the idea of spending a week in the 

country. 

// n'a ni feu ni lieu = He has neither house 

nor home. 
Vennetni ?nit le pays a feu et a sang = The 

enemy put the country to fire and sword. 
Je n'y ai vu que du feu = It was impossible 

for me to find out how the thing was done 

(as it was done so quickly) ; It was done 

so quickly {pr^ cleverly) that I could not 

make head or tail of it. 
Vous me faites mourir cl. petit feu = You are 

killing me by inches ; You are torturing 

me to death. 



122 FRENCH IDIOMS AND PROVERBS 

Feu . . . II ne faut pas jouer avec lefeu = One should 
{continued) not play with edged tools. 

// fC est feu que de bois vert = None are so 

active as the young. 
// j'ette feu et flamme = He frets and fumes ; 

He is in a great rage. 
Faire feu des quatre pieds = To strain every 

nerve. 
Ce n'est qu'unfeu de pailie = \t is only a flash 

in the pan ; It will not last. 
// a j'ete tout son feu— i. His anger *is over 

now. 2. He has used up all his ideas. 
Cest le feu et Peau = They are as opposite 

as fire and water. 
Fai're feu = To fire (rifles, guns). 
Fat're dufeu = To light a fire. 

F^ve . . *Il a trouve la f eve au gateau = He has hit the 
mark ; He has made a lucky discovery. 

[It was (and is still in many places) the custom to 
hide a bean in the cake on Twelfth Night, and the 
person who found it was the king of the revels. 
" Pensent avoir trouve la feve du gasteau." 

RteNiER, Satires, vii.] 

^Donner un pois pour avoir unefeve = To give 
a sprat to catch a herring. (See (Euf) 

Fier . . Fier comme Artabaii (or, comme un Ecossais) 
= As proud as a peacock. 

[Artaban was the hero of CUopdtre, a romance by 
La Calprenede, a Gascon. The phrase is also said 
to be derived from Artabanes, King of Parthia. " Plus 
fier que tous les Artabans." — Rostand, Cyrano de 
Bergerac, i. 2.] 

Fi^vre . . *Tomber defievre en chaud mal (or, de la poele 
dans la braise^ de Charybde en Scylla) = 
To fall out of the frying-pan into the 
fire. 

[" Incidit in Scyllam cupiens vitare Charybdim." — 
Compare Homer, Od. xii. 85. 

"Thus when I shun Scylla, your father, I fall into 
Charybdis, your mother." — Shakespeare, Merchant 
of Venice, iii. 5.] 



FRENCH IDIOMS AND PROVERBS 123 

Figue . . "^Moitie figue, inoitie raisin = i. Partly will- 
ingly, partly by force. 2. Half one thing 
and half another. 3. Half in jest, half in 
earnest. 

[This expression is often used of a remark that may 
be complimentary or not.] 

Fil , . . Je ltd donnerai du fil a retordre = I will cut 
out his work for him ; I will give him a 
deal of trouble. 
Ce sont des fi7iesses cousues de fil blanc = Those 
tricks are easily found out. 
"^A toile our die Dieu envoie le fil= God sends 
thread for a begun web. 
Aufilde Veau = With the stream. 
Aufil de repee = To the edge of the sword. 

Filer . . Filer a ranglaise = To leave without saying 

good-bye, without attracting attention; 

To take French leave. 

*Du temps que Berthe filait --^ When Adam 

delved and Eve span ; In the good old 

times. 

[Berthe was the mother of Charlemagne. She was 
known as Berthe au grand pied from her club foot.] 

Filer doux = Ho sing small. 
II faut filer (or, Filons /) (fam.) = We must 
bo off, trot off. 

Fille .. . La plus belle fille du monde ne peut dowser que 
ce qu'elle a = No man can give more than 
he has ; A man cannot give what he has 
not got. 

'^Quand on a desfilles, on est toujours berger = 
My son is my son till he gets him a wife, 
My daughter's my daughter all the days 
of her life. 

* Fille oisive, a mal pensive = An idle brain is 
the devil's workshop. 

[" For Satan finds some mischief still 
For idle hands to do." 

Isaac Watts, Divine Songs, xx.] 



124 FRENCH IDIOMS AND PROVERBS 

Fille . . Fille trop vue^ robe\ iK maid often seen, a 
(coTiHnued) trop vetue, I — / garment often worn, 

JV^est pas c/ierel~\ Are disesteemed and 
Unue. ) [ held in scorn. 

Fils . . . // esf bien k fils de son pere = He is a chip of 
the old block. 
^tre le fils de ses oeuvres = To be a self-made 
man. 

Fin (subst.) A la fin vous voilal — Here you are at 
last! 
A la fin des fins (or, en fin finale) vous nous 
direz quelque chose = At last you will tell 
us something. 
A telle fin que de raison = At all events ; At 
any rate. 
*La fin couronne Pocuvre = The end crowns 

all ;■ All's well that ends well. 
*Qut veut la fin veut les moyens= Where there 
is a will there is a way ; If you want the 
end you must not stick at the means. 
^La fin justifie les moyens = Success justifies 
the means by which it has been attained. 
// louche a sa fin = He is nearing his end ; It 

is nearly over. 
*£n ioutes choses il faut considerer la fin = We 
must always look to the end; Look before 
you leap. 

[La Fontaine, Fables, iii. 5. The motto of the 
Kennedy family is " Look to the end," or " Avise la 
fin."] 

Oest fin de Steele = That is smart, up to 
date. 

[This expression came to the front in Paris about 
the time of the 1889 Exhibition. In 1890 appeared 
a play called " Paris fin de si^cle," by Blum and 
Toch6, in which occur these words: " C'est un mot 
nouveau qui dit tres bien ce qu'il veut dire. Le siecle 
n'a plus que dix ans k vivre, et, vois-lu, il veut les passer 
gaiement." The saying, however, has lost its sense, 
and is becoming obsolete now that a new century has 
begun.] 



FRENCH IDIOMS AND PROVERBS 



125 



Fin (adj.) . // salt lefort et le fin de son arf=He knows 
every trick of his trade. 

I^/us fin que lui n^est pas bete = He who can 
take him in is no fool. 

/'arrive du fin fond de PAfrique = I have 
come from the very depths of Africa. 

C'est une fine mouche (or, lame) = He is a 
cunning fellow, a sly dog. (See Compere.) 

Cest fin contre fin = It is diamond cut dia- 
mond. 
[Also : Fin contre fin ne vaut rien four doublure.'\ 

Fin contre fin gare la bonibe = " When Greeks 
joined Greeks, then was the tug of war." 
[Nathaniel Lee, Alexander the Great, iv, 2.] 

Dites nous le fin /;/<?/ = Tell us the secret. 

// a le nezfin = i. He has a good nose. 2. He 

is far-sighted, sagacious. 
Jouer au plus fin = To vie in cunning. 

Finir . . Ce sont des disputes a n'en plus j'?;?/r= Those 
are endless quarrels. 

Flamber . Cest un ho?nme flatnbe— He is a ruined man, 
a lost man. 

Flanc . . // s'est battu les flancs pour rien = He gave 
himself all that trouble for nothing. 
// est sur le flanc =^ He is laid up, on his back. 
Preter le flanc 4 des reproches = To lay one- 
self open to reproaches. 

Fldtrir . . *De rose fletrie nul ne soucie = The fading rose 
has no suitor. 

Fleur . . Cest la fine fleur de rarmee= It is the cream 
of the army. 

B affaire passa a fleur de corde = The matter 
only just succeeded. 

Les yeux a fleur de tete = Goggle eyes (i.e. 
on a level with the cheek-bone and fore- 
head). 

A fleur de terre = On a level (or, flush) with 
the ground. 



126 



FRENCH IDIOMS AND PROVERBS 



Fleur . 

[continued) 



Fleurette 
Flute . 



Foi . 



Foin 



Folic 
Fond 



A la fleur de Vage= In the prime of life. 

II a les nerfs a fleur de peau = His nerves are 

always on the twitch ; He is extremely 

sensitive. 

Coulter fleureUes = To say soft nothings. 

*Ce qui vient de la flute s'en va au tambour = 
Lightly come, lightly go; What is dis- 
honestly acquired is easily dissipated. 

Cest un homme sans foi ni loi= He is a man 

without honour or honesty. 
// est de peu defoi= He is not to be trusted. 
Ses ouvrages en font foi ^Yl'is works prove it. 
* Oest avec la bonne fdi qu'on va le plus loin = 

Honesty is the best policy. 
Lafoidu charbonnier = Blind faith. 
/e ne puis aj outer foi a ce quHl dit = I cannot 

believe what he says. 
Ma foi ! = Upon my word ! 

Mettre du foin dans ses bottes = To feather 

one's nest. 

[Literally, to place hay in one's wooden shoes to 
keep one's feet warm. Another saying is Mettre du 
beurre dans ses dpinards.'\ 

Avoir du foin dans ses bottes = To be well off. 

Quand il n'y a pas de foin au rdtelier^ les 
chevaux se battent = When poverty comes 
in at the door, love flies out at the 
window. 

Ce qui me lie^ dest 7tia folie = Straw bands 
will tie a fool's hands. 

Je fais fond sur vous = I rely on you. 

// salt cette langue a fond = He knows that 

language thoroughly. 
// est ruine de fond en comble = He is utterly 

ruined. 
Aufond^ il a tort = He is wrong in reality. 
Courir a fond de train = To run at the top 

of one's speed. 



FRENCH IDIOMS AND PROVERBS 



127 



Fonds 



Fontaine 



Force 



I 



Article de fonds = Leading article (in a news- 
paper). 
II possede une fortune en bien-fonds = He has 

a fortune in landed property. 
// a place son argent a fonds perdu = He 
sank his money in an annuity. 
*" Travaillez^ prenez de la peine ; 

C^est le fonds qui manque le inoins" = 

Work and take pains, that you can 
always do. 

Hard work and pain 
Are ne'er in vain. 
[La Fontaine, Fables, v. 9.] 
*Il nefaut pas dire, " Fontaine, je ne boirai pas 
de ton eau " = One must never be sure of 
not wanting some one {or, something). 

[Compare the proverb that Alfred de Musset took for 
the title of one of his Proverbes : *' II ne faut jurer de 
rien."] 

Tu me pay eras de gre ou deforce = You shall 

pay me, whether you like it or not. 
Hugo est un romantique dans toute la force du 

terme = Hugo is a romanticist in the full 

sense of the word. 
J^e suis a bout de force = I am exhausted, 

played out. 
fe nS suis pas de voire force = (lit.) I am not 

so strong as you are; (fig.) I- am no 

match for you. 
Force m^est de partir = I am compelled to go. 
II faut a toute force Pempecher de sortir — Y om 

must prevent him going out by all the 

means in your power; We must do all 

we can to prevent him going out. 
// y avail force badauds - A quantity of 

loafers were there. 
''' La force prime le droit = Might is right. (See 

Fort) 
Oest un joueur de premiere force = He is a 

first-rate player. 



128 



FRENCH IDIOMS AND PROVERBS 



Force . . Force est restee a la lot = The police proved 
(coniinued) the Stronger ; Order was restored. 

C^est un cas de force t?iajeure = It is a case 
of absolute necessity; It is an utter im- 
possibility. 

[e.g. " Le t^nioin n'a pu venir parce qu'il est dange- 
reusement malade; son absence est due a un cas de 
force majeure."] 

Faire force de voiles = To crowd on all 
sail. 

Faire force de r antes = To row with all one's 
might. 

*Tout par amour, rien par force = Sweet 
words will succeed where mere strength 
will fail ; You may row your heart out if 
wind and tide are against you. 

A^ force de travailler = By dint of working. 

A force de bras = By strength of arm. 

De Dive force = By main force. 

Un tour de force = A feat (of strength or 
skill). 

Forgeron ^^ force de forger on devient forgeron = Practice 
makes perfect; Drawn wells are seldom 
dry. 

[Lat. Fit fabricando faber.'\ 

Fort . . Cela est trop fort (or, raide) = That is too 
bad ; That is beyond a joke. 
Cela est par trop fort = That is really too 
bad. 

[This/ar is derived from the Latin intensive particle 
per, as in perhorridus. In French one finds such words 
as parfaire, parachever, and in old French this prefix 
was separable. Thus, tant il est parsage might be 
written tant il par est sage. So, Cela est par trop fort 
= Cela est trop parfort.'] 

C^est un esprit fort = He is a freethinker. 
Voila qui est fort = That is rather strong. 
fa, ce n'est pas fort = That is very tame ; 
There is not much in that. 



FRENCH IDIOMS AND PROVERBS 



129 



Fort . . A plus forte raison = All the more reason ; 

{continued) A fortiori. 

11 faut que je park, d est plus fort qice moi = 

I must speak, I cannot help it. 
Le plus fort est fait = The worst is over ; 

The most difficult part is done. 
Savoir le fori et le faible de V affaire = To 

know the ins and outs of the matter. 
Le fort portant le faible = One thing with 

another ; On an average. 
*^^ La raiso?i du plus fort est toujours la 
meilleure = Might is right; There is no 
arguing with a large fist. 
[La Fontaine, Fables, i. 10, Le loup et I'agneau.'] 

Fort cotmtie un Turc = As strong as a horse. 
" Ou tot ou tard, ou prh on loin, 

Lefort du faible a besoin " = 
The lion had need of the mouse. 

[G^NIN, Recreations, ii. 250,] 

Fortune . Chacun a dans sa vie un souris de la fortune 
= Fortune knocks once at every man's 
door. 
La fortune rit aux sots = Fools have the best 
. luck. 
[" Fctuna fortes adjuvat." — LiVY, xxxiv. 37.] 

Voulez-vous accepter la fortune du pot ? = Will 

you take pot-luck with us ? 
Faire contre fortune bon coeur = To bear up 

against misfortune ; To make the best of 

a bad job. 

Foil. . • Cela lui a coUte un argent fou (fam.) = That 

cost him a heap of money. 

*Combattre un fou est temps perdu = Fools are 

not to be convinced. 

[Schiller says: "Heaven and Earth fight in vain 
against a dunce " (" Mit der Dummheit fechten Gotter 
selbst vergebens." — Jungfrau von Orleans), and the 
Chinese say : ' ' One never needs his wit so much as 
when one argues with a fool." 



I30 



FRENCH IDIOMS AND PROVERBS 



Foil . . Ne faites pas messagers des fous = " He that 
(continued) sendeth a message by the hand of a fool 

cutteth off the feet and drinketh damage." 
Prov. XX vi. 6. 

Unfolou bete 
Fait Men couquete, 
Mais bon menage 
O est fait du sage = 
A fool may meet with good fortune, 
but the wise only profit by it. 
'^Plus 071 est de fous plus on rit = The more 

the merrier. 
'''Qui ne sait pas Hre fou n'est pas sage = YiQ. is 
not wise who does not sometimes make 
merry; It takes a wise man to make a 
fool. 
*Les fous sont aux echecs les plus proches des 
rois = In chess the fool stands next to the 
king. (Regnier, Sat. xiv.) 

[This implies that it is not only at chess that the king 
is surrounded by fools, but at court too. It must not 
be forgotten that le fou is called the bishop in the 
English game.] 

// est fou a Her (or, fou furieux) = He is 
raving mad. 

// vaut ?fiieux etre fou avec tous que sage tout 
seul = " One had as good be out of the 
world as out of the fashion." 
[CoLLEY Gibber, Loves Last Shift, Act ii,] 

La Folk du Logis = Fancy, imagination. 

Fouet . . II ne marche qWa coups de fouet = He works 
only when he is compelled. 

Fouetter . Fouette^ cocker ! = Fire away ! Go ahead ! 

Four . . // fait noir comme dans un four = It is as 
dark as pitch. 

[MoLi^RE, Le Sicilien, ii.] 

Faire un four = To make a blunder 



FRENCH IDIOMS AND PROVERBS 



13^ 



Four . . Cette piece a fait four = That piece was a 
[continued] failure, a frost. 

On fie pent etre au four et au moulin = One 
cannot be in two places at the same time. 

Fourchette Une bonne fourchette = A good trencherman. 

Fourgon . *La pelle se moque du fourgon = The pot calls 
the kettle black. 

Fourreau *Vepee (or, la lame) use le fourreau = The 
mind is too active for the body. 

["A fiery soul, which, working out its way, 
Fretted the pigmy body to decay." 

Dryden, Absalom and Achitophel, i.] 

Fourrer . // ne savait otc se fourrer = He did not know 
where to hide his head. 
II faut qu^il fourre le doigt (or, more fam., 
nez) partout = He must have a finger in 
every one's pie. 

Frais . . En etre pour ses frais = To have lost one's 
money {or, pains) for nothing. 

Faire des frais = (lit.) To go to expense; 
(fig.) To make efforts to please. 

Faire ses frais = To cover one's expenses. 

Faire les frais de la conversation = i. To 
keep a conversation going. 2. To be 
(Oneself) the subject of conversation. 

Frangais . En bonfranfais = (lit.) In good French ; (fig.) 
In plain English {i.e. without mincing 
matters). 
Farler franfais comme une vache espagnole = 
To speak French very badly. 

[This is said to be a corruption of cotnnte un Basque 
espagnol (formerly written Vace). The Basques speak 
French with a very bad accent, owing to their language 
having no relation whatever to the Romance tongues.] 

Franquette Recevoir quelquhm a la bonne franquette = To 
treat a person without ceremony. 

Frein . . Ronger son frein = To put up with annoyance 
in silence. 



132 



FRENCH IDIOMS AND PROVERBS 



Frein . . A vieille mule frein dore = Old women have 
^continued) the finest clothes. 

Friandise Aimer les friandises {chatteries) = To have a 
sweet tooth. 

Friser . . Elk /rise la quarantaine = She is just upon 
forty. 

Froid . . Cela se 7nangefroid= (Ut.) That is eaten cold; 

(fig.) That is a matter of no importance ; 

That is easily done. 
// fi^a pas froid aux yeux ~ He is a plucky 

fellow. 
II fait un froid de loup = It is terribly cold. 

Front . . Vous heurtez de front tons ses prejugis = You 

run counter to {or, openly attack) all his 

prejudices. 
II mene plusieurs affaires de fronts He carries 

on several schemes simultaneously; He 

has many irons in the fire. 
Marcher de front = To walk abreast. 

Frotter . '''Qui s'y frotte s'y pique = Whoever meddles 

with it, will smart for it. 

[Compare the motto of the Order of the Thistle : 
Nemo me impune lacessit,] 

Je ne vous conseille pas de vous y frotter =^ I 

advise you not to meddle with it. 
On I'a frotte d'ijnportance (or, comme il faut) 
= He got a good drubbing. 

Fuite . . l/ne bonne fuite vaut mieux qu^une mauvaise 
attente = Discretion is the better part of 
valour. 

Fumde . Manger son pain a la fumce du rot = To see 
others enjoying themselves without join- 
ing in. 
// n^y a pas de feu sans fumee = There is no 
smoke without fire. 

[Though the French form is not exact, it is preferred 
to ' ' il n'y a pas de fumde sans feu " for rhythmical 
reasons. Compare Plautus, Curculio, i. i, 53, 
" Flamma fumo est proxima."] 



FRENCH IDIOMS AND PROVERBS 



133 



Fur . . 
Fureur 

Fusil . 



Gaffe . 
Gageure 

Gagner 
Gai 



Gaiety . 
Gaillard 

Galore . 



Au fur et a mesure = In proportion as. 
Cela fait fureur maintenani = That is quite 

the rage now ; That is all the go now. 
Changer son fusil d^epaule = To change one's 

opinion, profession, tactics. 

[A more familiar expression is retourner sa veste=.io 
be a turn-coat.] 

G. 

Faire une gaffe = To put one's foot in it ; 
To make a stupid blunder. 
*La gageure est la preuve des sots = 

" Most men (till by losing rendered sager), 
Will back their own opinions with a 
wager." 
[Byron, Be/>po, 27.] 
*Qui epargne gagne = A penny saved is a 
penny earned. 
// gagne a etre connu = He improves upon 

acquaintance. 
// est gai comme un pinson = He is as merry 

as a grig,- as a lark. 

// est gai comme un bonnet de nuit (ironic.) = 

He is as dull as ditchwater. (See Bonnet.) 

De gfieti de cosur = Out of pure wantonness. 

^tre sur le gaillard d'avant = To serve before 

the mast ; To be a common seaman. 
Fogue la galore ! = Happen what may ! "Go 
it, ye cripples ! " 
*" Que diable allait-il faire dans cette galere 1 " 
= Whatever induced him to get into that 
fix ? Whatever business had he there ? 

[MoLlfeRE, Fourberies de Scapin, ii. 11, imitated from 
a scene of Le PMa?tt jotie by Cyrano de Bergerac, as 
is noted by M. Edmond Rostand in his play, " Cyrano 
de Bergerac," v. 6 : 

Rag. Hier on jouait Scapin 
Et j'ai vu qu'il vous a pris une scfene. 

Le Bret. Entiere ! 

Rag. Oui, Monsieur, le fameux : ' ' Que diable allait- 
il faire?" 



^34 



FRENCH IDIOMS AND PROVERBS 



Galore . 

{continued) 



Galeux 



Galon . 



Gant 



Gar9on 
Garde . 



Garder 
Gaspiller 



In Moliere, Scapin, the amusing but rascally servant 
of farce, in order to obtain more money out of G^ronte, 
the father of his young master, L6andre, pretends that 
the latter has been taken prisoner on board a Turkish 
galley and that the captain demands 500 crowns as 
ransom. G^ronte in the dilemma of losing either his 
money or his son, at last parts with his treasured gold, 
but not without repeating several times in heartfelt 
sorrow, " Que diable alia it-il f aire dans cette galere f "] 

*Il ne faut qihme brebis gaieuse pour infecter 
tout un troupeau = One scabby sheep will 
taint a whole flock. 

'''Qui se sent galeux^ se gratte (fam.) = If the 
cap fits, wear it. (See Morveux.) 

Quand on prend du galon on n^en saurait trap 
prendre = As well be hanged for a sheep 
as a lamb ; One cannot make too much 
of a favourable opportunity. 

[This is a parody of a line in Quinault's Roland, ii. 5 : 
"Quand on prend de I'amour, on n'en saurait trop 
prendre."] 

// s'en donne les gants = He takes the credit 
of it. 

[It was the custom to give a pair of gloves to the 
messenger who first brought a piece of good news.] 

Ce/a me va comme un gant — That fits me to 
a T ; That suits me down to the ground. 

P'ous voila Jolt garcon ! = A pretty fellow 
you are ! 

Mon chien est de bonne garde = IVIine is a 

good watch-dog. 
Ces poires sont de bonne garde = These pears 

will keep well. 
// 7i^a garde de venir = He will take care to 

keep away ; There is no chance of his 

coming. 

// vous en garde utte bonne (pop.) = He is 

keeping a rod in pickle for you. 
Gardez-vous en bien I = Mind you do not do it ! 

Ce garcon gaspille son temps = That boy fools 
his time away. 



FRENCH IDIOMS AND PROVERBS 



135 



Geler 
Gemir 

G^ne 



Gener 



Gens 
G^sir 
Gibier 
Gloire 



Gond 
Gorge 



Geler a pierre fendre = To freeze very hard. 

. Faire gemir la presse (ironic.) = To print 
one's writings. 

. // est sans gene = He is free and easy (casual, 
off-hand) ; He makes himself too much at 
home. 
* Oil il y a de la gene il n^y a pas de plaisir 
(ironic.) = There is nothing like making 
one's self at home everywhere. 
// a connu la gene = He knows what want is. ' 

. Est-ce que je vous gene ? = Am I in your 
way? 

Ne vous genez pas I = Do not stand upon 
ceremony ! Make yourself at home ! 
Don't mind me ! 

// ne se gene guere = Doesn't he make him- 
self at home ! Well, he is a cool cus- 
tomer ! 

// est plus genant que gene = His free and 
easy manners are unpleasant to others, but 
he does not mind that. 

. *A gens de village, trompette de bois = Rough 
tools for rough work. 

. *Cest la que git le lievre = That is the main 
point ; There's the rub. 

C est un gibier de potence = He is a gallows- 
bird. 

" J'aime mieux, n'en d^plaise a la gloire, 
Vivre au monde deux jours que mille ans dans 
I'histoire." 

MOLIERE, La Princesse (TAlide, i. 2. 
Contrast : 

" One crowded hour of glorious life 
Is worth an age without a name." 
Sir Walter Scott, Old Mortality, Chap. 34. 

Cela 7ne fait sortir des gonds = That exas- 
perates (unhinges) me. 

. Cettefu?nee ?ne prend a la gorge — That smoke 
makes me cough, chokes me. 



136 



FRENCH IDIOMS AND PROVERBS 



Gorge . . // cria a pleine gorge = He cried out as loud 

{continued) as he COUld. 

// /era des gorges chaudes du malheur de sa 
tante = He will chuckle over (<?r, make 
fun of) his aunt's misfortune. 

[' ' Prdtend quelle en f era gorge chaude et curde." 
La Fontaine, Fables, iv. 12.] 

Rendre gorge = To have to pay back money 
unjustly acquired; To disgorge one's ill- 
gotten gains. 

Gourme . Ce Jeune homme Jette sa gourme = Th2it young 
man is sowing his wild oats. 

Gout . . '''Des gouts et des couleurs il nefaut {pas) discuter 

= There is no disputing about tastes. 

^A chacun son gout = Tastes differ. 

[Colloquially the a is omitted and the phrase becomes 
chacun son goUt. The Dictionnaire de I'Acad^mie 
gives : Chacun a son goiit.'\ 

Goutte . Je n'y vols goutte = I cannot see at all. 

'''Goutte a goutte on emplit la cuve = Many a 

little makes a mickle. 
■^//y se ressemblent comme deux gouttes d^eau = 
They are as like as two peas. 
C^est une goutte d^eau dans la mer = It is a 

drop in the ocean. 
Boire la goutte (fam.) = To have a drop; To 

take a nip. 
Payer la goutte (fam.) = To stand something 
to drink. 

Grace . . Faites-moi grace de vos observations, je vous 
en prte= Pray spare me your remarks. 

Grain . . Veillez au grain = Keep a sharp look-out. 

Avoir un grain de folie = 1 o be a little 
cracked. 

Graine . Ces plantes sont montees en graine = Those 
plants have run to seed. 
C'est de la graine de «/^/.f = That is some- 
thing to deceive fools with. 



FRENCH IDIOMS AND PROVERBS 



137 



Grand . . '''Les graftds sont les plus exposes aux coups 
du sort = High winds blow on high 
hills. 
Juiire quelque chose en grand = To do some- 
thing on a large scale. 

Grandeur Un buste de grandeur naturelle = A life-size 
bust. 

Gre . . . "^Bon gre\ mal gre = Whether you wish or 

not ; Nolens volens ; Willy-nilly. 
Ceffe maison a ete vendue de gre a gri— That 

house was sold by private contract. 
// le fera de g7'i ou de force = He will have to 

do it whether he likes it or not. 
// venait mot tie de gre\ moitie de force = He 

came somewhat reluctantly. 
De son plein gre = Of his own accord. 
De plein gr^= Voluntarily. 
Nous vous en saurons bon gri = We shall be 

obliged to you for it. 
Je me sais bon gre de ne V avoir pas fait = I am 

•thankful I did not do it. 

Grelot . . *Attacher le grelot=To bell the cat. 

[This phrase arises from the fable (La Fontaine, 
ii, 2) of the rats who held a council as to how they 
might best defend themselves from the cat. They 
resolvjd to hang a bell round his neck, so that they 
might hear him coming and run away. But the diffi- 
culty was to find a vohmteer "to bell the cat," In 
Scottish history Archibald Douglas, 5th Earl of 
Angus (1449-1514), was called Bell-the-Cat. James III, 
used to make favourites of architects and masons. 
The Scotch nobles held a council in the Church of 
Lauder for the purpose of putting down these upstarts. 
Lord Gray asked who would bell the cat. " That will 
I," said Douglas, and fearlessly he put the minions to 
death in the King's presence. Compare Scott, 
Marmion, v. 14, The Greek equivalent, Supeii' Xeovra 
(=to shave the lion) occurs in Plato, RepulDlic, 341 C. 
The refrain of Eustace Deschamps' Ballade 58 is : 
" Qui pendra la sonnette au chat?"] 

Grenier . /I va de la cave au grenier = i. He rambles 
in his talk, 2. He writes very unevenly 
(up and down). 



138 FRENCH IDIOMS AND PROVERBS 

Grippe . // m'a pris en grippe = He has taken a dislike 
to me. 

Gris . . II en a vu de grises = He had an unpleasant 
time of it. 
// /m en a fait voir de grises = He plagued 
him terribly. 

Grive . . "^Faute de grives on mange des merles = Half a 
loaf is better than no bread. (See Aimer.) 

Gros . . lis se sont dit de gros mots = They came to 

high words ; They insulted (slanged) one 

another. 
La servante fait le gros de la besogne (or, la 

grosse besogne) = The servant does the 

heavy work. 
// n^a qu'un gros bo7i sens = He has only 

plain common-sense. 
Vous avez toucM la grosse corde = You have 

come to the main point. 
Vendre en gros et en detail = To sell wholesale 

and retail. 

Grue . . // m^a fait f aire le pied de grue pendant deux 

heures = He made me wait two hours for 

him ; I was dancing attendance on him 

for two hours. 

[" Faites vous sus un pied toute la nuict la grue?" 
R^GNIER, Sat. xi.J 

Guerre . '''A la guerre comme a la guerre = One must 
take things as they come ; We must take 
the rough with the smooth. 
/e Vaifiit de guerre lasse = Weary of resistance 

I did it for the sake of peace and quiet. 
*Qui terre a, guerre a = Much coin, much 
care ; Much land, many lawsuits. 

[Voltaire's variant was : ' ' Qui plume a, guerre a. "] 

Ca, (^est de bonne guerre = He has only used 
fair means to defend himself {or, attack 
you) ; He has acted within his rights, you 
cannot complain. 



FRENCH IDIOMS AND PROVERBS 



139 



Guide . 
Guillot 



; Guise 



Mejier la vie a grandes guides = (lit.) To drive 



life four in 
fast life. 



hand; (fig.) To live a very 



* Qui croit guiller Guillot, Guillot le guille = 
" He that seeks others to beguile 

Is oft overtaken in his wile." 
The biter bit. 

[" For often he that will begyle 
Is gyled with the same gyle, 
And thus the gyler is begyled." 

GOWER, Confessio Amantis, 135. 
" For 'tis the sport to have the enginer 
Hoist with his own petar." 

Hamlet, iii. 4.] 

// fait (or, agit^ toujours a sa guise = He 
always goes his own way ; He always acts 
according to his own sweet will. 



H. 

Habit . . *V habit ne fait pas le moi/ie = The cowl does 
not make the friar; The coat does not 
make the gentleman. 
Prendre Vhabit = To become a monk or a 
nun (of the latter, To take the veil). 

Habitud . Ce monsieur est un de nos habituis = That 
gentleman is one of our regular customers. 

Hache . . Cela est fait a coups de hache (or, serpe) = 
That is done clumsily, roughly. 

Hacher . Je les hacherais menu conwie chair a pate = 
I would make mincemeat of them. 

Haleine . J'ai couru a perte d'haleine = I ran until I was 

out of breath. 
Ce sout des phrases a, perte d^ haleine = Those 

are very long-winded sentences. 
II faut tenir les gefts en haleine = One, must 

keep the ball rolling. 
Oest un ouvrage de longue haleine — It's a 

long job, a heavy piece of work. 



140 



FRENCH IDIOMS AND PROVERBS 



Halle . . Le langage des Halles = Billingsgate. 

[Also : des injures de carrefourJ\ 

Hallebarde Cela rime comme hallebarde et miskricorde^ 
That does not rhyme at all. 

[The usual explanation of this expression is, that, on 
the death of the verger of St. Eustache, one of his 
friends — a small shopkeeper of the neighbourhood — 
wished to write an epitaph for his tomb. Being entirely 
ignorant of the rules of verse, he composed the follow- 
ing':— 

" Ci-git mon ami Mardoche 
II a voulu etre enterr6 ^ Saint Eustache 
II y porta trente-deux ans la hallebarde 
Dieu lui fasse mis6ricorde." 

(Par son ami, J, CI. Bombet, 1727.) 

But in reality the proverb is much older. It dates from 
the time of the old versifiers, one of whose rules was 
that two consonants followed by an e mute were suffi- 
cient to form a feminine rhyme. This led to abuses 
like the above, and this rule was superseded by another, 
that the vowel preceding the two consonants must be 
alike in both cases.] 

Hanter . Dis-moi qui tu hanteSyje te dirai qui tu es = 
A man is known by his company ; Birds 
of a feather flock together. 

Haro . . Crier haro sur quelqu'un = To raise an out- 
cry against any one. 

[" A ces mots on cria haro sur le baudet." 

La Fontaine, Fables, vii. i. 

The origin of the word haro is disputed ; Littrd 
quotes Diez, who connects it with O. H.G. /iera = \\Qxe. 
The old opinion was that it was derived from Ha- 
Raoul, an appeal to RoUo, or Hrolf, first Duke of 
Normandy, and a mighty lawgiver. However, within 
living recollection the cry of Ha-Ro! a [aide, mon 
Prince ! was used in the Channel Islands as a protec- 
tion against force and fraud, when no other defence 
was possible. See a curious tale in ' ' The Gossiping 
Guide to Jersey," by J. Bertrand Payne, London, 
1863, p. 15.] 

Hasard . II corrige le hasard= He cheats at play. 

[" La fortune est redevenue mauvaise, il faut la 
corriger." 

Hamilton, Mimoires de Grammont, iii.] 



FRENCH IDIOMS AND PROVERBS 



141 



Hate 

Hater 
Haut 



Herbe . 



Heure 



Trop de hate gate to2^t= The more haste, the 
less speed. 

[Also : Plus on se hate, mains on avance ; Hatez-vous 
lentement (Lat. Festina lente); Assez tot si bien ; and 
the English popular proverb, ' ' Do nothing hastily save 
catching of fleas. "] 

Ouvrage 



kdte, ouvrage ^«/(? = Haste makes 



waste. 

Tomber de son haut^{f[g.) To be thunder- 
struck. 

Regarder de haut en bas = To treat con- 
temptuously ; To look down upon with 
contempt. 

II y a du haut et du bas dans la vie = Life has 
its ups and downs. 

Haut /ep'ed! = Beoff\ 

'*'Mauvatse herbe croit toujours = 111 weeds grow 
apace. 
Voire rival vous coupera V herbe sous le pied= 
Your rival will cut you out, will take the 
wind out of your sails, will cut the ground 
from under your feet. 
L! herbe sera bien courte sHl ne trouve a brouter 
= It will go hard if he does not pick up a 
living; He would live on nothing. 
Cest un avocat en herbe = He is studying for 
the bar; He is a sucking barrister. 

A T heure qu'il est on ne le fait plus = Nowa- 
days it is no longer done. 

A r heure quHl est il doit savoir la nouvelle = 
By this time no doubt he has heard the 
news. 

Faites-le sur V heure = Do it this very minute. 

Je partirai tout a V heure = I will start pre- 
sently. 

Je Tai vu tout a r heure = 1 saw him just now, 
not long ago. 

A la bonne heure! ^V^tW done!; That's 
right ! ; Capital ! ; That is something 
like! 



142 



FRENCH IDIOMS AND PROVERBS 



Heure . . Le quart d'heure de Rabelais = The moment 
[continued) of payment (<?r, suspense). 

[On returning from Italy, Rabelais found himself in 
the south of France with no more money to continue 
his journey to Paris. He had dined well at an inn, 
and while waiting for his reckoning, he packed up 
some dust in small packets whicli he labelled, " Poison 
for the King," " Poison for the Dauphin," and so on. 
The innkeeper noticing these packets and their terrible 
inscriptions, informed the police, who took Rabelais to 
Paris free of charge to suffer the penalty of treason. 
When he was brought before the King, the monarch 
laughed heartily at the tale and let him go free.] 

Passer un mauvais quart d^ heure = To have a 
bad time of it. . 

Histoire . Voila Men des hist aires pour si peu de chose I 

= What a fuss about nothing. 
Voi/d Men une autre histoire ! = That is quite 

another thing. 
Histoire (or, Chansons) que tout cela I = That 

is all stuff and nonsense. 
/.e plus beau de F histoire detait qu'il n^en 

savait rien - The best of the joke was he 

knew nothing about it. 
Histoire de rire = i . For the fun of the thing. 

2. It was only a joke. 

Hommage Hommage de I'auteur = With the author's 
compliments. 

Homme . *Hhomme propose et Dieu dispose = Man pro- 
poses, God disposes. 

[Also : " L'homme sagite et Dieu le mene. " 
Fenelon, Sermon four la Fete de VApiphanie, 1685. 

"A man's heart deviseth his way, but the Lord 
directeth his steps." — Proverbs xvi. 9. 

" There's a divinity that shapes our ends, 
Rough hew them how we will."— Ha7nlet, v. 2. 
German : Der Mensch denkt, Gott lenkt.] 

*Le style dest l'homme = Style is the man him- 
self; Like author, like book. 

[" Ces choses sont hors de l'homme, le style est 
l'homme meme,'" — Buffon, Discours de Reception d. 
VAcaddmie, 1753. 1 here has been much discussion as 
to what Buffon really did write, whether le style est 



FRENCH IDIOMS AND PROVERBS 



143 



Homme 

[continued) 



Honneur 



Honte . 
Honteux 

Hors . 



Hote 
Huile 



Vhomme meme or le style est DE I'homme vieme. In 
most editions after that of Didot (1843) ^^ latter form 
will be found, whilst in editions from 1800-1843 the 
phrase is absent altogether. In the Recueil de V Acadd- 
mie it is printed le style est I'hotnme incme, and of this 
the proofs were probably corrected by Buffon himself. 
There is a small pamphlet, Discours prononcd dans 
r Acaddmie fran^aise, par M. de Buffon, le samedi 
25 aoUt 1753, which is probably earlier still, in which 
it is also printed thus. However this may be, the 
phrase " le style c'est I'homme," which Buffon as- 
suredly did Jiot write, has become a French proverb, 
and is in everyday use.] 

JVous jouons pour P honneur = We are playing 
for love. 

* Un homme ^honneur n^a que sa parole = An 

honest man's word is as good as his 

bond. 
Jl fait honneur a ses affaires (comm.)=He 

meets all his engagements. 
// ne pretend a votre fille qu'en tout Men tout 

honneur =Yie. has honourable intentions 

towards your daughter. 

Nous lui avonsfait honte = i. We caused him 
to feel ashamed of himself. 2. He was 
ashamed of us. 

* Jamais honteux n^eut belle amie = Faint heart 

never won fair lady. 
*// nty a que les honteux qui perdent — Nothing 
ask, nothing have. 

Hors //^//^ = Standing out from the rest; Out 
of the common run; Beyond comparison ; 
Incomparable. 

Ce peintre est hors concours = That artist is no 
longer a competitor (having already re- 
ceived the highest award). 

*Qui compte sans son hote cofnpte deux fois = 
He who reckons without his host must 
reckon again. 

Sentir rhuile = To smell of the lamp (of 
poetry, etc.). 



144 



FRENCH IDIOMS AND PROVERBS 



Huile . 

{continited) 



Huis 



// tirerait de V huile d'un 7nur=He would 
skin a flint, get blood from a stone. (See 
Cheveux and (Euf.) 
[Aquam a pumice postulare. — Plautus.] 

Be r huile de bras = Elbow grease. 

A huis clos — With closed doors ; in camera. 



I. 

Image . . Cette petite fille est sage comme u?ie image ^ 
That little girl is very quiet, is as good as 
gold. 

Importance Faire rhomme d' importance = To play the 
consequential ; To give oneself airs ; To 
be pompous. 

Importer . QuHmporte ? = No matter ! It is of no con- 
sequence. 
Que mHmporte 1 = What is that to me ? 
Peu importe ^ It does not much matter. 
Venez nHmporte quand = Come at any time, 
no matter when, whenever you please. 

Impossible *^ V impossible ?iul n^est tenu = There is no 
doing impossibilities ; No living man all 
things can. 

Index . . Les grevistes mirent cette boutique a V index = 
The strikers boycotted that shop. 

[The Index Expurgatorius is a list of books compiled 
for the Pope which Roman Catholics are forbidden to 
read.] 

Injure . • lis se sent dit milk injures = They abused 
one another like pickpockets. 
Vous lui/aites injure == You wrong him. 

Inscrire . Je fn' inserts en faux contre cette assertion = 
I emphatically deny the truth of that 
assertion. 

Insu . . // sortit a mon insu = He went out without 
my knowing it. 



FRENCH IDIOMS AND PROVERBS 



145 



Intelligence Vivre en bonne intelligence avec quelqu'un =■• 
To live on good terms with some one. 

Intention . ''' LHntention est reputce pour le fait = The will 
is taken for the deed. 
J^ai mis ce livre de cote a voire intention = I 
put that book on one side especially for 
you (to read, to see). 



Jamais 
Jambe 



Jaune 
Jean 



Jeter 



Au grand jamais = Never, no never. 

// court a toutes Jambes = He is running as 

fast as his legs will carry him. 

[Compare : a toute bride, a toute vapeur, a toute 
vitesse. ] 

// a pris ses jambes a son cou = He took to 

his heels. 
II a joue des jambes = He took to flight. 
// a des jambes de quinze ans = He still walks 

well. 
Ce/a ne lui rend pas la jambe mieux faite I 

(ironic.) = And a lot of good that will do 

him ! 
Cela vous ferait une belle jambe (ironic.) = A ' 

fine lot of good that will do you. 
// a ks jambes en manche de veste (fam.) = He 

is bow-legged. 
// le /era par dessous la jambe = He will do 

it with the greatest ease {or, carelessly). 
// a des fourmis dans les jambes =■■ He is 

fidgety, restless. 

Jaune conwie un coing= As yellow as a guinea. 

Etre gros Jean conmie devant = To be no 

better off than one was before, in spite of 

all one's efforts. 

[Rabelais, Pantagruel, iv. second prologue, and La 
Fontaine, Fables, vii. 10.] 

Iljette son argent par les fenetres = He plays 
ducks and drakes with his money. 



146 FRENCH IDIOMS AND PROVERBS 

Jeter . . Cest jeter de Vhuile siir le feu = It is adding 
[continued) fuel to the fire (flames). 

Jeu . . . '^Jeu qui trop dure ne vaut rieti (Charles 
d'Orleans) = Too much of a good thing 
is bad. 

Cest vteuxjeu = That is quite old-fashioned. 

Ne me mettez pas en jeu = Do not mix me up 
in it. 

Cela passe le jeu = That is beyond a joke. 
*feu de mains ^ jeu de vilains = i. Horse-play 
is not gentlemanly. 2. Rough play often 
ends in tears. 

II fait bonne mine a mauvais jeu — He puts a 
good face on the matter ; He makes the 
best of a bad job. 
*A beau jeu beau retour = One good turn 
deserves another. 

Nous sommes a deux de jeu = We are even ; 
We are a match for each other ; Two can 
play at that game. 
Je vous dofine beau jeu = (lit.) I give you good 
cards; (fig.) I give you a good oppor- 
tunity ; I play into your hands. 
fouer grosjeu = (lit.) To play for high stakes ; 
(fig.) To risk very much in an attempt. 

Ce/a n' est pas du jeu = i. That is not fair, 
not cricket ; You are not playing the 
game. 2. That was not agreed upon. 

Jeune . . * Qui jeune n'apprend^ rien ne saura = An old 
dog will learn no tricks, {^ee. Jeunesse.) 

Jeunesse *Si jeunesse savait^ si vieillesse pouvait = If 
only the young had experience and the 
old strength ; If things were to be done 
twice, all would be wise. 
Ce que pou/ai?i prend en jeunesse, il le continue 
en vieillesse = 
" 'Tis education forms the common mind. 
Just as the twig is bent the tree's inclined." 

[Pope, Moral Essays, i. 149.] 



FRENCH IDIOMS AND PROVERBS 



147 



Jeunesse . Youth and white paper take any im- 

[cuntirnied] pression. 

[Also : Vieil arbre mal aise a redresser. Compare 
the English, "Old dogs are hard to train." (See/<?««^.) 

' ' Train up a child in the way he should go, and when 
he is old he will not depart from it," — Proverbs 
xxii. 6.] 

// faut que jeunesse se passe = Boys will be 

boys. 

Joie . . . I7n rabat-joie = A mar-joy ; A wet blanket. 

Jouer . Iljoua de son res^e^He played his last card; 

He was on his last legs. 

[Carefully distinguish this from Joiilr de son reste= 
To make the most of one's remaining time.] 

11 joue au plus sur = He plays a safe game. 

Jouer de malheur ^ To have a run of ill- 
luck. 

Jouer serre = To act cautiously ; To leave 
nothing to chance. 

Jour . . Ces gens vivent au jour le jour ^ Those 
men live from day to day, from hand to 
mouth. 
*^ chaque jour suffit sa peine = Sufficient unto 

the day is the evil thereof. 
Je sut's a jour = I am up to date ; I am not 

behind in my work. 
*Tdt ou tard la verite se fait jour = Sooner or 
later the truth will come out. 
Cest lejour et la null = They are as different 

as chalk and cheese. 
// n'est si long jour qui ?ie vienne a vepres = 
" Be the day weary, be the day long, 
At length it ringeth to evensong." 

[From a poem by Stephen Hawes, a poet of the reign 
of Henry VII. 
Compare : 

" Come what come may, 
Time and the hour runs through the roughest day." 

Macbeth, i. 3. 



And 



Come day, go day, 
God brings Sunday.] 



148 



FRENCH IDIOMS AND PROVERBS 



Jour . . *^ bon jour^ bonne oeuvre = The better the 
[continued) day, the better the deed. 

*CV n^ est pas tons tes Jours fete = i. Christmas 

comes but once a year. 2. One cannot 

always have "a high old time," but must 

work as well. 3. Life is not all beer and 

skittles. 
D^aujourd^hui en huit = This day week. 
II y a aujourd'hui huit jours = This day last 

week. 
En plein jour = In broad daylight. 
II y a quinze ans jour pour jour — It was 

fifteen years ago to the very day. 
Prendre jour = To agree upon a day for an 

appointment. 

Juge . • "^ De fou juge brieve {brhe) sentence = A fool's 
bolt is soon shot. 

Juger . . Juger sur Vetiquette du sac = To judge by 
appearances, by the exterior. 
Au juger = At a guess. 

Jurer . . le vert jure avec le jau7ie = Green does not 
match with yellow ; Green clashes with 
yellow. 
Jurer comme un templier {charretier^ paien) = 
To swear like a trooper. 

Juste . . Au plus juste prix = At the lowest price. 

Coffime de juste = Rightly enough. 

[Littr6 condemns this expression as ungrammatical, 
giving the correct form as : comme 'il est juste. It is, 
however, almost universally used.] 

Justice . Passer a pleines voiles a travers les mailles de 
la justice = To drive a coach - and - four 
through an Act of Parliament. 

[Also : II est facile de donner une entorse a la lot.] 
La justice ne connait personne = Justice is no 
respecter of persons. 



FRENCH IDIOMS AND PROVERBS 



149 



Lk . . . Je jette la mon soufflet avec depit = I fling 
a§ide my bellows in disgust. 

[E. SOUVESTRE, Le Philosophe sous les ioiis.] 

Laine . . JVous sommes alles chercher de la laine ei nous 
sommes revenus tondus = We went out to 
shear and returned shorn ; The biter bit. 

Laisser . Cela laisse a desirer = There is room for im- 
provement; It is not quite the thing. 
Je lie laisse pas d^etre inquiet = In spite of all 
that, I am anxious. 

[Here we have the old meaning of laisser (=]axare) 
to leave off. Hence, I do not leave off being anxious.] 

C'esl a prendre ou a laisser = You must take 
it or leave it ; It's a case of Hobson's 
choice. 

II se laissafaire ^ He offered no resistance. 

■*"y^ vis de bonne soupe et non de beau langage " 
= " Fair words butter no parsnips." 

[The French is found in Moliere, Les Femmes 
Savantes, ii, 7, and the English equivalent in 
Wycherley, Plain Dealer, v. 3. 

Also : C'est un be I instrument que la langue.'\ 

lis tiraient la langue = (lit.) They put their 

tongues out; (fig.) They showed signs of 

distress. 
// a la langue trop longue = He cannot hold 

his tongue. 
// a la langue bien pe?tdue = He has the gift 

of the gab. 
Jeter sa langue aux chiens = To give up 

guessing (conundrums, etc.). (See Chat.) 
La langue lui a fourche = He made a slip of 

the tongue. 

Lanterne . // 7Jeut nous faire prendre des vessies pour des 
lanternes = He would have us believe 
that the moon is made of green cheese. 



Langage 



Langue 



15° 
Large . 

Larron 



Latin 



Lettre 



Lever 



Levre 
Liard 



FRENCH IDIOMS AND PROVERBS 

Prendre le large = To run for the offing 

(nav.) ; To run away. 
Au large = In the open sea. (See P/ein.) 

lis s'entendent corHme larrons en foire = They 
are as thick as thieves. 
'''L occasion fait le larron = Opportunity makes 
the thief; Keep yourself from oppor- 
tunities and God will keep you from 
sins. 

[" How oft the sight of means to do ill deeds 
Makes ill deeds done." 

Shakespeare, King John, iv. 2.] 

Latin de cuisine = Dog Latin. 

/y perds mon latin = I cannot make it out; 

1 am nonplussed; I can make neither 

head nor tail of it. 
Eire au bout de son latin (or, rouleau^ = To 

be at one's wits' end ; Not to know what 

to do, or say, next. 

Je lui ai dit la chose en toutes lettres = I 

told him the matter plainly. 
Ne prenez pas ce que je dis au pied de la lettre 

= Do not take what I say literally. 

J' en leverais la main = I would swear to it ; 
I would take my oath to it. 

[The oath in courts of justice is taken in many 
countries with the right hand raised, palm outwards. 
In England we kiss a Bible.] 

Le president leva la stance = The chairman 
dissolved the meeting ; The Speaker left 
the chair. 
*A qui se leve ?natin Dieu prete la main = It 
is the early bird that catches the worm. 

J' avals le mot sur le bord des levres (or, au 
bout de la langue) = I had the word at the 
tip of my tongue. 

// n'a pas un rouge liard = He has not a 
brass farthing. (See Radis.) 






FRENCH IDIOMS AND PROVERBS 



151 



Lievre . Oest la que git le lievre = That is the main 
point; There's the rub. 
*// ne faut pas courir deux lievres a la fois = 
You must not have too many irons in the 
fire. 
// a une memoir e de lievre = He has a 
memory Hke a sieve. 

[Also : // est comme les litvres, il perd la mcmoire en 
courant] 

II veut prendre les lihjres au son du tambour 
= He makes a great noise about what 
should be kept secret ; He divulged a plan 
which to succeed had to be kept secret. 

Oest un homme hors ligne = He is a first-rate 
man. (See Hors.) 

II est en premiere ligne = He is in the front 
rank. 

// a une tete de linotte =-- He is a hare-brained 
fellow. 

Traduire a livre ouvert = To translate at 
sight. 

Revenir de loin ^ i. To come back from a 
distant place. 2. To recover from a very 
severe illness. 

De loin en loin = At long intervals. 

*Tout s'use a la longue = Everything wears 
out in time. 

[Tout passe, tout casse, tout lasse.'] 

II se promenait de long en large = He was 
walking up and down, to and fro. 

// en sail trop long= He knows too much. 

// m^a raconte la chose tout au long = He told 
me every detail of the affair. 

// etait etendu tout de son long = He was 
lying at full length. 

Longer . Longer la cote = To hug the shore. 

Longueur Ce proces traine en longueur = That lawsuit 
is dragging on slowly. 



Ligne . . 

Linotte 

Livre . . 

Loin . . 

Long . . 



152 FRENCH IDIOMS AND PROVERBS 

Louer . . ^^/^/^^ /^«^jVw<^^/^f = Self-praise is no recom- 
mendation. 

Loup . . // viarche a pas de loup = He walks stealthily. 
// es^ connu comme le loup blanc = He is 

known to every one. 
*Quand on park du loup^ on en voit la queue 

(or, il sort du bois) = Speak of angels and 

you hear their wings ; Talk of the devil, 

he is sure to appear. 
"^Le loup mourra dans sa peau = A bad thing 

never dies; A bad man will die a bad 

man. 

[Lupus pilum mutat non mentem. Erasmus 
(Adagia 989) gives the Greek origin of this saying, 
6 \\)Ko% TTjv Tpixa ov TTjv yvcofiT]!' dXXctTTei, but he 
quotes no author.] 

Tem'r le loup par la queue = To have hold 
of the sow by the wrong ear. 

On fait toujour s le loup plus gros qu'il n^est = 
A tale never loses in the telling. 
*Il faut hurler avec les loups = When we are 
at Rome we must do as Rome does ; 
You must do as others do; He who 
kennels with wolves must howl. 

["Evil communications corrupt good manners" 
(i Cor. XV. 33). Paul quoted this iambic line form 
Menander's "Thais," " ^0eipov(nv ijdri XPW^^ ofJiiXlai 
KaKai." 

The proverb about Rome is said to have originated 
with St. Ambrose, who, when he was asked by St. 
Augustine whether he should fast on Saturday or not 
when he was at Rome, although he was not accustomed 
to do so when at home, replied : " When I am at home 
I do not fast on Saturday ; but when I am at Rome I 
do, and I think you should follow the custom of every 
city you visit, if you would avoid scandal." From this 
reply originated the hexameter : Cum Romae fueris 
Romano vive more = When you shall be at Rome, live 
after the Roman fashion.] 

Tenir le loup par les ore tiles = To be in a 

critical situation ; To have caught a 

Tartar. 

['* Auribus lupum teneo." — Terence, Phormio, iii. 
2, 21.] 



FRENCH IDIOMS AND PROVERBS 



153 



Loup . 

{continued) 



Lundi 



Lune 



II fait unfroid de loup = It is terribly cold. 
*Z(?^ loups ne se mangent pas entre eux = Dog 

does not eat dog ; There is honour among 

thieves. (See Corsaire.) 
Renfermer le loup dans la bergerie = To set 

the fox to keep the geese. 
lis se sont mis dans la gueule du loup ^ They 

rushed into the lion's mouth. 
C^est U7t vieux loup de mer = He is an old 

sea dog. 

Faire la Saitit-Lundi ) ^^ •, 1 

' 77^-« V • * T J- ( I o do no work on 
Feter Saint Lundt > = tv/t ^i 

Faire le Lundi ) ^' 

Faire un trou a la lune = "To shoot the 
moon"; To flee from one's creditors. 
(See Cloche.) 

Vouloir prendre la lune avec les dents = To 
attempt impossibilities. 

[" Prendre la lune aux dents seroit mains difficile." 
La Fontaine, Le Roi Candaule.l 



M. 



Macher . Je ne lui ai pas mdche la chose = I did not 
mince matters with him. 
Je lui ai donne sa besogne toute mdchee = I gave 
him his work all ready cut out ; I made 
his work as easy as possible for him. 

Madame . Elk fait la Madame = She gives herself airs 
(of little girls). 

Mai . . . Mi-mai, queue d^hiver = The middle of May 
has usually three cold days (called Les 
saints de glace, May 11, 12, and 13^). 

Maigre . Faire maigre = To abstain from meat. 
Faire maigre chere = To have poor fare. 
Maigre comme un clou = As thin as a lath. 



154 FRENCH IDIOMS AND PROVERBS 

Maille . . // n\i ni sou ni maille = He has not got a rap, 
a brass farthing. 
Avoir maille a partir avec quelquhm = To 
have a bone to pick (a crow to pluck) with 
some one. 

{Maille ( = mite) was the smallest coin in France, 
and therefore could not be divided. Hence the saying 
means to have a quarrel with some one. Notice the 
old meaning oi partir in this idiom = to divide (Lat. 
partiri).] 

Maille a maille se fait P liaubergeon = Many a 
httle makes a mickle. (See Goutte and 
Petit.) 

Main . . £>onnez-moiunepoign^edemain = ^h2ikQh?cndiS 

with me. 
Donnez-77ioi un coup de main = Give me a 

helping hand. 
Vous rCy allez pas de main morte = You hit 

with a vengeance; You don't do things 

by halves. 
Avoir un poll dans la 7nain = To be very lazy 

(so that hair grows on the palm of the 

hand). 
Avoir la main heureiise — 'Yo be lucky at cards 

(or, at other things). 
Avoir la main rompue a quelque chose = To be 

well versed at something. 
Je le connais de longue main = I have known 

him for a long time. 
// disparut en un tour de main = He dis- 
appeared in an instant, in a twinkling. 
// a une chambre grande co7?ime la main = He 

has a room not big enough to swing a 

cat in. 
En venir aux 7nains = To come to blows. 
Bas les mains = Hands off. 
Zes deux armees en sont aux mains = The two 

armies are in close combat, have come to 

close quarters. 
/e meperds la main = I am getting rusty. 



FRENCH IDIOMS AND PROVERBS 



155 



Main . . Je tirais au pistolet pour me fair e la main = I 

{contitiued) practised pistol-shooting to get my hand in. 

II y a mis la derniere main -= He put the 

finishing touch to it. 
Ilafaitcela haut la main =■■ He did it with 

the greatest ease. 
Mettre la main a la pate = To put one's 

shoulder to the wheel; To set to (a 

special piece of) work oneself. 
Les voleurs firent mai?i basse sur tous mes 

eJ^els = The thieves laid hands on all my 

things. 
Pour cela je vous baise les mains = As for that 

I will not do it ; " No, thank you ! " 
yV« mettrais la main au feu = I would swear 

to it ; I would stake my life on it ; I would 

take my dying oath about it. 

[A reference to trial by ordeal.] 

Mais . . Je n'en peux mais / = I cannot help it ! 

[Mais is here an adverb, and shows its derivation from 
the Latin magis. The phrase literally means : " I can 
do no more."] 

Maison . Faire maison neuve (or, nette^ = To change- 
all one's servants. 
II fait des demandes par dessus les maisons = 
He makes most unreasonable demands. 

Maitre . *Tel f^iattre, tel valet =\j^it. master, like man. 

[Or : Tel cotdeati, tel fourreau. 
German : Wie der Herr, so der Knecht.'] 

C^est une maitres'se femme = She is a superior 
woman. 

[One who manages her business or subordinates 
capably, makes her servants obey her and do their 
work well, and is respected by them,] 

Mai . . ^A qui mal veut, mal arrive = Harm watch, 

harm catch ; Curses, like chickens, come 

home to roost. 

[This proverb is said to be of Turkish origin. The 
Spanish equivalent is : " Who sows thorns, let him not 
walk barefoot." Comp. Psalms cix. 17.] 



iS6 



FRENCH IDIOMS AND PROVERBS 



Mai . . /"ai ma/ au cceur= I feel sick, 
(continued) Vous pretiez tout en 7nal = You put a wrong 
construction on everything. 
Elk s'est trouvee mal^ She fainted. 
Elle est au plus 7nal= She is past recovery. 
Sa sceur ainie ti est pas mal= Her elder sister 
is not bad-looking. 
*Aux grands maux les grands remldes = 
Desperate diseases require desperate re- 
medies. 
Malheur . *yi quelque chose malheur est bon = It is an 
ill wind that blows no one any good. 

[" A quelque chose sert le malheur." 

Montaigne, Essais, ii. 17.] 

Pour surcroit (or, comble) de fnalheur il tomba 

malade = To crown his misfortunes he 

fell ill. 

"''■ Un malheur ne vient jamais seul= Misfortunes 

never come singly ; It never rains but it 

pours. 

[Ital. Benedetto e quel male, che vien j<7/<?= Blessed is 
that misfortune which comes alone,] 

' // n^est qu'heur et malheur = Th2it's the way 

of the world. 

Manant . C'est un manant= He is a coarse, ill-educated 
boor. 

[From manens=one remaining fixed to the soil, a 
villein, serf.] 

"M-SLnche (m.) /I branle dans le manche (or, au manche) = 
He is no longer firmly established in his 
post ; He is irresolute. 
'''Jeter le manche aprls la cognee = To throw 
the rope after the bucket ; To give up in 
despair. 

Manche (/)y<? ne me ferai pas tirer par la manche = I 
shall not require much pressing. 
C^est une autre paire de manches = That is 
quite another thing; That is a horse of 
another colour, another pair of shoes. 



FRENCH IDIOMS AND PROVERBS 



57 



Manche {/•)/'at gag?te la previiere 7iianche = I won the 
{continjied) first game (out of two or more). 

^e Vai dans ma manche = I have h 
disposal. 



je 



have him at mv 



Manger 



Maniere . 
Manquer . 



Marchand 



March^ 



He eats like an 



// 77iange comme quatre 

ogre. 
// a mange son pain blanc le premier = He 

had the happiest part of his life first. 

(See Fain.) 
Manger son ble en herbe = To anticipate one's 

revenue. 
// a 7nange de la vache enragee = He has 

suffered many privations. 
// est tres ifiquiety il en perd le boire et le 

manger = He is very anxious, he has lost 

his appetite. 

Je Vai rosse de la belle maniere (fam.) = I gave 
him a sound thrashing. 

Vous me manquez = I miss you. 
Je vous ?nanque = You miss me. 
// a manque d^etre pris = He was nearly 

caught. 
C'esl un avocat manque = He is a would-be 

barrister ; He is a failure as a barrister. 
C^est un gargon manque = She is a tomboy. 
Ce yerail manquer d'usage = That would be a 

breach of good manners. 
// ne manquait plus que cela / — That crowns 

all ! That is the last straw ! 

Cest un marchand de soupe = He is a regular 
Squeers. 

[This is said of a private schoolmaster who, far from 
regarding his profession as an honourable one, follows 
it solely with a view to profit, by having few and inferior 
assistants and by feeding his pupils cheaply and badly 
(thus making a profit on the soup). He looks upon 
teaching as the least important part of his work. Of 
course, this race of men is now entirely extinct.] 

Far dessus le marche = Into the bargain ; 
Over and above. 



158 



FRENCH IDIOMS AND PROVERBS 



Marchd 

{continued) 



Marde . 

Marine 

Marmite 
Marotte 

Mars . 

Marteau 



// vCa ?nis le marche a la main = He told me 

I could take it or leave it ; He made me 

decide one way or the other. 
Est-ce marche fait 2 =\^ it a bargain ? 
Vous en etes qui tie a bon ??iarche = You came 

off cheaply. 
Vous aurez bon marche de lui = You will 

easily get the better of him. 
/e fais bon marche de cela — I hold that very 

cheap. 
Oti n^a jamais bon marche d'une mauvaise 

marchandise — A bad thing is dear at any 

price ; The best is the cheapest in the 

end. 

■*C^ qui vient de flot s^en retourne de marie — 
Fortune is as quick in going as in coming. 
(See Fiate.) 

II se plaint que la mariee est trop belle = He 
complains that he has got too good a 
bargain. 

Faire bouillir la marmite = To keep the pot 
boiling. 

Chacun a sa marotte = Every one has his 

hobby. 

[Marotte is a kind of sceptre or rattle with a head on 
the end, furnished with bells, which jesters carry.] 

*Mars venteux et Avril pluvieux 
Font le Mai gai et gracieux = 

March winds and April showers 
Make way for May flowers. 

*Mieux vaut etre marteau qu^enclufue = ^Qtier 
be striker than struck. 
Etre entre renclume et le tnarteau = To be in 
a dilemma ; To be between the devil and 
the deep sea. 
Graisser le ?narteau = To tip the porter. 
[There is the same idea in " Palm oil."] 



FRENCH IDIOMS AND PROVERBS 



59 



Martel . 
Massacrer 
Mati^re . 

Matin . . 
Maure 



// sest mis ??iartel eti fe^e = 'He made himself 
very uneasy. 

// es^ (Tune hwieur niassacrante = He is as 
cross as two sticks. 

// est bien enfonce dans la ma/iere=He is 

very coarse, very prosaic. 
La tabk des inatieres = The table of contents 

(of a book). 

// partira un de ces quatre matins = He will 
start one of these fine days. 

Traiter quelqu'un de Turc a Maure = To 
treat a person brutally. 
[As the Turks treated the Moors when they conquered 



the north of Africa. 
cules, lo. 



See Moliekp:, Prdcieuses Ridi- 



*A laver la tete d'un Maure (or, d'un dne, or, 
d'un negre) on y perd sa lessive = To en- 
deavour to teach a fool is a waste of time. 

Meche , . II a events (or, vendii) la vieche = He has let 
the cat out of the bag ; He has blown 
the gaff. 
// «jv a pas meche (pop.) = " It's no go " ; 
There is no doing it. 

Medaille . Cest le revers de la medaille = 'Y\\dX is the 
dark side of the picture. 

Medard . '''S'il pleut le jour de St. Medard, 
II pleut quaraftte Jours plus tard, 
S'il pleut le jour de St. Gervais^ 
II pleut quarafite jours apres^ 

" St Swithin's day, gif ye do rain 
For forty days will it remain." 

[Le jour de St. Medard = June 8. 
Le jour de St. Gervais=June 19. 
St. Swithin's Day^^July 15.] 

Mddecin . Voila trois medecins qui ne vous trompent pas: 
Gatte^ doux exercice et modeste repas = 

The best physicians are Dr. Diet, 
Dr. Quiet, and Dr. Merriman. 



i6o 



FRENCH IDIOMS AND PROVERBS 



M^fiance . *La mefiance est mere de la surete = Safe bind, 
safe find. 
[La Fontaine, Fables, iii. i8.] 

M^me . . // buvait a mhne la bouteille = He was 
drinking out of the bottle itself. 

[This is an inversion for a la bouteille mime. Boire a 
mime is not usually used of cups or glasses, but of 
bottles, jugs, streams, etc. For it implies that the 
containing vessel itself is being used to drink out of, 
and not any smaller vessel. Thus boire a mime le 
verre would suggest that a spoon or smaller receptacle 
was not used.] 

// est a meme de vous comprendre = He is able 

to understand you. 
Ce/a revient au meme = ThsLt comes to the 

same thing. 
Cest cela meme = That is the very thing. 
Fat'tes de meme = Do the same. 

Manage . lis font bon menage = They live happily to- 
gether. 
£lle fait le fnenage = She is doing her house- 
work. 

Manager . * Qj^I veut voyager loin menage sa monture = 
Who wishes to go far spares his horse; 
He who wishes to live long avoids excess. 

[Racine, Plaideurs, i. i.] 

Mentir . *^ beau mentir qui vient de loin = A traveller 
may lie with impunity; Travellers tell fine 
tales. 
Quasi et presque empechent les gens de mentir = 
Almost and very nigh save many a lie. 

M^prendre Quebec, c'est Saint- Malo a s'y tniprendre (Max 
O'Rell) = You could easily mistake 
Quebec for St. Malo. 

Mer . . *Cf n^ est pas la mer a boire = It is not an impos- 
sibility; It is not so very difficult after all. 
'''Porter de Veau a la mer = To carry coals to 
Newcastle. 



FRENCH IDIOMS AND PROVERBS 



i6i 



M^rite . 
Merle . , 
Merveille 
Messe . . 
Metier 



Mettre 



Midi 



Mien . 



Remplir son merite = To act aip to one's 
reputation. 

*(9// tie pr end pas les vieux merles a la pipee^- 
Old birds are not to be caught with chaff. 

// se porte a merveille = He is in splendid 
health. 

*Prh du moutier, a messe le dernier = The 
nearer the church, the farther from God. 

// nous a servi un plat de son metier (or, de 

safapn) = He played us one of his tricks. 

* '■^ A chacun son metier et les vaches seront bien 

gardees" (Florian, i^a^/<?j-, i. 12) = Let the 

cobbler stick to his last. 

[" Ne sutor ultra crepidam " (judicet).] 

Mettez cent francs = Make it ^£4. 

J I se mettrait en quatre pour ses amis =-- He 

would do anything for his friends. 
// se met bien = He dresses well. 
On veiit nous mettre dedans (fam.) = They 

want to entrap us, to take us in. 

Chercher midi a quatorze heures=^To make 
(<7r, seek) difficulties where there are none; 
To look for grapes on thorns. 

[This expression has its origin in the old custom, 
still in use in some parts of Italy, of reckoning the hours 
of the day consecutively from i to 24, beginning at 
sunset. Hence, noon may vary from the i6th to the 
20th hour, but is never the 14th. Voltaire's epigram 
for a sun-dial is very well known , but may bear repe- 
tition : — 

" Vous qui vivez dans ces demeures, 
fetes-vous bien? tenez-vous y, 
Et n'^allez pas chercher midi 
A quatorze heures."] 

Chacun connait midi a sa porte = Each one 
knows his own business best. 

jy ai mis du mien, mettez-y du votre = I have 
given way a bit, meet me half-way ; I have 
done my share at it, now it's your turn. 

L 



l62 



FRENCH IDIOMS AND PROVERBS 



Mieux . . *Le mteux est Vennemi du Men = Leave well 

alone. 
lis criaient a qui mieux inieux — Each 

was trying to shout louder than the 

other; Each tried to drown the others' 

voices. 
Je ne demande pas mieux = Nothing would 

give me greater pleasure. 
Elk est mieux que sa soeur ^ She is prettier 

than her sister. 
Fauie de mieux =^ For want of something 

better. 
Tant mieux = So much the better. 
// est au mieux avec son jncdecift = He is on 

the best terms with his doctor. 
On ?ie peut mieux = As well as possible ; It 

could not be better. 
Vous arrivez 07i ne peut niieux = You could 

not have come at a more opportune 

moment. 



Milieu . . Le Juste milieu = The golden mean. 
Au beau milieu = In the very midst. 
Vertu git au milieu = Do not rush into ex- 
tremes. 

[In medio tutissimus ibis = Allez par le milieu et 
vous ne tomberez pas. Compare the English : When 
slovenly girls get tidy, they polish the bottoms of 
saucepans.] 

Mine . . Faire bonne mine a mauvais jeu = To put a 
good face on the matter ; To make the 
best of a bad job. 

If fait mine de ne pas comprendre = He pre- 
tends not to understand. 

// nous a fait mauvaise (or, grise) ffiine =■ He 
looked black (sour) at us ; He did not 
receive us well. 

Cet homme a tres mauvaise mine = i. That 
man looks a regular ruffian. 2. That man 
looks very ill. 



FRENCH IDIOMS AND PROVERBS 



163 



Mine . , II ne paye pas de mine = His appearance is 

{contimied) against him. 

Ne jugez pas sur la fnine = Do not judge by 
appearances. 

[" Garde-toi, tant que tu vivras, 
Dejuger des gens sur la mine." 

La Fontaine, Fables, vi. 5.] 

Elk fait la mine = She is sulking. 

Mode . . Elle est ma tante a la mode de Bretagne ^ 
She is my father's {pr^ mother's) first 
cousin ; She is my first cousin once re- 
moved. 
Elle est ma niece a la mode de Bretagne = She 
is the daughter of my first cousin. 

[These phrases are used of any very distant relation- 
ship.] 

Moindre . Cest Id son moitidre dcfaut = That is not a 
great weakness of hers {or, his) ; That is 
the last thing you can reproach her (or, 
him) with. 
[La Fontaine, Fables, i. i.] 

Moineau . Deux moineaux sur mime ipi ne sont pas long- 
tefnps amis = Two of a trade seldom 
agree. 

['' Kal Kepa/xevi Kepafiei Koreei Kai tcktovi t^ktuv 
Kat TTTOJX^s TTTOJXV <p0ovi€i Kal doi86s AotStiJ." 
Hesiod, Opera et dies, 25.] 

// tire sa poudre aux inoineaux = He wastes 
his trouble for nothing. 



Mois . 


. Tous les 36 du mois = Once in a blue 




moon. 


Monde 


. Cest vieux comme le monde = It is as old as 



the hills. 
Vous dites des choses de V autre monde = You 

say most out-of-the-way things. 
// y a un 7nonde fou = There is a terrible 

crowd. (See Fou.) 



164 FRENCH IDIOMS AND PROVERBS 

Monde . Vous moquez-vons du mojide de ^arler ainsil 
[conthudcd) — Are you making fun of people (are you 

serious) in speaking thus ? Do you take 
people for a pack of fools ? 
Si vous obtefiez cinq francs^ (fest le bout du 
monde = If you get five francs, it is the 
utmost; You will get five francs at the 
very outside. 

Si elle a trente ans <^est tout le bout du 

monde = She may be thirty at the very 

outside. 
On ne peut contenter tout ie 7iwnde et son pere 

= One cannot satisfy everybody, all the 

world and his wife. 

[" Parbleu, dit le meunier, est bien fou du cerveau 
Qui pretend contenter tout le monde et son pere." 
La Fontaine, Fables, iii. i.] 

Monnaie • H lui a rendu la inonnaie de sa piece = He 
paid him back in his own coin. 

Mont . . Par monts et par vaux = Up hill and down 
dale. 

Montde . A grande month grande descente = The higher 
the rise, the greater the fall; He who 
climbs too high is near a fall. 

[" Vaulting ambition which o'erleaps itself." 

Shakespeare, Macbeth, i. 7. 
Also : La Roche Tarpt'ienne est p res du Capitole.] 

Montrer . Montrer le soleil avec un fla7nbcau = To paint 
the lily ; To hold a farthing rushlight to 
the sun. 

Mordre . Se mordre les doigis = To repent what one 
has done. 
Se mordre la langue = To repent what one 
has said. 

Mort . . // est mort de sa belle mort = He died a 
natural death. 
// est a r article de la mort= He is at the 
point of death, at death's door. 



FRENCH IDIOMS AND PROVERBS 



65 



Mort . . Quand on compte sur les Soulier s d'un mort on 

[continued) risquc de marcher pieds nus = It's an ill 

thing to wait for dead men's shoes; He 

pulls with a long rope that waits for 

another's death. 

[Also: Qui s' attend a r dcuelle d autrui risque fort 
de mat diner.'] 

Avoir la mort dans Vdine = To be grieved 
to death ; To be overwhelmed with grief. 

Morveux . '''Qui se sent tnorveux se mouche (pop.) = If the 
cap fits, wear it. (See Galeux.) 

Mot . . . lis en sont venus aux gros mots = They came 
to high words. 
'''Qui ne dit mot consent = Silence gives con- 
sent. 

// a toujours le mot pour rire = He is ever 
ready with a joke ; He is full of fun. 

// a 40,000 francs de rente au has mot = He 
has ^1600 a year at the very least. 
*^ bon entendeur de?ni-mot suffit (or, salut) = 
A word to the wise is enough; Verbum 
sap. 

II entend a demi-mot = He can take a hint. 

lis se sont donne le mot = They have passed 
the word round ; They have agreed before- 
hand what to say. 

Tranchons le mot = In plain English ; Not 
to mince matters ; To put it plainly. 

C'est mon dernier mot — That is the last 
concession I can make ; I will not take 
less. 

// salt le fin ?not de tout cela = He under- 
stands the upshot of all this. 

A^e soufflez pas mot f = Do not breathe a 
word ! 

En deux mots = To cut a long story short. 

Des mots longs d'une toise = Words as long as 
your arm. 
[Racine, Plaideurs, i, i.] 



i66 



FRENCH IDIOMS AND PROVERBS 



Mot . . Je ne mdche pas mes tnots = I don't mince 
{continued) matters ; I call a spade a spade. 

Mouche . Les grosses mouches passent a travers la toile 
de la justice^ mats les petites y sont prises = 
One man may steal a horse, while another 
dare not look over the hedge; Justice 
will whip a beggar, but bow to a lord; 
One does the scath, another has the harm ; 
The crow gets pardoned, and the dove 
has the blame. 

[" Ou laguepe a passd, le moucheron demeure." 

La Fontaine, Fables, ii. i6. 
" Quidquid delirant reges, plectuntur Achivi." 

HoR., Ep., i. 2. 
Italian : Un fa il peccato, I'altro la penitenza,] 

* Vous faites (Tune 7nouche un elephant = You 
make a mountain out of a molehill. 

[" Parturiunt monies, nascetur ridiculus mus." 

Horace, Ars Poetica.'] 

Quelle mouche vouspiquel = What irritates you? 

What whim have you got into your head ? 

/la pris la mouche == He is in a huff; He 

got offended. 
*0n prend plus de mouches avec du miel qu!avec 
du vinaigre = More is done by kindness 
than by harshness. 
Cesl une fine mouche = He is a sly dog, a 

deep one. 
Cest la mouche du coche = He is a regular 
busybody ; The worst wheel makes the 
most noise. (See Coche and Bruit.) 
Faire ?nouche = To hit the bull's eye. 
Moudre . // viendra moudre a notre moulin = He will 

be in want of us some day. 
Moulin . Cest un vrai moulin a paroles = She is a 
regular chatterbox ; He is a regular wind- 
bag. 
Moutarde // m'a fait monter la moutarde au 7iez = He 
irritated me; He made me lose my 
temper. 



1 



FRENCH IDIOMS AND PROVERBS 



167 



Moutarde Cest de la moutarde apres diner = It comes 
[continued] too late to be of any use ; It is a day 

after the fair. 

[" Depugnato proelio venire." — Plautus, Men- 
aechmi, v, 6, 30. 

"KaTOTTti/ T97S €opTT]s 7//ceis " = You have come after 
the feast. — Plato, Gorgias.'] 

Mou tardier // se croit le premier moutardier du pape = 
He thinks no small beer of himself. 



Mou ton 



Moyen 



Mur 



Muraille 



Musique 



^Revenons a nos moutons = But to return to 
our subject. 

[From an old farce of the fifteenth century, Maistre 
Pierre Pathelin, verse 1191, attributed without founda- 
tion to Pierre Blanchet. M. F. G^nin in his edition 
(1854) gives 1460 as the date, and Antoine de la Sale 
as the author. It was adapted in 1706 by Brueys and 
Palaprat, under the title of VAvocat Patelin. See 
also R^GNIER, Sat. , ii.] 

// n^y a pas fnoyen = It cannot be done. 

II fait valoir ses moyens = i. He makes the 

best of his talents. 2. He boasts of his 

talents. 
Cet enfant a pen de moyens = That child is 

not clever. 

Je Vai mis au pied du mur = I drove him 
into a corner; I made him decide one 
w?y or the other. 
*Murai/ie blanche^ papier defou = Fools write 
their names on walls. 

[Late Latin : Stultorum calami, carbones moenia 
chartae,] 

// est regie comme un papier de musique = He 
is as regular as clockwork. 



N. 

Nage . . Jc suis tout en nage = I am in a thorough 
perspiration ; I have not a dry thread on 
me. 



i68 



FRENCH IDIOMS AND PROVERBS 



Navette • Faire la navette = To go to and fro between 
two places several times. 

N^fle . . Avoir quelque chose pour des nefies (fam.) = 
To buy something for a mere song. 

Nerf . . Vous me donnez sur les nerfs = You get on 
my nerves ; You rile me (fam.). 

Net . . • Mettez cela au net= Make a fair copy of that. 
// a les mains nettes (fig.) = He is honest; 

His hands are clean. 
Refuser net = To refuse point-blank. 

Nez . . . II a un pied de nez (fam.) = He pulls a long 
face, looks foolish. 

[Also : II fait un nes.] 

II a fait un pied de nez (fam.) = He put 

his fingers to his nose; "He cut a 

snook." 
Ce coup Va fait saigner du nez = That blow 

made his nose bleed. 
// a saigne du nez = (lit.) His nose bled; 

(fig.) His heart failed him. 
A vue de nez = By rule of thumb. 
// veut toujours fourrer son nez partout (fam.) 

= He wants to have his finger in every 

pie. (See Fourrer.) 
On voulait lui tirer les vers du nez = They 

wished to pump him. 
Fous vous y casserez le nez = i. You will fall 

on your face. 2. You will knock up 

against something. 2. You will fail in 

that. 
Porter le nez au vent = To stare about aim- 
lessly. 
// me regarda sous le nez = He stared me in 

the face. 
// me I'a jeti au nez = He cast it in my 

teeth. 
// a le nez fin = i. He has a good nose. 2. 

He is far-sighted, sagacious. 



FRENCH IDIOMS AND PROVERBS 



169 



Nez. . 

{continued) 



Nid 



Nitouche . 



Noce . 



Noel 



Noir 



*Qui coupe son nez degarnit son visage = It is 
an ill bird that fouls its own nest; He 
who cuts off his nose spites his own face. 

[Also : S'arracher le nez pour faire depit a son 
visage. ] 

// me ferma la porte au nez = He shut the 

door in my face. 
// hci en pend autant au nez = He may expect 

as much (something unpleasant) ; He will 

fare no better. 

On fCa plus trouve que le nid = They found 
the birds flown. 

Jllle fait la sainte Nitouche = She plays the 
innocent; She looks as if butter would 
not melt in her mouth ; She looks very 
demure. 

\Sainte Nitouche is derived from sainte n'y touche, 
shortened from une sainte qui n'y touche pas. See 
Toucher. ] 

Je n^ai Jamais etc a pareille noce (or, fete) = I 

never had such a time of it. 
// a fait la noce toute la semaine = He has 

had a high old time of it all the week; 

He has been on the spree all the week. 

[Literally, to enjoy oneself as if one were a guest at a 
weddi.g, where there is plenty of merriment, food, and 
drink.] 

Je ne suis pas a la noce = I am not enjoying 
myself at all. 

* Tant crie Von Noel qu'il vient (Villon) = Long 
looked for comes at last ; That is coming 
— like Christmas. 
Quand Noel est vert^ les Pctques seront blanches 
= When the winter is mild, the spring 
will be wintry. 

Voir tout en noir = To look on the black side 
of things ; To have the blues. 

[Opposite to : voir tout en rose, or, voir tout couleur 
de rose.] 



170 



FRENCH IDIOMS AND PROVERBS 



Noir . . Broyer du noir = To have the blues ; To feel 

{continued) VCry Sad. 

Nom . . Nom d^un petit bonhomme 1 (fam.) = By 
Jingo ! 

Voila un nom a coucher dehof's {avec un billet 
de logement dans la poche) = That's a name 
too ugly for words ; That's an outlandish 
name if you like. 
N ombre . Tout /ait nombre = Every little helps. 

Normand C'est ripondre en Normand = That is an 
evasive answer. 

Nourrice . Elk dit qu'elle a vingt ans. — Et les mois de 
nourrice ! (fam.) = She says she is twenty. 
— And the rest ! 

Nouvelle . Goutez-moi ce vin; vous nCen direz des noiwelles 
(fam.) = You just taste this wine, you don't 
get wine like that every day ; What do you 
think of that for wine, my boy ? 

Nue . . Toniber des nues = To be astounded. 

Nuire . . *Ce qui nuit a Pun sert a V autre = What is 
one man's meat is another man's poison. 

Nuit . . *Za nuit porte conseil = Time will show a 
plan ; Sleep upon it ; Seek advice of your 
pillow. 



CEil . . . Se fourrer le doigt dans Voeil (pop.) = To 
deceive oneself blindly. 

[Sometimes /«j^//'az^ coude is added.] 

// a les yeux au beurre noir (pop.) =,He has 
a couple of black eyes ; He has his eyes 
in mourning. 
[Also : // a les yeux pochisJ\ 

Je ne vois pas cela d^un ban ceil = I do not 
look favourably upon that. 



FRENCH IDIOMS AND PROVERBS T71 

CEil . . . Cela saute aiix yeux = That is evident, 
{continued) obvious ; It is as clear as noonday. 

Je Pat regarde entre les deux yeux = I looked 

him straight in the face; I stared at 

him. 
Entrer a Vmil dans un theatre (fam.) = To get 

into a theatre on the nod {i.e. gratis). 
Avoir le co7iipas dans Poeil = To have a good 

eye for distances. 
JS//e a des yeux a la perdition de son ante = 

Her eyes are so lovely that they will be 

her ruin. 
Vous ne voyez point votre chapeau ? Mais il 

vous crlve les yeux I = You do not see 

your hat? Why, it stares you in the 

face ! (it's just under your nose). 
^ La lumilre me tire les yeux = The light hurts 

my eyes. 
// ne le fera pas pour vos beaux yeux = He 

will not do it for you for nothing. 
Nous convin?nes de cela entre quatre yeux 

= We agreed to that between ourselves. 
Je m'en bats /W/(pop.)^ I don't care a straw 

for it. 
// a les yeux battus = He has a tired look 

about his eyes. 
// a les yeux cernes = He has dark circles 

round his eyes. 
Des yeux a fleur de tete = Goggle eyes. (See 

Eleur.) 
Ouvrez Voeil^ et le bon ! (fam.) = Look out ! 
Cela lui a tape dans Voiil (pop.) = That took 

his fancy ; He was much struck by that. 
CEuf . . *Don?ier un ceuf pour avoir un boeuf- To give 

a sprat to catch a herring {pr^ mackerel). 

[Also : Supporter fete pour avoir tout.'\ 

*Faire d^un oeiif un hceuf = To make a moun- 
tain out of a molehill. 
// tondrait sur un oeuf= He would skin a flint. 
(See Huile and Cheveux.) 



172 FRENCH IDIOMS AND PROVERBS 

CEuvre . *Z« fin couronne Voeuvre = The end crowns 
all ; All's well that ends well. 
Mettez la main a Pceuvre = Put your shoulder 
to the wheel. 
*yi Voeuvre on connait V artisan = A carpenter 
is known by his chips ; The proof of the 
pudding is in the eating. 

[La Fontaine, Fables, i. 21, Les frelons et la 
mouche a miel.'\ • 

Oindre . * Oignez viiain, il vous poindra : 
Poignez viiain^ il vous oindra. 

[An old saying used by the French nobles during the 
middle ages, and found in a collection of proverbs of 
the thirteenth century. — Rab. , i^ 21. The Due de Bour- 
bon, in speaking before the Etats-G6n6raux in 1484, 
said : " Je connais le caract^re des vilains. S'ils ne sont 
opprim^s, il faut qu'ils oppriment." 

Comp, ' ' Tender -handed stroke a nettle, 

And it stings you for your pains ; 
Grasp it like a man of mettle, 
And it soft as silk remains." 
— Aaron Hill, VerseswrittenofiawindowinScotland.'] 

Oiseau . Jl a battu les buissons^ un autre a pris Voiseau 
= He did the work and another had the 
profit. 

[Donatus in his ' ' Life of Virgil " quotes the famous 
line : "Sic vos non vobis nidificatis aves." Hesiod says 
of drones : ' ' oXKbTpiov Ka.iia.rov atper^prjv is yaarep' 
d/xa;yrat=Into their own bellies they scrape together 
the labour of others," The Talmud says : " One says 
g^ace and another eats " ; the New Testament : " One 
soweth, another reapeth." Henry V. is reported to 
have said : "Shall I beat the bush and another take 
the bird? " when it was proposed to him to give up the 
Duke of Orleans to the Burgundians.] 

^A tout oiseau son nid est beau — Home is 
home, be it ever so homely. (See 
Ckez.) 
" Aux petits des oiseaux il donne leur pdture" 
= He that sends mouths sends meat. 
[Racine, Athalie, ii. 7.] 

A^ vue d"* oiseau = A bird's-eye view. 
A vol d" oiseau = As the crow flies. 



FRENCH IDIOMS AND PROVERBS 



173 



Oisivete . * " Voisivete est la mere de tous les vices " = 
" For Satan finds some mischief still for 
idle hands to do." — Watts, Divine Songs ^ 
XX. (See Fille.) 

[CoLLh^, La Partie de Chasse de Henri IV., iii. i. 
Also : Negligence mcne ddcMance = Idle men tempt 
the devil.] 

On . . . On esf un sot= " They-say-so " is half a liar. 
[Note that there is no liaison after On here.] 

Ongle . . II a de r esprit jusqu! an bout des angles = He 
is witty to the tips of his fingers ; He is 
extremely witty. 
// a bee et ongles = He will fight with beak 
and claw, tooth and nail. 

Onguent . "^Dans les petites boites les bons onguents = 
Small parcels hold fine wares. (See Aune.) 

Opiner . // opine du bonnet = He agrees with the 
previous speakers without saying a word. 

[From the custom of judges who agreed with the 
decision of a brother judge, taking off their caps and 
saying nothing. It is also said of a subordinate who 
always agrees with his superior.] 

Oreille. . // se /era tirer Voreille = He will require 

pressing. 
// se retira Voreille basse = He went away 

crestfallen. 
J''ai les oreilles rebattues de cela = I am tired 

of hearing that. 
// dort sur les deux oreilles = (lit.) He sleeps 

soundly; (fig.) His mind is quite easy. 
// n^ecoute que d'une oreille = He pays very 

little attention to what is being said. 
Ne venez pas ainsi me corner aux oreilles = Do 

not come and din it into my ears in that 

way. 
II fait la sourde oreille = He turns a deaf ear ; 

He pretends not to hear. 
Je n^entends pas de cette oreille-la = I will not 

listen to that. 



174 FRENCH IDIOMS AND PROVERBS 

Oreille. . Par dessus les oreilles = Over head and 
{continued) ears. 

Autant lui en pend a Poreille = He may 
expect the same (something unpleasant). 
(Compare Nez.) 
Les oreilles 07it du vous corner {tinier) = Your 

ears must have burned. 
/e lui frotterai les oreilles = I will twist his 
tail for him. 

Orf^vre . *" Vous etes orfevre^ Monsieur Josse P^ = That 
is a bit of special pleading ; That is not 
disinterested advice ; There's nothing like 
leather ! 

[MoLiERE, L' Amour MMecin, i. i. This quotation 
refers to Sganaxelle's daughter who suffers from an in- 
curable lowness of spirits. All his neighbours give him 
advice aS to how to cure her ; among them, Monsieur 
Josse, a jeweller, suggests that a fine necklace of dia- 
monds or rubies would undoubtedly cure her. The 
father, distracted though he be, is not so far gone as 
not to see through this remark, and he replies in the 
words that have since become proverbial.] 

Orgueil . *Il n^est orgueil 'que de sot enrichi = Set a 
beggar on horseback, he'll ride to the 
devil. 

Orme . . * Attendez-moi sous Vorme = You may wait for 
me till doomsday. 

Ortie . . Rabelais jeta le froc aux orties = 'R^hQ[2i\s yf2iS 
an unfrocked priest. 

Oter . . Ute-toi de la que je niy mette = You get out 
and let me get in. 

[Origin unknown ; probably le Vicomte de Sdgur first 
used it. Comp. Sancho Panza, " Imitando al juego de 
los muchachos que dicen ' Salta tu y damela tu' doy un 
sal to del gobierno."] 

Oublier , Oub lions le passe = 'Let bygones be bygones. 

Ours . . C'est un ours nial leche = He is an ill-licked 
cub; He is an ill-bred \or^ ill-shapen] 
fellow. 
[La Fontaine, Fables, xi. 7.] 



FRENCH IDIOMS AND PROVERBS 



175 



Ours . 

{continued) 



Save me from my 



Ouvrier 



Ouvrir 



C^est le pave de Fours 
friends. 

[" Rien n'est si dangereux qu'un ignorant ami 
Mieux vaudrait un sage ennemi." 

La Fontaine, Fables, viii. 10. 
An old gardener, feeling lonely, had adopted a bear 
as a companion. One day, when his master was asleep, 
he sees a fly on his face ; he tries to drive it away, but 
it declines to move, so he takes up a huge paving-stone 
and kills the fly — and his master too.] 

*Mauvais ouvrier n'a jamais bons outils = A 
bad workman always blames his tools. 

// traduit a livre ouvert = He translates at 
sight. 



Paille 



Pain 



Tout y va^ la paille et le ble = He spends all 

he has. 
// mourra sur la paille = He will die in the 

gutter. 
// est sur la paille = He is exceedingly 

poor. 
Tirons a la courte paille =■- Let us draw 

lots. 
*Cela • enleve la paille = '"That takes the 

cake." 

[The French is hardly as popular an expression as 
the English, which might be rendered in French by 
dicrocher la timbale. Quitard derives paille from patle, 
a kind of rich cloth given as a prize in athletic contests. 
Littrd imagines it originated with amber, which has the 
property of raising light objects, such as straw. Madame 
de Sdvign^ writes (13th Jan. 1672) : " Racine a fait une 
comddie qui s'appelle Bajazet et qui enleve la paille." 
The English expression is said to come from the custom 
of negroes, when giving a ball, to provide a cake to be 
given to the best-dressed couple. The competitors 
walk round and are judged by the other guests. Hence 
■ the term cake-walk.] 



Cet hom?ne est bon comme le pain 
man is goodness itself. 



That 



176 FRENCH IDIOMS AND PROVERBS 

Pain , , II a mange son pain blanc le premier = He 
{continued) had the best of his life first; His happiest 

days are over. 

[In many parts of the Continent white bread is not 
the matter of course that it is in England ; brown or 
black bread is the usual fare of the poorer classes. ] 

*Telgrain^ tel pain ^^\\2X you sow, you must 

mow. 
On lui a fait passer le gout du pain (fam.) = 

They killed him. 
C est pain benit=\t serves you (him, her, 

them) right. 
J I a du pain sur la planche = He has saved 

money ; He has enough to live upon ; 

He has put something by for a rainy day ; 

There is plenty of work for him to do. 
*De tout s'avise a qui pain faut {manque) = 

Necessity is the mother of invention. 
*Pain tant quHl dure, vin a mesure = Y^2X at 

pleasure, drink by measure. 
*// ne vaut pas le pain quHl mange = Iie is not 

worth his salt. 
// sail son pain manger = He knows on which 

side his bread is buttered. 
^Cest un long jour qu^un jour sans pain = 'Tis 

a long lane that has no turning. 
*Pain derobe reveille appetite Stolen joys are 

sweet. 

[' ' Pain qu'on derobe et quon mange en cachette, 
Vaut mieux que pain qu'on cuit et quon achHe. " 
La Fontaine, Les Troqueurs.] 

Je ne mange pas de ce pain-la = I don't go in 
for that sort of thing. 

Pair . . Hors depair = Beyond all comparison ; Above 
the level of others. 
Trailer quelqithin de pair a compagnon — To 
be hail-fellow-well-met with any one : To 
treat any one on an equal footing. 

Paire . . *Les deux font la paire (fam.) = They are well 
matched \ Arcades ambo. 



FRENCH IDIOMS AND PROVERBS 



177 



Paitre . . V^ Vai etivoye pattre (fam.) = I sent him about 
his business. 

Paix . . Paix ^//^/^ = Anything for a quiet life. 

Panier . . * Adieu paniers, vendanges sont faites = You 

come too late, it is all over. 

[The chorus of an old glee sung by the grape-pickers 
when their labours were finished. Comp. Rabelais, 
Gargantua, xxvii.] 

Vous me donnez le dessus du panier = Yo\i 
give me the best, the pick. 

\_Le dessous du panier=\he refuse.] 

Oesi un panier perce = He is a spendthrift. 

Panneau . Donner dans le panneau = To fall into the 
trap. 

Panse . . // n'a pas fait une panse d'a aujourd^hui= 
He has not done a stroke all day. 
[Panse d'a=\.ht round part of an a.] 

Papier . . // n^est pas dans mes petits papier s = He is not 
in my good books. 

[" Oh ! pourvu que je sois 
Dans les petits papiers du Mercure Francois.'' 
Rostand, Cyrano de Bergerac , ii. 8.] 

Paquet . Je lui at donne son paquet=\ gave him the 
sack. 
Faire un paquet = To make a parcel. 
Faire son paquet = To pack up and go. 

Par . . . De par le roi= By the king's command. 

[" De par le roi, defense a Dieu 
De faire miracle en ce lieu." 
A cynical couplet that arose when Louis XV. pro- 
hibited pilgrimages to the tomb of Fran9ois de Piris, 
behind the Church of St. M^dard in Paris, because of 
the Convulsionnaires.] 

Paraitre . Sans qu'il y paraisse, c'est un homme fort 
instruit=\^\\}[iOw\. making any show he 
is a very well-informed man. 
A ce quHl me parait = As far as I can 
judge, see. 

M 



178 FRENCH IDIOMS AND PROVERBS 

Paraitre . Le livre vient de paraifre^'Vho. book is just 
{cojitinued) out, just published. 

// n'y parati plus = T\\Qre. is no trace of it. 
// ny paratt pas = One would not have 
thought it. 

Pareil . . J^ai le pared ^ I have one like it. 

Je VGus rendrai la pareille =1. I will pay 
you out. 2. I will do the same for 
you. 
On n'a jamais vu chose pareille ^ One never 
heard of such a thing. 

Paresseux * Ce sont les paresseux qui font le plus de chemin 
= Lazy people take the most pains. 

Parier . . II y a cent (or, gros) a parier qu'ils ne revien- 
dront pas = The odds are that they will 
not come back. 

Paris . . II prend Paris pour Corbeil^ le Piree pour U7i 
homtne = " He does not know a hawk 
from a handsaw." 

[Hamlet, ii. 2, where "handsaw" is a corruption of 
hernshaw= heron. This was an old proverb, corrupted 
before Shakespeare's day. 

' ' Pour grain ne prenant paille ou Paris pour Cor- 
beil." — Rp^GNiER, Sat. xiv.] 

Le Tout-Paris de ce temps-la = The fashionable 
world of Paris of that day. 

Parier . . A^ous parlions de la pluie et du beau temps = 
We were not talking of anything import- 
ant or confidential ; We were talking of 
indifferent matters. 

Parier de bouche I _ Lip worship does not 

Au cQiur ?te louche j ~ reach the heart. 

Oest a vous a parier = It is your turn to 
speak. 

Cest a vous de parier = It is your duty to 
speak, 

Qu'il vienne, il trouvera a qui parier = Let 
him come, he will find his match. 



FRENCH IDIOMS AND PROVERBS 



179 



Parler . 

{continued) 



Parole . 



Part . 

Partager 
Parti . 



"^Trop gratter cuit, trop parler nuit = Least 
said, soonest mended ; Speech is silvern, 
silence is golden. 

[Italian : Chi parla semina, chi tace raccoglie=Who 
speaks sows, who keeps silence reaps. 

Qui d' autruy parler voiidra 
Regarde soi et il iaira.] 

* Jamais beau parler u'ecorcha la langue = 
Fair words never did harm; Civility costs 
nothing. 
// a son franc parler =^ He is free-spoken. 

"^ Vous avez la parole = It is your turn to speak; 

You are allowed to speak (I.e. you have 

caught the Speaker's eye). See Avoir. 

Je lui coupai la parole = I interrupted him. 

'''Un homme (Vhonneur n'a que sa parole = kn 

honest man's word is as good as his bond. 

Eire de parole = To be as good as one's word. 

Manquer de parole (or, manquer a sa parole) ^ 

To break one's word. 
Tenir parole = To keep one's word. 

En bonne ou mauvaise part=\n a good or 

bad sense. 
Hous le Savons de bonne part ^ We know it on 

good authority. 

// est bien partage = The Fates have been kind 
to him. 

// a pris son parti = i. He has made up his 
mind. 2. He has resigned himself to it. 

De parti pris = Deliberately. 

Cest un parti pris = His mind is made up ; 
It is a foregone conclusion. 

Oest un parti pris chez lui de toujours con- 
tredire= He 7£77/ always contradict. 

A parti pris point de conseil=Kdyice is use- 
less when a man's mind is made up. 

// tire parti de tout = He makes a profit out 
of everything. 



i8o 



FRENCH IDIOMS AND PROVERBS 



Parti . . // sait tirer parti de la vie = He knows how 
{continued) to make the best of life. 

// a epouse un bon parti = He made a good 

match. 
// vous fera un fjiauvais parti = He will try 
and pick a quarrel with you so as to ill-use 
you, to do you harm. 

Partie . . // w'^ pris a partie = He took me to task ; 
(legally) He summoned me. 

[^Parfie is literally a man who pleads against any one 
in a lawsuit. Compare : 

' ' Va, je suis ta partie et non pas ton bourreau. " 

CORNEILLE, Cid, 839.] 

Cetait tine partie nulle = It was a drawn game. 

Pas . . . Marcher a pas de geant = To put on one's 
seven-league boots. 
Se tirer d^u?i mauvais pas = To get out of an 
awkward fix (scrape). 
*// ny a que le prettiier pas qui coute = In 
everything the beginning is the most 
difficult part; The first step downward 
makes the others easier. 

[" // n'y a que le premier obstacle qui co^te a vaincre.'' 
— BOSSUET, Pensdes chrdtiennes, 9.] 

// prend le pas sur moi = He takes pre- 
cedence of me. 

jy vais de ce pas = I am going there directly. 

Je le mettrai au pas = I will put him on his 
good behaviour. 

Marquer le pas = (Ht.) To mark time ; (fig.) 
To wait for a post to which one has a 
right. 

Marchez au pas = Drive slowly ; Walk in 
step. 

Passe . . // est en passe de devenir ministre = He is in 
a fair way (he stands a good chance) to 
become a Cabinet Minister. 

Passer. . II faut Men que fen passe par Id == \ must 
submit to that ; I must put up with it. 



FRENCH IDIOMS AND PROVERBS 



l8l 



Passer . . Nous ne pouvons nous passer de cela = We 
[continued] cannot do without that. 

*Fassons au deluge = We know all about that, 
let us come to the point ; Don't let us go 
over all that again, we will take it for 
granted. 

[Racine, Plaideurs, iii. 3; where L'lntim^, the 
lawyer, wishes to relate the history of the world from 
the creation, and Dandin, the judge, begs him to skip 
all until the flood,] 

Cette couleur passera = That colour will fade. 
*Passe-moi la casse {rhubarbe), je te passerai le 
sene = Claw me and I'll claw thee ; One 
hand washes the other, and both wash 
the face. 
Passez-moi ce mot-la = Excuse the expression. 
fen passe . . . et des meilleurs = Some of 
the best I pass over. 
[Victor Hugo, Hernani, iii. 6.] 

On ne passe pas = No thoroughfare. 

[Rue darr^e=Rosid stopped.] 

Patte . . Vous faites des pattes de mouche = You have 
a small, ill-formed handwriting. 
// marche a quatre pattes = He walks on all- 
fours. 

Pauyre . Aux pauvres la besace = The back is made 
for the burden. 
Lhomme pauvre est toujours en pays etranger 
= The poor are never welcomed ; All bite 
the bitten dOg. 

Pauvrete . ^Pauvrete n! est pas z;/<r^ = Poverty is no crime. 

Pave . • Les paves le dtsent = It is in every one's 
mouth. 
// est sur le pave = He is out of work. 
Prendre le haut du pave = To take the wall. 

Payer . . Payer de sa personne = To bravely expose 
oneself to danger; To risk one's skin. 



82 



FRENCH IDIOMS AND PROVERBS 



Payer . . Etre paye pour savoir = To know a thing to 

[continued) One's COSt. 

Payer (Taudace = To put on a bold face ; To 

brazen a thing out. 
Payer les violons = To pay the piper. 
/e ne me paye pas de mauvaises raisons = 

I will only be satisfied with good 

reasons. 
Vous vous payez de mots = You are the dupe 

of words ; You are taken in by empty 

words. 
// me la pay era = I will make him smart 

for it. 
Qui paye ses dettes s'enrichit = Debt is the 

worst kind of poverty. 
Payer son ecot = To pay one's share (scot). 
// veut se payer ma tete = He wishes to have 

the laugh of me. 

Pays . . '''Pays ruine vaut mieux que pays perdu = Half 
a loaf is better than no bread. 
Je lui ferai voir du pays = I will lead him a 
pretty dance. 

Peau . . '^Il ne faut pas vendre la peau de Pours avant 
de r avoir tue = Do not count your chickens 
before they are hatched ; First catch your 
hare. 

[" // ma dit qu'il ne faut jamais 
Vendre la peau de Vcrurs qu'on ne I' ait mis par terre." 
La Fontaine, Fables, v. 20.] 

// creve dans sa peau (fam.) = (lit.) He is 
extremely fat ; (fig.) He is bursting with 
pride, spite. 

Faire peau neuve = To turn over a new 
leaf. 

Pdchd . . '''Pechk avoue est a demi pardonne — A fault 
confessed is half redressed. 
Elle est laide comme les sept peches capitaux = 
She is as ugly as sin. 



FRENCH IDIOMS AND PROVERBS 



183 



Pecher . On est punt par oic Von a piche = 

" The Gods are just, and of our pleasant 
vices 
Make instruments to scourge us." 

{King Lear, v. 3.] 

Peine . . Cela ne vaut pas la peine = It is not worth 
the trouble ; It is not worth while. 
Mourir a la peine = i. To die in harness. 
2. To work oneself to death. 

Peinture . Je ne peux pas le voir meme en peinture = I 
hate the very sight of that man. 

Pele . . II y avait quatre peles et un tondu = There 
were only a few people and those of no 
importance ; Only the tag, rag, and bob- 
tail were there. 

Pelle . . *^^ pelle se moque du fourgon = It is the pot 
calling the kettle black. 

[Another English variant is : - " The kiln calls the 
oven: Burnt house." The Italians say: " La padella 
dice al pajuolo, ' Fatti ni la che tu me tigni ' " = The 
pan says to the pot, " Keep off or you'll smutch me." 
The Germans: " Ein Esel schimpft den andern 
Langohr=One ass nicknames another Longears.] 

Remuer l^ argent a la pelle = To have plenty 
of money. 

Pelote . . II a fait sa pelote = He has feathered his 

nest. 
Pendant . Cet homme n^a pas son pendant (or, pareit) 

= That man has not his match. 

Pendre . // a dit pis que pendre de vous = He said 
everything that was bad of you ; Accord- 
ing to him, hanging is too good for you. 

Penser . A ce que je pense = To my mind. 

Sans penser a mal = Without meaning any 

mischief. 
Rien que d''y penser fen ai le frisson = The 

bare thought of it makes me shudder. 
Cela donne furieusement a penser = That is 

very suggestive. 



i84 



FRENCH IDIOMS AND PROVERBS 



Penser . Sans arriere-pensee = Without reserve ; With 
{continued) no after-thought. 

Perdre . *Un de perdu, deux de retrouves = When one 
door shuts, another opens. 
Je my perds = I am getting bewildered ; I 

cannot make head or tail of it. 
Jl perd la carte = He is getting confused. 
C'esf du Men perdu = It is casting pearls 
before swine. 
* Qtn perd pec/ie = Ide who loses sins ; Nothing 
succeeds like success. 
Perdrix . *Toujours des perdrix = The best things pall 

in time. 
Perle . . Nous ne sommes pas id pour enfiler des perles 
= We are not here to trifle our time away. 
P^rou . . Cen^est pas le Perou (fam.) = It's no great 

catch. 
Personne . C^est la bonte en personne = He {or. She) is 

kindness itself. 
Perte . . A perte de vue = As far as the eye can reach. 
Je suis en perte = I am out of pocket. 
/'ai fait cela en pure perte = What I have 
done is completely useless ; All I have 
done is to no purpose. 
Pesant . // vaut son pesant d^or = He is worth his 

weight in gold. 
Petit . . Elles sont aux petits soins pour leur vieille 
rn^re = They are all attention to their old 
mother. 
*Les petits ruisseaux font les grandes rivieres = 

Many a little makes a mickle. 
* Petit a petit Voiseau fait son nid — Little 
strokes fell great oaks. (See Maille and 
Ruisseau.) 

[Also: Grain a grain amasse la fourmi son pain. 

Peu d peu la vieille file sa quenouille. 

Latin: Adde parvum parvo tandem fit magnus 
acei-vus. 

Italian : A passo a passo se va lontana. 
Little and often fills the purse.] 



FRENCH IDIOMS AND PROVERBS 



i8s 



Petit . . En petit ^ On a small scale. 
{continued) '''Petit mercier, petit punier = A small pack 
becomes a small pedlar. 
[" Little boats should keep the shore, 

Larger ships may venture more. " 
Latin : Pauper agat caute.] 

* Petite cervelle^ prompte colere = A little pot is 
soon hot. 

P^trin . . /e suis dans le petrin (fam.) = I am in a 
mess, fix. 
Les finances sont en ce mometit dans un petrin 
impossible = The finances are in horrible 
disorder just now. 

Peu. . . Si peu que rien = Next to nothing.. 
Imaginez un peu I = Just fancy ! 
Pour peu gue cela vous ennuie = However 

little it annoys you. 
Tant soit peu meilleur = Be it ever so little 

better ; A shade better. 
'A peu de chose prh = Not far off. 

Peur . . Elk etait mise a fairs peur = She looked a 
fright. 
// a eu plus de peur que de mal = He was 
more frightened than hurt. 
Phrase . Eaire des phrases = To speak affectedly. 

Pie . • . *// a trouvS la pie au nid = He has found a 
mare's nest. 
Ellejase comme une pie borgne = She chatters 
like a magpie. 

Piece . . J^ai fait cela de toutes pieces = I have done 
that entirely {i.e. every part of it). 
Je lui ai donne la piece = I gave him a trifle, 

tip. 
C'est la pilce de resistance = It is the principal 
dish (of a meal). 

Pied . ' 11 a bon pied, bon ceil= He is hale and hearty. 
Sur le pied oil en sont les choses = Considering 
how matters stand. 



l86 FRENCH IDIOMS AND PROVERBS 

Pied . . *Il ne sail sur quel pied danser = He does not 
^continued) know which way to turn. 

Partir du bon pied = To put one's best foot 

foremost. 
Je ferai des pieds et des mains pour vous etre 

utile = I will do my utmost (strain every 

nerve) to serve you. 
Ar7ne de pied en cap = Armed from head to 

foot, cap-a-pie. 
Le pied m\i manque = My foot slipped. 
Mettre (quelqu' un) a pied = (fam.) To dismiss 

(a functionary) ; To deprive a cabman of 

his licence. 
// a trouve chaussure a son pied = He has 

found just what he wanted ; He has found 

his match. 
Lacker pied = i. To lose ground. 2. To 

scamper away. 
Lever le pied=To decamp (of a dishonest 

banker, etc.). 
Vous m'avez tire une epine du pied = (fig.) 

You have got me out of a difficulty. (See 

^pine.) 
J'ai fait mon travail d'arrache pied = I did 

my work straight off, without stopping. 
De plain pied = On the same level (of rooms 

on the same floOr, or on a level with the 

ground). 
// a le pied marin = He has got his sea-legs ; 

He is a good sailor. 
Sauter a pieds joints sur quelqiiun = (fig.) 

To ride rough-shod over any one. 
// ne se mouche pas du pied (pop.) = i. He is 

a man of importance; He gives himself 

airs. 2. He is no fool. 

[A favourite trick of a tumbler in olden times was to 
take one of his feet in his hands and pass it quickly 
under his nose. Hence the expression would be equi- 
valent to : he is no tumbler or common fellow. ' ' N'est 
pas un homme, non, qui se mouche du pied." 
MoLii^RE, Tartufe, iv. 5.] 



FRENCH IDIOMS AND PROVERBS 



187 



i . Pierre . 



Pied . . Aller du pied (or, Courir) comme un chat 

[continued] maigrc = To be a good walker. 

// seche sur pied = He is pining away. 

La mort Va pris au pied leve = Death took 

him without a moment's notice. 

[Literally, just at the moment he was starting to go 
out.] 

'''Faire d'une pierre deux coups = To kill two 

birds with one stone. 
'^Pierre qui route ?i\imasse pas mousse = A 

rolling stone gathers no moss. 

[The Greek form was : \idos KvXivdofievos to (pvKOi ov 

Cela ferait rire un tas de pierres = That 
would make a cat laugh. 

Sa niontre est au tnont de piete = His watch 
is at the pawnbroker's. (See Accrocher.) 

Avoir pignon sur rue = To have a house of 
one's own. 

Jouer a pile ou face = To play pitch and 

^ toss, heads or tails. 

// n'a ni croix ni pile = He has not a rap. 

, ["Sans croix ne pile." — La Fontaine, Coutes, ii. 

" Whacum had neither cross nor pile," — Butler, 
Hudibras, ii. 3. Pile is literally the reverse of a coin.] 

Pilier . . Oest un pilier d'estaminet (or, de cafe) =■■ He 
is a pubHc-house lounger, a pub loafer. 

Pilule . . Dorer la pilule = To gild the pill. 

Pipe . . Casser sa pipe (pop.) = To kick the bucket; 
To hop the twig ; To die. 

Piquer. . Piquer la curiosite de quelqu^un = To rouse 

some one's curiosity. 
// se pique d\in rien = He takes offence at 

the slightest thing. 
Jl s'est pique d^hontieur = He made it a 

point of honour; He was put upon his 

mettle. 



Pidtd . 
\ Pignon 
Pile. . 



1 88 



FRENCH IDIOMS AND PROVERBS 



Piquer. 

(contmued) 



Piquer des deux = (lit.) To spur a horse with 
both heels ; To gallop off at full speed ; 
(fig.) To run very fast. 

Piquer une tete (fam.) = To take a header. 

Voila un discours qui ri'est pas pique des vers 
= That's a fine speech if you like [lit. not 
worm-eaten.] 

Se piquer au jeu = (lit.) To continue obsti- 
nately to play although losing ; (fig.) To 
go on in an enterprise in spite of all 
obstacles. 



Place 



. *Qtn va a la chasse perd sa place = If you 
leave your place, you lose it. 

Plaider . " Accordez-vous si voire affaire est bonne^ 
Si voire cause est mauvaise^ plaidez.''^ 
[J. B. Rousseau, Epigrammes, ii. 19] = 
If you've a good case, try and com- 
promise ; If you've a bad one, take it 
into court. 

Plaie . . II ne demande que plaie et bosse = He seeks 

quarrels only to draw profit from them. 
// ne cherche que plaie et bosse = He is always 

hankering after a black eye. 
Plaisanterie Une bonne plaisanteHe mirite les honneurs du 

bis = A good tale is none the worse for 

being told twice. 

Plan '. . Releguer {ifieitre) au second plan = To put 
into the background. 

Planche . Paire la planc/ie = i. To show others the 

way; 2. To float on one's back. 
C'est sa planche de salut =lt is his last hope, 

his sheet-anchor. 
Plancher . Le plancher des vaches (fam.) = Dry land; 

Terra firma. 
Dibarrasse-moi le plancher (fam. ) = Get out of 

my way. 
Planter . Vous niavez plante la = You left me without 

any warning ; You left me in the lurch. 



FRENCH IDIOMS AND PROVERBS 



189 



Plat . . . 11 nous a servi un plat de son metier (or, 
de sa fapn) = He played us one of his 
tricks. 

On mit les petits plats dans les grands pour le 
Men recevoir (fam.) = They spared neither 
trouble nor money to receive him well ; 
They received him with much fuss. 

// a mis les pieds dans le plat (fam.) = He put 
his foot in it. 

Platre . . Ce inari bat sa femme comme pldtre = That 
husband beats his wife like a dog. 
Essiiyer les platres = To live in a newly- 
built house (and therefore damp). (See 
jEssuyer.) 

Plein . . Baitre son plein = To be in full swing. 
Plein comme un osu/{f2im.) = Chock-full. 
En pleine rue = In the open street. 
En pleine mer = On the high seas. 

Pleurer . La niaise / pleurer a chaudes larmes pour une 
vetille = The silly girl ! to cry her eyes 
out for a trifle. 

Pleuvoir . Pkuvoir des hallebardes = To rain cats, dogs, 
and pitchforks. 

Pli . . . Cela ne /era pas un pli = There will not be 
the slightest difficulty. 
Si vous n^y prenez {pas) garde, il prendra un 
ifiauvais pli = If you are not careful he 
will get into bad habits. 

Pluie . . '''Apres la pluie le beau temps = Every cloud 

has a silver lining. 
Nous parlions de la pluie et du beau temps = 

We were talking of indifferent matters. 
II fait la pluie et le beau teitips dans cette maison 

^- His will is law in that house ; He is 

the boss of that show (fam.). 

Plus . '''Plus on a, plus on veut avoir =■- Much would 

have more. 



IQO FRENCH IDIOMS AND PROVERBS 

Poche . . II connalt Paris comme sa poche = He knows 
Paris perfectly; He knows all the ins and 
outs of Paris ; His knowledge of Paris is 
extensive and peculiar. 

Poil ... Un brave a trois polls = The bravest of the 
brave ; A hero of the first water. 

[This expression is derived from three-piled velvet. 
See MOLIERE, Les Prdcieuses Ridicules ^ 12.] 

Monter a poil='Vo ride barebacked. 

Point . . "^Un point a temps en epargne cent = A stitch 
in time saves nine. 

[Spanish : Quien no adoba gotera adoba casa entera 
=Who repairs not his gutter repairs his whole house.] 

Cela viefit a point = That comes opportunely. 
La viande est cuite a point = The meat is 

done to a turn. 
Vous venez a point nomme = You come in the 

nick of time, at the necessary moment, 

just when you are wanted. 
Mettez les points sur les /=Be precise, clear 

(in speaking or writing); Cross your t's 

and dot your i's. 
// vous rendrait des points = He is more than 

a match for you ; He could give you 

points. 
// vous rendra des points = He will give you 

odds (at a game). 
II y a un point noir a V horizon = There are 

breakers ahead. 

Poire . . * Coupons la poire en deux = Let us split the 
difference. 
Ellefaisait trop s a poire (pop.) = She needed 
pressing; She played the prude (^r, dis- 
dainful). 

[" II ^tait trop homme pour faire sa poire."] 
Nous en causerons entre la poire et le frontage 

= We will talk it over at dessert. 
Garder une poire pour la soif—To lay up 

something for a rainy day. 



FRENCH IDIOMS AND PROVERBS 



191 






Poisson . On ltd a fait un poisson d!avril = They made 
him an April fool. 
/e suis conime un poisson sur la paille = I am 
like a fish out of water. 
Polichinelle Cest le secret de Polichinelle = It is an open 
secret ; Every one knows it. 
// a avale la pratique de Polichinelle = He is 
very hoarse. 

\L.a pratique de Polichinelle is the squeaker that a 
Punch-and-Judy man puts in his mouth during a 
performance.] 

Politesse . '^ Force politesse^ trop de finesse = Full of courtesy, 

full of craft. 
Pont . . II se porte comme le Pont Neuf= He is in 

splendid health. 
Cest vieux comme le Pont Ahuf ^ Queen 

Anne is dead ; It is as old as the hills. 

[The Pont Neuf was finished in 1604 during the 
reign of Henry IV., and is now the oldest bridge in 
Paris. The statue of Henry IV. in the middle of the 
bridge was erected originally in 1635, but the present 
one dates only from 1818. 

Another expression is : 
Henri Quatre est sur le Pont Neuf= That's stale news.] 

Pontoise . // a Pair de revenir de Pontoise = He looks 
down in the mouth ; He answers in a 
silly fashion. 

[The origin of this expression is said to be that in 1720 
and in 1753 the Parlement was exiled to Pontoise, about 
twenty miles north of Paris, for its rebellion to the King. 
Perhaps from the fact that when they returned they 
were besieged with questions, to which they gave con- 
fused answers, the saying arose and was applied to 
anyone that had a simple, idiotic appearance.] 

Porte . . lis ont mis la clef sous la porte = They ab- 
sconded. 
// faut qu'une porte soit ouverte ou fermee = 
You must decide one way or the other. 

[The title of one of Alfred de Musset's Proverbes.] 
On I'a mis a la porte = They turned him out. 
// a ete mis a la porte par les oreilles et les 

deux ^paules=Yie was turned out igno- 

miniously, neck and crop. 



192 



FRENCH IDIOMS AND PROVERBS 



Porte . . On a condamne la porte = The door is nailed 

{continued) up, blocked Up. * 

Port^e . . A sa portk (or, a portee de sa main) = Within 
his reach. 
A {la) portee de la voix = ^\\}i\vs\ call. 
A {une) portee de fusil =^'\\}ci\n gunshot. 

Porter . . Oest elk qui porte la culotte = '^he is mistress 
in this house (not her husband) ; The 
grey mare is the better horse. 

On le porte aux nues = They praise him to 

the skies. 
Ses plaisanteries portent coup = His jokes hit 

the mark. 

Poseur . Cest un poseur =1^^ is a prig (lit. attitudin- 
iser). 

[There are several varieties of prigs, e.g. — 
un savantasse—z. learned prig. 
un collet inontd=-z. stiff-and-starched prig. 
un cafard=z. Pecksniff. 
unfat=Q. conceited ass. 
unfreluqjiet=a. whipper-snapper. 

^e& Journal of Education, March 1896.] 

Possession *-£"« fait de meubles possession vaut litre = 
Possession is nine points of the law. 

Possible . Pas possible f-^YoM don't say so ! " Well, I 
never ! " 

Pot , . , II decouvrit bientot le pot aux roses = He soon 

found out the secret. 
* Un pot file dure longtemps = A creaking door 

hangs long ; Ailing folk live longest. 
*// n'y a si viechant pot qui ne trouve son cou- 

vercle = YjVQry Jack must have his Jill. 

[Also : A tin boiteux , femme qui cloche.'\ 

Jl a re^u un pot-de-vin = He received a bribe, 

an illicit commission. 

[A pot-de-vin is a gratuity given to B by A because B 
obtained for A an order from C. It implies the idea of 
a bribe, for if everything had been fair A would not have 
obtained his order from C, either because his terms were 
too high or his wares not good enough.] 



FRENCH IDIOMS AND PROVERBS 



193 



Pot. . 

[cotitinued] 



Potasser 



Potin 



Pouce 



Poudre . 

Poule . . 
Pourpoint 



Pouvoir 



Payer les pots casses = To stand the racket ; 

To pay the damage ; To face the music. 
Tourner autour du pot ^To beat about the 

bush. 
Cest le pot de terre contre le pot de fer = Vi is 

a most unequal combat. 

Je vais potasser {piocher) tin brin (students' 
slang) = I'm going to swot (mug up) a bit. 

Faire du potin {chambard^ boucan) (pop.) = To 
kick up a row, a shindy. 

Manger sur le pouce = ^0 take a snack. 
Mettre les pouces = To give in, to knuckle 

under. 
Lire du pouce (or, doigt) = To skip in reading 

{i.e. to do more work with the thumb 

than the brain). 

*// n^a pas invente la poudre = He will never 
set the Thames on fire. 

Cest une poule mouillee^YiQ is a milk- sop. 

Mettre un homme en pourpoint ^To pull a 
man's cloak off; To ruin a man. 

Se mettre en pourpoint = To be ready to fight; 
To roll up one's sleeves. 

Tirer un coup {de pistolet^ etc.) a brule- 
pourpoint = To fire point-blank. 

Un argufnent a brtUe-pourpoint = A convincing 
argument. 

Donner a guelqu^un un pourpoint de pierre = 
To give any one a stone doublet ; To im- 
prison any one. 

Je n'y puis rien = I cannot help it ; I can do 

nothing in the matter. 
Si faire se peut= If possible. 
/e n'en puis plus = I am done up, exhausted. 
Je Ji^en puis ?nais = I cannot help it ; It is no 

fault of mine. (See Mais.) 
Cela se peut =Tha.t may be. 

N 



194 



FRENCH IDIOMS AND PROVERBS 



Pouvoir 

{continued) 



Precher 



Premier 



Prendre 



Ce/a ne se peut pas = It cannot possibly be ; 

It cannot be done. 
On fait comme on pei/t = \Ne must do the best 

we can ; We have done the best we could. 
// est toiijours on ne peiit plus aimable— He is 

always as nice as can be. 
II preche dans le desert = {\\\.,) He preaches to 

empty benches ; (fig.) All his talking will 

not convince any one. 
Chacun preche pour son saint = Every one has 

an eye to his own interest. 
A^ous somnies au premier = V^q are on the 

first floor. 
Nous somnies en premiere = We are in a first- 
class railway carriage. 
Le premier 7Jenu = (fig.) No matter who (or, 

whom) ; The man in the street. 
*Zes premiers vont devant= First come, first 

served. 

["Whoso first Cometh to the mill, first grint." — 
Chaucer.] 

// prend sur son sommeil pour etudier — He 

works far into the night. 
Oest autant de pris sur rennemi= So much 

saved out of the fire; So much to the good. 
Bien lui en prit d'' avoir ferme sa porte = It 

was lucky for him that he shut his door. 
II prend le chemin de rhdpital= He is on the 

highway to ruin. 
Je m^en prends a vous = I lay the blame at 

your door. 
Je vous y prends = I catch you at it. 
f^a ne prend pas (fam,) = "That's no go." 
Je sors d^en prendre (fam.) = I had rather be 

excused ; You will not catch me again so 

soon. 
Qu'est-ce qui vous prend 1 = What is the matter 

with you ? 

[This is said to persons doing something suddenly 
without any apparent reason, or suddenly becoming 
bad-tempered, etc. , not to invalids.] 



FRENCH IDIOMS AND PROVERBS 



195 



Prendre . Je vais vous montrer comment ilfaut s'y prendre 
{continued) = I am going to show you how to set 

about it. 
*Ce qui est bon a prendre est ban a garder = 
What is worth taking is worth keeping; 
" Findings, keepings." 
Prenez-vous-en a vous-meme = You have your- 
self to thank for it. 
A tout prendre = On the whole; Everything 
considered. 

Pres . . A cela prh il est bon enfant = Except for that 
he is a good fellow. 

Presse . // n^y a pas presse^ThexQ is no hurry ! 

*Pl7is on se presse, moins on arrive = The 
more haste, the less speed. 
Fendre la presse = To make one's way through 
the crowd. 

Pretentaine Courir la pretentaine = To gad about. 

Prater . . // prete de V argent a la petite semaine = He 

lends money for a short time at a high 

rate of interest. 
Un prete pour un rendu = A Roland for an 

Oliver. 
Preter le flam a . . . = To lay oneself open 

to . . 
Preter serment= To take the oath. 
Ce drap prete =^ This stuff gives, stretches. 

Primer . Elle prime par sa laideur = She takes the cake 
for ugliness. 

Princesse Aux frais de la Princesse = At another's ex- 
pense (chiefly of the State Government). 

Prise , . /Is etaient aux prises = They had closed; 
They were at close quarters. 
/e les ai mis aux prises = I have set them one 

against the other. 
Je leur ai donne prise sur moi= I gave them 

a handle on me. 
Lacker prise = To let go one's hold. 



196 FRENCH IDIOMS AND PROVERBS 

Proems . Sans autre forme de /r^r<?j = Without any 
more ado. 

Promener Je Pai envoy e promener (or, pattre) = I sent 
him about his business. 
Va te promener! (fam.) = Go to Jericho! 
Get along with you ! 

[Compare : " BctW ets ii.a.Ka.pla.v" = Go to — Glory. — 
Plato, Hipp. Major, 293A — a euphemism for BctXX' 

Promettre * Chose promise^ chose due = VxomisQs should be 
kept. 
Promettre et tenir sont deux = It is one thing 
to promise, another to perform. 

Propos . // est venu fort a propos^Ho. came very 

opportunely. 
A propos^ viendrez-vous ce soir ? = By the way, 

shall you come this evening ? 
Ua-propos fait le merite = Seasonableness 

^ gives everything its price. 
A propos de bottes = ^\\h reference to nothing 

in particular; With no reference to the 

subject in hand. 
II le dit a tout propos = 'He, says it on every 

occasion, at every turn. 
// r a fait de propos delibere= He did it of set 

purpose; He had made up his mind to 

doit. 
// Pa fait fort mal a propos = He did it 

very unseasonably, just at the wrong 

time. 

Propre . C'estdupropre (ironic.) = A fine thing indeed. 
// n^a rien en propre = He has nothing of his 

own. 
Un propre-a-rien = A good-for-naught. 
Propre a tout et bon a rien = Jack of all trades 

and master of none. 
Propre comme un sou neuf = As clean as a 

whistle ; As neat as a new pin. 



FRENCH IDIOMS AND PROVERBS 



197 



Prune . . Je ne le ferai pas pour des prunes i^z.V(v.) = \ 
shall not do it for nothing. 

[Also : Je ne le ferai pas pour le roi de Prtisse. 
This latter saying is said to have originated with 
Voltaire, who, after having been exceedingly intimate 
with Frederick the Great, King of Prussia, finally 
quarrelled with him. Both this King and his father, 
Frederick William I., were known to be exacting and 
miserly.] 

Puce . . Je lui ai mis'la puce a roreille = \ made him 
feel uneasy (by rousing his suspicions,etc.); 
I sent him away with a flea in his ear. 

Puits . . Cet homme est un putts de science = He is a 
man of deep learning. 



Q. 

Quand . . Je le ferai quand meme= I shall do it just the 
same ; I shall do it whatever it may cost. 

Quant . . Se tenir sur son quant-a-soi = To stand on 
one's dignity. 

Quart . . J^e quart d'heure de Rabelais = The moment 

of payment, {^qq Heure.) 
Passer un inauvais quart dheure = To have 

a bad time of it. 
Quatorze . Avoir quinte et quatorze = To have the game 

in one's own hand. 

[This phrase refers to terms used in the game of 
piquet. Quinte is to have five cards of the same colour, 
which counts fifteen. Quatorze is to have four cards of 
the same value {i.e. four knaves, aces, etc.), and counts 
fourteen. ] 

Quatre . J I se mettrait en quaire pour un ami= He 
would go through fire and water for a 
friend. 
Faire le diable a quatre = To kick up a terrible 
noise ; To exert oneself to the utmost. 

[This expression originated in the time of the miracle 
plays, when four performers represented la grande 
diablerie, and less than four la petite diablerie.^ 



198 



FRENCH IDIOMS AND PROVERBS 



Quatre . Entre quatre-z-yeux (fam.) = Between our- 

{contituted) SelvCS. 

On le tenait a quatre = It needed four men 

to hold him down. 
// se tenait a quatre pour ne pas lui dire des 
injures = It was as much as he could do 
not to abuse him. 
Travailler comme quatre = To work like a 
nigger. 
Que . . *Ce que c'est que la vie ! = What a strange thing 
life is ! What poor mortals we are ! (See 
Ce) 
Ses louanges ne laissent pas que de me faire 
plaisir = I cannot help feeling pleased at 
his kind words. 
Quelconque La pike tHest que quelconque = The piece {i.e. 

the play) is quite an ordinary one. 
Quenouille CUst une famille oil Vesprit est tombe en 
quenouille = In that family only the women 
are clever ; In that family the brains are 
on the distaff side. 
Querelle . PPepousez pas sa querelle=^T>o not take up 
his quarrel. 
lis veulent vider leur querelle = They want to 
fight it out. 
Qudrir . . // serait bon a aller querir la mort = He is 

very slow. 
Question . Mettre en question -= To call in question ; 
To doubt. 
Mettre a la question = To put to the torture. 
QuHl n^en soit plus question = Y)o not bother 
me about it any more; Let bygones be 
bygones. (See Oublier.) 
Queue . . J^ai fait queue au thiatre pendant une heure 
= I waited outside the theatre for an 
hour (before I could get in). 
On fait queue au theatre = There is a crowd 
at the door of the theatre (waiting for ad- 
mittance). 



FRENCH IDIOMS AND PROVERBS 



199 



Queue . . *A ia queue git le venin = The sting is in the 

[continued) tail. 

Aller a la queue leu-leu = To go in Indian 

file. 

\Leu was the old French form of loup, so the phrase 
means to walk as wolves do, one after the other. J 

Tenir la queue de la poele = To be the leading 
spirit in an affair. 

Qui . . . Pour qui connait = To any one who knows. 
lis s'echapplrent qui par la porte^ qui par les 
fenetres = Some escaped through the door, 
others through the windows. 
*Qui s' excuse s^ accuse = A guilty conscience 
needs no accuser. 
Cest a qui le /era = They all wish to do it ; 
They vie with one another to do it. (See 
Mieux.) 

Quia . . ^tre riduit a quia = To be reduced to 
" because ...."; To be nonplussed. 

Quitte . . Afe voila quitte envers lui = I owe him noth- 
ing now. 
Vous en etes quitte a bon marche = You come 

off cheap. 
J^en ai ite quitte pour la peur = I escaped 

with a good fright. 
JHrai^ quitte a etre gronde = l shall go, even 
if I am scolded ; I shall go, and chance 
the scolding. 

Quoi . . J^ai de quoi payer = I have enough to pay. 

// n'y a pas la de quoi pleurer=lX. is not worth 
crying about. 

// n'y a pas de quoi rire = It is no laughing 
matter. 

// n'y a pas de quoi (fam.) = Pray don't men- 
tion it ; There is no necessity to apologise. 
(See Avoir.) 

De quoi vous melez-vous ? = What business is 
that of yours ? 



200 FRENCH IDIOMS AND PROVERBS 

Quoi . . Ufije 7ie sais quot = K " something" (I know 

{continued) nOt what). 

[^Elle avait je ne sais quoi de charmant=S\iQ had a 
vague, indescribable charm.] 

C^est un filou, quoi/ (pop.) = In a word, he's 
a scamp. 



R. 

Rabais . Vente au raifais = SaXQ at reduced prices; 
" Selling off." 

Rabattre . Rabattre le caquet a quelqu^un (pop.) = To 
take a person down a peg; I'o stop his 
jaw ; To cut his cackle. 

Radis . // «'^ pcis un radis (fam.) = He has not a 
brass farthing. (See Liard.) 

Raillerie . Cela passe la rai7/erte = Th2Lt is beyond a 
joke. (See JSnfendre.) 

Raison . // n!entend pas raison ia-dessus = Hq will not 

listen to reason on that point. 
Se /aire raison a soi-meme = To take the law 

into one's own hands. 
Comme de raison = Rightly enough ; As might 

be expected. 
J^/us que de raison = More than is reasonable. 
• Raison de plus = All the more reason. 
Avoir des raisons avec quelqu^un = To have 

words with any one ; To quarrel with any 

one. 
// faut se faire une raison = We must be 

guided by reason ; We must look at things 

from a reasonable point of view. 

{_E.g. not go on worrying after a great loss.] 

Donner raison a quelqu'un = To say any one 
is right ; To give satisfaction to any one 
(either legally or by a duel). 



FRENCH IDIOMS AND PROVERBS 



20I 



Rancart 

Rang . 

Ranger 
Rare . 
Raseur 
Rat. . 



, Rate 



Ratelier 



On Va mis an rancart = He has been put on 
the shelf. 

[Also : // est sous la remise J\ 

''Tel qui brille au second rang s^ eclipse au pre- 
7nier = A good subordinate often makes a 
bad leader. 

// s'esl range = He has settled down (after 
sowing his wild oats). 



Vous devenez Men rare = Yo\i are quite a 
stranger. 

Oest un raseur (fam.) = He is a bore. 

\Une bassinoire=z. passive bore.] 

// est gueux comme un rat d'eglise = He is as 
poor as a church mouse. 

// ne se foule pas la rate (pop.) = He does 
not overwork himself; He takes things 
easily. 

[Also : // ne se foule pas le poignet.'\ 

Cela lui desopilera la rate = That will cheer 
him up. 

// mange a plus d\in ratelier = He has more 
than one string to his bow; He gains 
money from different sources. 

Rattraper "^Bien fin qui nie rattrapera = Once bit, twice 
shy; They won't catch me doing that 
again. 

Rebours . Ilprend les choses a rebours = He misconstrues 
everything. 

Rebrousse A rebroussepoil= Against the grain ; (To rub) 
the wrong way. 

Reconnaitrey^ vous reconnais bien /^ = That is just like 
you. 
Je ne m^y reconnais plus = \ don't know where 
I am, what I am about ; I am quite at 
sea. 



FRENCH IDIOMS AND PROVERBS 



Reculer . II a recule pour mieux sauter= i. He waited 
for something better. 2. (ironic.) He 
avoided a small evil to fall into a greater. 

[Compare : Mieux reculer que tnal assaillir.'] 
Marcher a reculons = To walk backwards. 

Redire . // trouve totijours a redire = He is always 
finding fault. 
// n'y a rien a redire a r^/<;z =^ There is no 
fault to be found with that ; That is quite 
all right. 

Reflexion Reflexion faite = Aiiex due reflection; On 
second thoughts. 

Refrain . C^est le refrain de la ballade = \\. is the old 
story over again. 

[" C'est toujours le refrain qu'ils font k leur ballade." 
— RteNiER, Sat. i.] 

Refus . . Cela 71^ est pas de refus (fam.) = That is very 
acceptable ; I won't say no to that. 

Refuser . '''Qui refuse muse = 

" He who will not when he may, 
When he will he shall have nay." 

Regarder ISTy regardez pas de si prh = Do not be so 
particular. 
Cela ne me regarde /^i' = That is not my 

business ; That does not concern me. 
J^y regarderai a deux fois = l shall think 
twice before doing it. 

Rdgler . II est regie comme un papier de musique= He 
is as regular as clockwork. 

Rein . . Nous poursuivtmes Vennemi fepee dans les 

reins = \We followed the enemy close at 

his heels. 
// s'est donne un tour de reins — He sprained 

his back. 
// a les reins solides = {\\t.) He is strong; 

(fig.) He has a long purse. 

R^jouir . Cest un gros rijoui=l^Q. is a big jolly fellow. 



FRENCH IDIOMS AND PROVERBS 



203 



Remede . *A cJwse faite point de rcmede = ^\\2X is done 

cannot be undone. 

["Factum est illud : fieri infectum non potest."— 
Plautus. 

Remontrer Gros Jeati qui en reviofttre a son cure = Hodge 
tries to teach the Parson how to preach ; 
He teaches his grandmother to suck 
eggs. 

Remporter // a remporte la victoire = l{e carried the 
day. 

Renard . *Renard qui dort la matinee 
N^a pas la gueule emplumee = 

Tis the early bird that catches the 
worm. 

Rencherir // rencMrit sur tout ce qu'il entend dire — He 
caps every story he hears told. 

Rencontrer Les beaux esprits se rencontrent = G1Q2X wits 
jump together. 

[When two persons happen to say the same thing at 
the same time.] 

Renfort . Pour renfort de potage = Into the bargain ; In 
addition. 

[MoLifeRE, Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme, iii. 3.] 
Reng"aine Oest toujour s la meme rengaine (fam.) = It is 

always the same old story. 
Renommee ^ Bonne renommee vaut mieux que ceinture 

doree = A good name is better than riches. 

(See Ceinture.) 
R^pandre Cest un homffie tres repandu = He is a man 

who goes into society a great deal. 

Repentir . *Ze repeniir vient ordinairement trop tard= 
Do a thing in haste and repent at leisure. 

R^pondre Je vous en reponds / = I will be bound it is ; 

I should think so, indeed ! You take my 

word for it. 
Reprise . J'aiappele?Jion do?nestique a plusieurs reprises 

= I called my servant several times. 



204 



FRENCH IDIOMS AND PROVERBS 



Reprocher // me reproche les morceaux = He grudges me 
the very food I eat. 

Rdsoudre /e ne puis nCy resoudre = I cannot make up 
my mind to do it. 

Ressort . Ce liest pas de mon ressort =^T\idX is not 
within my province, "not in my line." 
// a fait jouer tous les ressorts — He used all 

the means in his power. 
Ce tribunal juge en dernier ressort =T\i\s 
court tries without appeal; There is no 
appeal from the findings of this court. 

Reste . . Je ne veux pas etre en resie avec vous = I do 
not want to do less for you than you have 
done for me. 
J^en ai de reste = I have more than 

enough. 
// n^a pas deinande son reste / = He soon took 
himself off, I can tell you ! He soon shut 
up, I can tell you ! 

Retour . // est perdu sans retour= He is past all hope. 
// demeure d Vitranger sans esprit de retour = 

He is living abroad without thinking of 

returning. 
// 7ne paie de retour = He loves (<?r, hates) me 

as much as I love {or hate) him. 

[E.g. "Vous dites que vous aimez votre m6re, mais 
elle vous paie bien de retour."] 

RetOlirner Je sais de quoi il retourne = I know how 
matters stand. 

Retraite . Battre la retraite = To beat tattoo {or, the 
retreat.) 
Battre en reti'aite = To retreat. 

Retrouver Je le retrouverai bien = He will not escape me. 

Revendre Avoir d^une chose a revendre = To have more 
than enough of a thing. 

Revenir . *Revenons a nos moutons = But to return to 
our subject. (See Mouton.) 



FRENCH IDIOMS AND PROVERBS 



205 



Revenir 

[contitiued) 



Rever . 
Revers 
. Revoir 
Richesse 

Rien . 



Vous en revenez toujours la = You are always 
harping on that string. 
Je rCen reviens pas = \ cannot get over it 
(astonishment). 
[Or, pop., "j'en suis baba."] 

Ny revenez pas = {\.\t.) Do not come here 

again ; (fig.) Do not do that again. 
Cela revient a dire = That amounts to saying. 
Ce/a revient au meme = That is just the same 

thing. 
/e reviens de /<5>/« = (ht.) I come from a long 

distance; (fig.) I am recovering from a 

long illness. 
Son nom ne tne revient pas = I do not recollect 

his name. 
Sa figure me revient =\ like his face. 
Je suis Men revenu sur le compte de votrefrhre 

= I have lost all the illusions I had of 

your brother. 

Cet homme reve tout eveille = That man 
dreams with his eyes open. 

*Toute medaiile a son revers = There is a dark 
side to every picture. 

A revoir = To be revised. 

Au revoir / = Till we meet again. 

La richesse rend honnete = Rich men have no 
faults. 

[The bishop's pun may be repeated: "Get on, get 
honour, get honest." 

" Quand on est couronn^e, on a toujours le nez bien 
fait."— Perrault, Les Souhaits ridicules.'] 

" Dans le siecle oil nous som?nes, 
On ne donne rien pour rien " 
= At the present day people give nothing 
for nothing, and precious little for six- 
pence. 
[MoLifeRE, ^cole des Femmes, iii. 2. Rien here shows 



itsj derivation from rem (a thing) 
used with ne.] 



It was not always 



2o6 



FRENCH IDIOMS AND PROVERBS 



Rien 

[continued) 



Rincer 
Rire 



Nefaites semblant de rien = Look as if nothing 

were the matter. 
Comme si de rien n^^tait=hs if nothing were 

the matter. 
*Qui ne risque rien n^a rien = Nothing venture, 

nothing win. 

[" Qui ne s'aventuve perd cheval et mule."] 

*Qui ne de?nande rien n^a rien = Lose nothing 
for want of asking ; If you do not ask, 
you will not get. 

// ne sait rien de rien=i. He knows abso- 
lutely nothing. 2. He is quite in the 
dark. 

En un rien de temps = In a trice. 

En moins de rien = In less than no time. 

Pas plus gros que rien = l>iext to nothing. 

// n'esf rien moins que courageux = He is any- 
thing but courageous. 

Pour rien au inonde = Not for the life of me. 



Se rincer la dalle (pop.) 
whistle. 



To wet one's 



*Rira bieji qui rira le dernier = They have 

most to laugh at who laugh last; Let 

them laugh that win. 
*Tel qui rit vendredi dimanche pleurera = 

Sorrow treads on the heels of mirth ; 

Laugh to-day and cry to-morrow. 
*Marchand qui perd fie peut rire = Let those 

laugh who win. 
// a toujours le mot pour rire = He is ever 

ready with a joke ; He is full of fun. 
// m!a ri au nez = He laughed in my face. 
Rire aux eclats = To roar with laughter. 
Je me tordais de rire (fam.) = I was splitting 

my sides with laughter. 
// riait a gorge deployee = He was roaring with 

laughter. 
Rire dans sa barbe (or, sous cape) = To laugh 

in one's sleeve. (See Cape.) 



FRENCH IDIOMS AND PROVERBS 



207 



Risde 



Roche 



Rire . . Rire du bout des dents = To force a 

{continued) laugh. 

J^ire jaune = To laugh on the wrong side of 

one's mouth. 
Rire aux anges= 1. To laugh immoderately ; 

2. To laugh to oneself. 
Cest un pince- sans -rire = He is a dry 

joker. 

// est la risee de tout le monde = He is the 
laughing-stock of every one. 

Cest un homme de la vieille roc/ie=lie be- 
longs to the good old stock ; He is a man 
of the old school. 

Clair comme de Veau de roche = As clear as 
crystal. 

Roi . . . O est la cour du roi Fetaiid = Th,\s is bedlam 
let loose ; Dover Court — all speakers, no 
hearers. 

[Le roi P^taud (Lat. peto — \ ask) was the chief that 
beggars used to choose for themselves. As he had no 
more authority than his subjects, the name is given to 
a house where every one is master. Comp. Moli^re, 
Tartufe, i. i. — 

' ' On n'y respecte rien, chacun y parle haut, 
Et c'est tout justement la cour du roi Pdtaud." 

A variant is : " C'est une vraie p^taudi^re."] 

Le rd/i n^est pas son cousin = He is very 
haughty (so that he would not acknow- 
ledge the king as his cousin). 

Rompre . Applaudir un acteur a tout rompre = To 
applaud an actor so as to bring the house 
down (to lift the roof). 

Rondement // jl' va rondement=-YiQ acts frankly and 
quickly. 
II miner a cette affaire rondement ■= He will not 
dally about that matter. 

Rose . . // n^est point de rose sans epines = Every 
rose has its thorn ; No rose without a 
thorn. 



208 



FRENCH IDIOMS AND PROVERBS 



Roti . . II ne faut pas s'endormtr sur le roti^ We 
must keep our wits about us ; We must 
not neglect our work ; We must not be 
too slow over it; We must not rest on 
our laurels. 

[Literally, to go to sleep whilst cooking the meat.] 
Roue . . II fait la roue = He shows off. 
Rouge . . Sefacher tout rouge = 1lo get into a passion. 
Voir rouge = To be seized with a sudden thirst 
for blood. 

Roulette . Cela marche comme sur des roulettes = That is 

getting on swimmingly. 
Royaliste ^tre plus royaliste que le roi {plus catholique 

que le pope) = To out-Herod Herod. 
Royautd . *'Z« royaute^ place noyee de luffiiere oil toute 
tache parait unefange sordide " = 
" In that fierce light which beats upon a 
throne 
And blackens every blot." 
[Tennyson, /^//^ (/M^ A'm^, Dedication.] 
Rubis . . Faire (or, payer) ruhis sur Vongle = To pay to 
the last farthing. 

[This expression means literally to drain a tumbler so 
completely that there just remains in it one drop of 
wine, which being put on the nail looks like a ruby. 
" Je sirote mon vin, quel qu'il soit, vieux, nouveau ; 
Je fais rubis sur I'ongle, et n'y mets jamais d'eau." 
Regnard, Folies Amoureuses, iii. 4.] 

Ruisseau . *Les petits ruisseaux font les grandes rivieres = 
Many a little makes a mickle. 



Sac . . . *Autant peche celuiqui tient le sac que celui qui 
met dedans = The receiver is as bad as the 
thief. 

[ Wer die Leiter halt ist so schuldig wie der Diet.'] 

Tu sais que je n^ai plus le sac = You know I 
have no more money. 



FRENCH IDIOMS AND PROVERBS 



209 



Sac . , , Un homme de sac et de corde ^ A regular 
{cofitinugd) ruffian. 

Prendre quelqu'un la main dans le sac=To 

catch any one in the very act. 
// m^a laisse voir le fond du sac=l guessed 

his intentions in spite of him. 
Juger sur V etiquette du sac =■ To judge by 

appearances. 
^^ Dans les petits sacs sont les fifies epices = \a\\\^ 
fellows are often great wits ; Small parcels 
hold fine wares. (See Aune and Onguent.) 

Saint . . Tout le saint-frusquin (fam. ) = The whole jolly 
lot (referring to money or clothes). 
Toute la sainte jonrnee = The whole blessed 
{or^ livelong) day. 

Salut . . *A bon entendeur salut=A word to the wise 
is enough. Verb. sap. (See Avis.) 

Sang . . Cela fait /aire du mauvais sang =Th2i\. Q3MSQS 

one to worry. 

Suer sang et eau (fam.) = To strain every 

nerve. 

*Bon sang ne peut nientir = Good breeding 

always shows itself; Like father, like son. 

Sapin . . Sa toux sent le sapin = He has a churchyard 
cough. 
{Sapin — di^dX, of which coffins are made.] 

Sauce . On ne salt a quelle sauce le mettre = There is 
no knowing what to do with him. 
*Trop de cuisiniers gdtent la sauce = Too many 
cooks spoil the broth. 

[Although this may be but a translation of the 
English proverb, it is of constant use in France.] 

Saut . . // fait tout par satits et par bonds = He does 
everything by fits and starts. 

Sauter . . // s'estfait sauter la tete (or, la cervelle, more 
fam. le caisson) = He blew his brains out. 
Paire sauter la banque = To break the bank 
(gambling). 

o 



2IO FRENCH IDIOMS AND PROVERBS 

Sauver . *Sauve qui pent ='EvQry one for himself; Run 
for your lives. 
Je f?ie sauve = I must be off. 

Savoir . /e ne sais comment cela est arrive = I am at a 

loss to explain how it happened. 
Pas queje sae/ie = 'Not to my knowledge. 
/e suis tout je ne sais cotnment = I am out of 

sorts. 
Cest i savoir =^T\\2ii remains to be seen. 
II en sait plus {Tune (fam.) = He knows more 

than one trick ; He knows a trick or two. 
// a beaucoup de savoir /aire = He has his 

wits about him ; He knows how to manage 

people. 
II a du savoir vivre = He knows how to 

behave ; He is well bred. 
Un je ne sais quoi= A " something " (I know 

not what). 
*De savoir vient avoir = Knowledge is power. 
*Qui plus sait plus se tait = A still tongue 

shows a wise head. 
* Qui rien ne sait^ de rien ne doute = Who knows 

nothing, doubts nothing; Ignorance is 

bliss. 

Savon . . Je lui donnerai un savon (fam.) = I will blow 
him up. 
[German : Ich werde ihm den Kopfwaschen.'] 

Sc^ne . . Je lui ai fait iine scene = i. I had a row with 
him. 2. I reproached {pr^ abused) him 
violently. 

Scie . . Quelle scie ! (fam.) = What a bother ! 

Stance . Seance tenante = Forthwith ; There and then. 

Sec . . . Cest un grand sec= He is a tall, spare man. 
Sec cotmne un pendu = As thin as a lath. 
Boire sec=l^o drink hard. 
// est a sec (pop.) = He is hard up, broke, in 
low water. 

S^cher. . »S<?^/^^rj?/r//(?^/= To pine away. 



FRENCH IDIOMS AND PROVERBS 



211 



Secours . Crier au secours = To cry for help. 
Secret . . '^Secret de deux, secret de Dieu, 

Secret de trois, secret de tous = No secret but 
between two. 

Seigneur . *A tout seigneur tout honneur = Honour to 
whom honour is due. 

Sel . . . Mettre du set sous la queue d'un oiseau = To 
put salt on a bird's tail. 

Sellette . Mettre sur la sellette = To cross-question ; 
To haul over the coals (fam.). 

[Z(2 sellette was the small wooden seat on which a 
culprit sat during his trial.] 

Semaine . Cet officier est de semaine = He is officer of 
the week. 
II depensa toute sa semaine =1^0. spent all his 

week's wages {or, pocket-money). 
Je le ferai la semaine des trois {quatre) jeudis 
= I shall do it in a week of Sundays (i.e. 
never). 

[Also : /e le ferai quand les poules auront des dents.] 

Preter a la petite semaine = To lend money 
at high interest for a short time. 

Semblable A-t-on jamais vu rien de seinblable ? = Did you 
ever see such a thing ? 
J^ien de semblable == Nothing of the sort. 

Sembler . Comme bon vous semble = Just as you please. 
Si bon vous semble = If you think fit. 

Semelle . Lever la semelle devant quelqu'un = To show 
any one a clean pair of heels. 

Sens . . Cela tombe sous le sens = That is self-evident, 
obvious. 

Sens dessus dessous = Upside down ; Topsy- 
turvy. 

Sens devant derriere -= Wrong side first. 

A contresens = Contrary to the meaning ; In 
the wrong way. 



Seul 
Si . 



212 FRENCH IDIOMS AND PROVERBS 

Sentir . . Cela ne sent pas bon = (fig.) I don't like the 
look of that, 
Je ne nie sens pas de joie = \ am beside myself 
with joy. 
Service . Qu^y a-t-il pour voire service ? = What can I 

do for you ? 
Servir . . Madame est servie = Dinner is served. 

^ A quoi sert de vous mettre en colere ? = What 
is the use of getting angry ? 
Cela va tout seul = That is no trouble ; That 
works of its own accord. 
. Jl n^y a pas de si qui fasse = There is no 
excuse for it. 
Avec un si on mettrait Paris dans u?ie bouteille 
= Such suppositions are idle; If wishes 
were horses, beggars would ride. 
// n'est pas riche. — Ohl que si = He is not 
rich. — Isn't he, though ! 
. *Chacun le sien n'est pas trop = Let each have 
his own, then all is fair. 
II fait des siennes = He is up to his old tricks 

again. 
// en sera du sien = He will be a loser by it. 
On n'' est jamais train que par les siens = It is 
always one's friends (or, confederates) who 
betray one. 
Singe . . I^ singe est toujours singe, fiit-il vetu de 
pourpre = 

An ape's an ape, a varlet's a varlet, 
Though they be clad in silk or scarlet. 
// Va paye en monnaie de singe = He paid 
him with promises ; He jeered at him 
instead of paying him. 

[This expression originated in the ordinance of St. 
Louis regulating the payment of the tolls at the gates 
of Paris. Showmen were exempted from payment on 
causing their apes to skip and dance in front of the toll- 
keeper. Comp. EsTiENNE BoiLEAU, Establissements 
des mdtiers de Paris, Chapitre del p^age de Petit 
Pont : — " Li singes au marchant doibt quatre deniers, 
se il por vendre le porte : se li singes est a homme qui 



Sien 



FRENCH IDIOMS AND PROVERBS 



213 



Singe . 

[continued) 



Soif. 

Solide 
Soleil 



I'aist achet6 por son ddduit, si est quites, et se li singes 
est au joueur, jouer en doibt devant le pdagier, et por 
son jeu doibt estre quites de toute la chose qu'il achfete 
k son usage et aussitdt le jongleur sont quite por un ver 
de chanson."] 

"^On ne saurait /aire boire un dne sHl rHa 
soif = One man can take a horse to 
the water, but twenty cannot make him 
drink. 

// songe au solide = He has an eye to the 

main chance. 
Montr er le soleil avec un flambeau = To hold 
a farthing rushhght to the sun ; To paint 
the lily. 
Somme (w.)yi? n^ai fait qu'un somme = I never woke all 

night. 
Somme (/.) Somme toute = After all ; Taking everything 
into consideration ; To conclude. 
En somme = On the whole; In the main. 
Songe . . " Puisqu'en vous il est faux que songes sont 
mensonges " = Since with you, it is untrue 
that dreams go by contraries. 

[MOLIERE, j^tourdi, iv, 3.] 

*Mal d'autrui n^est que songe = Other people's 
woes do not affect us much. 
C'estt n songe-creux = He is full of idle fancies 
(or, day dreams) ; He is a wool-gatherer. 

Sonner . Elle a quarante ans bien sonnes = She is 

over forty. 
II est trois heures sonnees=lt has struck three. 
Payer en bonnes especes sonnantes (et tre- 

buchantes) = To pay in hard cash. 

Sornette . // nous berce de sornettes = He puts us off 
with silly tales. 

Sort . . L^ sort en est jete = The die is cast ; Alea 
facta est. 
Elle lui a fete un sort = She cast a spell over 

him ; He is infatuated with her. 
Tirer au sort = To draw lots (for the army, etc. ). 



214 FRENCH IDIOMS AND PROVERBS 

Sorte . . Je lui ai parle de la bonne sorte = l gave it 
him soundly ; I gave him a piece of my 
mind. 

Sortie . . II a fait une sortie = He flew into a passion. 

Sot . . . C'est un sot en trois httres = He is a thorough 
fool. 
Quelque sot leferait = One would be a fool 
to do that. 
*A sotte question point de riponse = Answer a 
fool according to his folly ; A silly ques- 
tion needs no answer. 
Un sot trouve toujours unplus sot qui V admire 
= Even a fool will always find admirers. 

[BoiLEAU, Art PoMqne, i.] 
// n^y a pas de sots metiers^ il n^y a que de 
sottes gens = People may be petty, but 
work never is. 

Sou. . . II a fait de cent sous quatre Hvres^ et de quatre 
livres rien = He has brought his noble to 
ninepence, and his ninepence to nothing. 

[Livre here has nothing to do with our English 
pound sterling. It is practically the equivalent of the 
modern franc. Hence the proverb means : He reduced 
loo sous to 80 sous.] 

Une affaire de deux sous = A twopenny-half- 
penny affair. 

Cela vaut viille francs comme un sou = It is 
worth £,\o if it is worth a penny. 

Souche . Oest une vraie souche^ He is a regular log. 
Faire souche = ^0 found a family. 

Soufiflet . Donner un souffiet a Vaugelas = To murder 

the King's English; To offend Lindley 

Murray. 

[Vaugelas (1585-1650) was a celebrated writer on 
French grammar, one of the first members of the Aca- 
d^mie Fran9aise, and one of the chief contributors to 
its Dictionary, Comp. MOLlfcRE, Les Femmes Savantes, 
ii, 7 : " Elle y met Vaugelas en pieces tous les jours." 
Donner un soujiet a Ronsard\\2iS also used, and, in the 
Middle Ages, Casser la tete de Priscien, from the 
famous grammarian of the fourth century.] 



FRENCH IDIOMS AND PROVERBS 



215 



Souhait . *Si souhaits fussent vrais, 



If wishes were 

horses, 
Beggars would 

ride. 



Pastoureaux rots seraient. 

[Compare 5/.] 
Souhaiter Je fen souhaitel (pop.) = I wish you may 

get it. 
Souhaiter la bonne annee a quelqu^un = To 

wish some one a happy new year. 

Soul . . *^ merle soul cerises sont amlres = Plenty 
makes dainty. 
Parler tout son soul (pop.) = To speak to 
one's heart's content. 

Soulier . J^tre dans ses petits Soulier s = To be uneasy in 
one's mind ; To be on pins and needles. 

Soumettre II faut se soumettre ou se demettre = One must 

knuckle under or clear out. 

[Gambetta said this to Marshal MacMahon during 
the crisis of i6th May 1875.] 

Soupe . • S^emporter comtne une soupe au lait = To fly 
into a passion without warning; To be 
of a very hasty temper. 

Trempe comme une soupe = Wet to the skin ; 

Dripping wet. 
C'est un marchand de soupe. (See Mar- 

chand.) 

Sourd . . Sourd comme un pot = As deaf as a post. 

■^ Vous faites la sourde oreille = None so deaf 
as those who will not hear. 
Frapper comme un sourd = To beat unmerci- 
fully. 
// court un bruit sourd = A rumour is being 

whispered. 
lis ont recours a des inenees sourdes = They 
have recourse to underhand dealings. 

Sourdine . // fait ses coups a la sourdine = He acts 
secretly, in an underhand manner. 

Sourire . Cela me sourit assez = I rather like this. 



i2l6 



FRENCH IDIOMS AND PROVERBS 



Souris . . * Sour is qui na qu^un trou est bicntdt prise = It 
is good to have more than one string to 
one's bow. 
*0n entendrait trotter une souris (or, voler une 
mouche) = One could hear a pin drop. 
Elk est iveilUe comme une petite souris (or, 
co?nme une potee de souris^ = She is as 
brisk as a bee. 

Souvenir . Autant que je puisse m^en souvenir = To the 
best of my recollection. 
Cest du plus loin qu'il me souvienne = i . I can 
barely remember it. 2. It is as far back 
as I can recollect. 

Souvent . Plus souventf (fam.) = Not if I know it! 
Twice ! 

Sucre . . Casser du sucre sur la tete de quelqu'un (pop.) 
= To speak ill of any one in his absence. 

Suite . . Cette maladie peut avoir des suites = That ill- 
ness may have serious consequences. 
// n'a pas d^ esprit de suite = He is not con- 
sistent ; He keeps at nothing long. 
Suite (of a serial story or article) = Continua- 
tion; Continued. 
[Also : Suite etjin = Conclusion. 

A suivre=To be continued. 
La suite au prochain numdro=-To be continued in 
our next.] 

Sujet . . Etre su/et a Vheure = To be tied to time. 

J^tre sujet a caution = Not to be rehed upon. 

(See Caution.) 
Cest un mauvats sujet = He is a scamp, "a 

bad lot." 

[This is used in speaking of tiresome children, of 
flighty young men, and of real rogues.] 

Petit mauvais sujet ! = Little rascal ! (to 
children). 

Supplice . ^tre au supplice = To be on thorns. 

Sur . . . Pour sur I (fam.) = I should think so, indeed! 



FRENCH IDIOMS AND PROVERBS 



217 



Table . . Tenir table ouverte = To keep open house. 

Faire table rase = To make a clean sweep and 

begin again ; To start everything afresh. 
Jouer cartes sur table = To act frankly, above 
board. 

Tache . . Prendre a tache = To make it one's business. 
Travailler a la tache — To work by the piece. 

Taillable • Vilains taillables et corveables a merci = Serfs 
taxable and workable at their lord's will 
and pleasure. 

Taille • . // est ae taille a se defendre = He is big 

enough to defend himself. 
" lis nous ont fait une France a leur taille " 

(Beranger) = They have brought France 

down to their level. 
Se tenant par la taille =-- With their arms 

round each other's waists. 
Frapper destoc et de taille = i. To cut and 

thrust. 2. To hit right and left ; To lay 

about one. 

Talon . . II a r esprit aux talons = He shines at the 
wrong end ; He is not witty. 
La bande se dispersa^ les talons aux epaules = 

The gang took to their heels. 
fai restomac dans les talons = I am very 
hungry. 

Tambour . On Va metie tambour battant — They led him 
with a high hand ; They played the 
martinet with him. 
// sortirent tambour battant^ nieche allumie = 
They went out with all the honours of 
war. 

Tant . . Tous tant que nous sommes = Every one of us. 
Eire tant a tant = To be even (in a game). 



2l8 



FRENCH IDIOMS AND PROVERBS 



Tant . . St cela vous ennuie tant soit peu, ne le faites 
(continued) pas = If that is the least trouble, do not 

do it. 
EUe n^est pas jolie^ tant s' en /au^= She is not 

pretty, far from it ; She is anything but 

good-looking. 
Vous m^en direz tant = That alters the case ; 

Ah ! now I understand. (See Dire.) 
Est-ce qu'elle est belle ? — Elle est comme il y en 

a tant = Is she beautiful ? — Nothing to 

stare at ; Nothing out of the common. 
Vous Vavez fait tant Men que vial = You did 

it in a casual (off-hand) way. 
Je Vai fait tant bien que mal = I did it as 

well as I could, though I know it is not 

well done. 
Si tant est que .... = If it be true that .... 

Tapis . . Etre sur le tapis = To be the subject of 
general conversation ; To be broached. 
Amuser le tapis (or, la galerie) = To amuse 
people by talking the time away. 

Tapisserie Eaire tapisserie (fam.) = To be a wall-flower 
at a ball. 

Tard . . * Mieuxvauttard que jamais = ^e\Xex\2Xe\}cL2Ln 
never. 

[This is first found in Dionysius of Halicarnassus 
(ix. ii) : " It is better beginning late doing our duties 
than never."] 

Tarder . // me tarde deparler = I am anxious to speak. 
// ne tardera pas a venir = It will not be 
long before he comes. 

Tarte . . Cest sa tarte a la crime = It is his one con- 
stant objection. 

[MoLiERE, ^cole des Feimnes y \. i.] 

Tel ... * Tel maitre, tel valet = Like master, like man ; 

Like well, like bucket. 

["Selon le clerc est deu le maistre." — Villon, 
Grand Testament, 568.] 

'''Telle vicy telle fin = Men die as they live. 



FRENCH IDIOMS AND PROVERBS 



219 



Tel .../<? vous le rends tel quel = I return it to you 
{continued) just as it was lent to me. 

Je la prendrai telle quelle = I will take it 

just as it is. 
Ce sont des gens tels quels (fam.) = They are 
" no great shakes," just ordinary people, 
humdrum people. 
Tel est pris qui croy ait prendre = It is a case 

of the biter bit. 
Monsieur un tel = Mr. So-and-so. 

Temps . // se donne du bon te?}ips = He does not work 

too hard; He enjoys himself; He has a 

good time of it. 
// prend le temps co?nfne il vient = He takes 

things easily. 
Cela a fait son temps = That has had its day. 
"^Du temps que Berthe filaii = When the world 

was young ; When Adam delved and Eve 

span. 
Si le temps le permet = Wind and weather 

permitting. 
Le temps est a la pluie = It looks like 

rain. 
Le temps perdu ne se ripare (or, rattrape) pas 

= Time wasted is gone indeed. 
*Qui a temps a vie = While there is hfe, there 

is hope ; Du7n spiro spero. 
Far le temps qui court = Nowadays ; As times 

go. 
*Autres temps, autres moeurs = Manners change 
with the times. 
Au temps I = As you were! (military com- 
mand). 

[This is sometimes incorrectly written " Autant," but 
military movements were formerly divided into temps. 
When the drill-sergeant makes a mistake in giving the 
word of command, he says, " Au temps pour moi" = 
" My mistake, as you were ! "] 

Tendre . // vaut mieux tendre la main que le cou = It 
is better to beg than to steal. 



220 



FRENCH IDIOMS AND PROVERBS 



Tendre 

(continued) 



Tendresse Tendresse maternelle 



"^Larc toujours tendu se gate = All work and 
no play makes Jack a dull boy. 
[" Neque semper arcum tendit Apollo." — Horace, 
Carm, ll. x. 20.] 

{ A mother's truth 

^ . 77 c = \ Keeps constant 

Toujours se renouvelle. ^ , 

[Archbishop Trench quotes the French and German 
forms as rhyming equally well in both languages ; the 
English, he confesses, is not such a good translation. 
The German is : 

Mutter treu' 

Wird taglich neu.] 

Tenir . . // ne tint a rien quHls ne se battissent = They 
were within an ace of fighting. 
Quand on est bien^ on ne sy peut tenir = The 
love of change makes us give up even a 
comfortable position. 
Un tiens vaut mieux que deux tu Vauras = A 
bird in the hand is worth two in the bush. 

[Also : Un bon aujourdhui vaut tnieux que deux 
demain.'] 

II tient de son pere = He takes after his father. 
// tient a ce livre = He treasures that book. 
Je ne tiens plus a rien = I no longer care for 

anything. 
// ne tiendra pas a moi quHl ne reus sis se = It 

will not be my fault if he does not succeed. 
Je le tiens de bonne source = I have it on good 

authority. 
Tenir le loup par les oreilles = To be in a 

critical situation, dilemma. 
On le tient a quatre = It needs four men to 

hold him down. 
Je me suis tenu a quatre pour ne pas lui dire 

ses verites = It was almost more than I 

could do not to tell him what I thought 

of him. 
// n'y a pas d'amitie qui tienne = Friendship 

has nothing to do with the question ; It 

must be done in spite of friendship. 



FRENCH IDIOMS AND PROVERBS 



221 



Tenir . . Qu'a cela ne tienne= Do not let that be any 
(continued) objection ; Never mind that. 

Je n'y Hens pas = I am not particular about 

it ; I am not keen on it. 
Je fiy Hens plus = I cannot stand it any 

longer. 
Je n'y at pas tenu = I could not contain 

myself. 
Je ne sais a quoi nUen tenir =1 do not know 

what to believe. 
Tenir comme teigne (pop.) = To stick like 

wax. 
A quoi cela //m/-/7 ? = What is that owing to? 
// 7ie Hent qu^a lui de commencer = It rests 

entirely with him to begin ; He can begin 

when he likes. 
Cela lui Hent au coeur = He is anxious 

about it. 
// n'a pas ddS^ il a tenu bon = He did not 

give away, he stuck to it. 
Tenez-vous-le pour dit = Take it for granted ; 

Bear that in mind. 
Jl en tient = i. He is smitten. 2. He is 

caught. 
Tenez-vous-en la = Stop there, go no further 

in the matter ; Be satisfied with what you 

have already obtained. 
Tiens ! dest vous 1 = Hullo ! is that you ? 
Tiens, tiens /= Indeed, you don't say so ! 

Terme . *Jl y a terme a tout = There is an end to 
everything. 

[A German proverb says : '• Everything has an end — 
a sausage two."] 

'''Qui a terme ne doit rien = No one is obliged 
to pay before a debt is due. 
Le terme vaut I' argent = Time is money. 
Menagez un peu vos termes = Moderate your 
expressions a little ; Be a little careful in 
what you say. 



222 FRENCH IDIOMS AND PROVERBS 

Terrain . En fnathematiques il est sur son terrain = He 
is quite in his element at mathematics. 
Tdter le terrain = To feel one's way (fig.)- 

Terroir . // sent k terroir = He is racy of the soil ; He 
savours of his country. 

Tete . . II a la tete pres du bonnet = He is hasty, hot- 
headed. 
*Ce sont deux tetes dans un bonnet = They are 
hand and glove together. 
Cet homme y va tete baissee = That man rushes 
blindly into it ; That man sets to work 
energetically. 
C'est ufi homme de tete = He has a head on 

his shoulders ; He is a man of resource. 
// s^est fuonte la tete = He got excited over 

fancied or exaggerated wrongs. 
C^est une tete carree = He is an obstinate 

fellow. 
fen ai par-dessus la tete=i. I am sick and 
tired of it. 2. I am head over ears in it. 
Je lui laverai la tete (pop.) = I will give it to 

him ; I will give him a sound drubbing. 
// ne sait oil donner de la tete = He does not 
know which way to turn. 

{^Donner here has the meaning of heurter, f rapper de 
la tete.'] 

Donner de la tete contre le mur = To hit one's 

head against a stone wall. 
Za tete me tourne = I feel giddy; my head 

swims. 
// a mauvaise tete = He is a wrong-headed 

fellow. 
II fait a sa tete = He will have his own way. 
Cet homme a mauvaise tete et bon cceur = That 

man is quick-tempered, but kind-hearted. 
Vous lui avez tenu tete = You did not give in 

to him. 
Cet homme a de la tete = Tha.t man has his 

head screwed on the right way. 



FRENCH IDIOMS AND PROVERBS 



223 



Tiers . . II ne faut pas dire vos affaires au tiers et au 
quart =You must not tell your business 
to all the world, to everybody. 
Le tiers et le quart = Tom, Dick, and Harry. 

Timbre . II a le timbre f He (fam.) = He is cracked ; He 
has a screw loose. 

Tirer . . II se fera tirer Voreille = He will require 

pressing. 
// tire le diable par la queue = He leads a 

struggling existence. 
Vous ne me tirerez pas les vers du nez = You 

will not pump me {i.e. make me tell 

secrets). 
Cet ho?nme se tirerait d'un puits = That man 

would get out of any difficulty, is full of 

resource. 
Je me ferais tirer a quatre avant de parler 

= Wild horses would not make me 

speak. 
// tire (louche) a sa fin = He is on his last 

legs. 
/e saurai en tirer parti =\ shall be able to 

turn it to account. 
*Tirez le rideau, la farce estjouee= Ring down 

the curtain, the play is over. 

[Words reported to have been said by Rabelais just 
before his death.] 

Titre . . On m^ a donnece la d litre gratuit {or, gracieux) 
= They gave me that for nothing. 
Cet or n' est pas au titre legal = This gold is 

not up to the standard. 
A ce titre {compte) fyperds =^ At that rate I 
am a loser. 

Toit . . Crier par-dessus les toils = To proclaim from 
the housetops. 

Tomber . Je tombe d' accord avec vous sur ce point = I 
am at one with you on that head. 
Je tombe des nues = I am astounded. 



224 



FRENCH IDIOMS AND PROVERBS 



Tomber . Cet homme-la est Men tombe = That man has 
(continued) fallen on his feet ; That man has applied 

to the right person {or^ ironic), to the 
wrong person. 
U enfant tombe par terre^ mais le fruit tombe a 
terre = A child falls on the ground, while 
fruit falls to the earth. 

[Par terre = from one's own height; a terre ={rom 
any height.] 

Tordre . /^ me tor dais de rire (fam.) = I was splitting 
my sides {pr^ convulsed) with laughter. 

Tort . . Vous vous etes 7tiis dans votre tort = You put 
yourself in the wrong. 

A tort ou a raison = Rightly or wrongly. 

A tort et a travers = At random, thought- 
lessly. 

T6t . . . *J^e plus tot sera le mieux = The sooner, the 

better. 
Toucher . Elle a Pair de ne pas y toucher = S\\q looks as 
if butter would not melt in her mouth ; 
She is very sarcastic without appearing to 
mean anything. (Comp. Nitouche.) 
Oest un touche-a-tout = He is a Jack of all 

trades ; He meddles with everything. 
Ce/a touche a la folie = That is but one re- 
move from madness ; That borders on 
lunacy. 
Touchez-la = Here's my hand on it. 

Tour . , Faire ses quinze (or, trente-six) tours = To do 

a hundred useless things. 
*A chacun son tour = Every dog has his day ; 

Now it is 7ny turn. 
Elle estfaite au tour (or, moule) = She has a 

splendid figure. 
// fit cela en un tour de main = He did that 

in a moment. 
Un tour de faveur = Permission to go {pr^ do 

anything) before one's turn. 

Trac . . Avoir le trac (fam.) = To be funky. 



FRENCH IDIOMS AND PROVERBS 



225 



Train 



Trait 



Traite . 
Traiter 

Traitre 



Mettre une affaire en tram = To put a thin^ 

in hand. 
Pas dans le train = Not up-to-date ; Of an 

older school. 
// k mine bon train dans cette affaire = He 

drives him hard in that matter. 
// nous a fnenes bon train = He brought us 

along at a great rate. 
Alkz toujour s votre train = Go on as usual. 
// est en train d'ecrire = He is in the act of 

writing ; He is just writing. 
Je ne suis pas en train ce matin = I do not 

feel myself this morning. 
// est en train (pop.) = He is slightly intoxi- 
cated. 
Faire du train (pop.) = To kick up a dust. 
// mene grand train = He lives like a lord. 
A fond de train = At full speed. 

Ce que vous dites n'a pas trait a la question = 

What you say has nothing to do with the 

question. 
Ce sent la de vos traits = That is just like 

you. 
Avaler d'un trait = To drink oif at one gulp, 

at a draught. 

Tout d^une traite = At a stretch, without 
stopping. 

// 7n^a traite defat= He called me a fop. 
// m'a traite en roi = He treated me like a 
lord. 



// n^a pas dit un trattre 
spoke a single word. 



mot = He never 



Tramontane Perdre la tramontane = Not to know which 
way to turn ; To lose one's head. 

[Literally, to lose one's bearings. Tramontane is 
derived from the Italian tramontana, and originally 
meant the pole-star, which was the star seen from the 
Mediterranean across the mountains (the Alps). Com- 
pare s'orienter. See Boule. ] 

P 



226 



FRENCH IDIOMS AND PROVERBS 



Trancher . Cet homme tiest pas tres honnete, tranchons le 
7not, c'est un coquin = That man is not 
very honourable, in plain English, he is 
a rascal. (See Mot. ) 

Trancher la question., la difficulte = To cut 
the Gordian knot; To solve the diffi- 
culty. 

Trancher du grand seigneur =To try and play 
the lord. 

Trancher dans le vif= (lit.) To cut to the 
quick ; (fig.) To set to work in earnest. 

Travers . // a r esprit de travers = He has an awkward 

temper ; He does not see things as they 

are ; He is cross-grained. 
// me regarda de travers = He looked black 

(askance) at me. 
Ilprend tout de travers = He takes everything 

amiss. 

Trdfonds . /'en sais le fonds et le trefonds = I know the 

ins and outs of it, the long and the short 

of it. 

[Also : Je connais les tenants et aboutissants de 
P affaire.'] 

Tremper . Nous fmfies trempes jusqu'aux os = We were 
wet to the skin. 

Trente . &tre sur son trente-et-un (fam. ) = To be dressed 
up to the nines. 

Tricherie . *Tricherie revient a son maitre = Curses, like 
chickens, come home to roost. 

Trier . . Les soldats de la Garde etaient tous tries sur 
le volet == The soldiers of the Guard were 
all picked men. 

[I^otet is a gardener's board on which lie sorts seeds.] 

Triste . . C'est un triste sire= He is a despicable, dis- 
honourable fellow. 

Tromper . // n'y a pas a sy trofnper = ThQYQ is no mis- 
take about it. . 



FRENCH IDIOMS AND PROVERBS 



227 



Trop . , Je ne sais trop = I don't exactly know. 

*Qui dii trop ne dit rien = He who wants to 

prove too much proves nothing. 
Trou . . Faire un trou a la lune (fam.) = To shoot the 

moon ; To fly from one's creditors. 
Troubler . Oest un trouble-fete = He is a mar-joy, a wet 

blanket. 
Trousse . Le voleur fuyait^ mats nous etions a ses 

trousses — The thief made off, but we were 

at his heels. 
Trouver . Cela se trouve Hen = That is lucky. 
Tu . . . Mre a tu et a tot = To be on very familiar 

terms with. 
Tuer . . Crier a tue-tete = To shout at the top of one's 

voice. 

u. 

Un . . . Ne faire ni une ni deux = To m2i\iQ no honQS 

about it; To make up one's mind 

quickly. 
Cest tout un = It is all the same. 
Union . . L'union fait la force = United we stand, 

divided we fall. 
Usine . . Ce ne sont que des usines a bachot (pop.) = 

They are mere cramming shops. 

\Bachot=baccalaurdat=^v(\2L\x\Q.v\2L\\ow. The French 
equivalent for our B.A. is rather licencU-es-lettres , al- 
though the examinations in the two countries are so 
different that any comparison is very^difficult.] 



Vache . . Parler francais comnie utie vache espagnole = 
To talk horribly bad French. (See 
Francais.) 
" Un homme qui n a jamais mange de la vache 
enragee 71' est Jamais qu^une poule mouiUee " 
(Mme. DE Girardin) = A man who has 
never roughed it is always a milksop. 



228 



FRENCH IDIOMS AND PROVERBS 



Vache . 

(continued) 

Vaincre 



Valet 



Valeur . 

Valoir . 

Veine . 
Velours 



Ces^ le grand chemin des vaches = That is the 

beaten track. 
Le plancher des vaches (fam.) = Terra firma. 

■*"^ vaincre sans perils on triomphe sans 
gloire, " =-- Where there is no danger, there 
is no glory. 

[CoRNEiLLE, Cid, ii. 2. Compare: " Scit eum sine 
gloria vinci qui sine periculo vincitur." — Seneca, De 
Providentia, iii.] 

// ny a pas de grand homme pour son valet 
de chambre = No man is a hero to his 
valet. 

On ne'prend pas de valet pour se servir soi- 
w^w^=What! keep a dog and bark thy- 
self! 

" Aux dfnes Hen nies 
La valeur n^ attend pas le nombre des ann^es" 
CORNEILLE, Cid^ ii. 2. 
= Really brave men show their valour when 
quite young. 

Cela vaut/att^ThsLt is as good as done. 
Vaut bien que mal= Vaille que vaille = AX. all 

events ; For better, for worse. 
LI se fait trop valoir— He brags too much. 

Je suis en veine de le faire = I am just in the 

humour to do it. 
J^ai de la veine (pop.) = I am in luck. 

Faire patte de velours = To speak smoothly ; 
To draw in one's claws. 
*LLabit de velours^ ventre de son = Silks and 
satins put out the kitchen fire. 

[Compare : 

" Dress drains our cellar dry, 
And keeps our larder lean." 

CowPER, Task, ii. 614. 
An old French dicton says : 
' ' Ne sois paon en ton parer, 
Ny perroquet en ton parler, 
Ny cicogne en ton manger, 
Ny oye aussi en ton marcher."] 



FRENCH IDIOMS AND PROVERBS 



229 



Vendre 



Venir . 



Vent 



7 

I 



Ventre 



* Chose qui plait est a moitie vendue = Good 

wares make quick market ; Please the eye 
and fill the purse. 

["Chose qui plaist est a demy vendue." — Charles 
D'ORLltANS, Rondeau 194.] 

'''Tout vient a point a qui sait attendre = 

Everything comes to the man who waits. 

[The older form of the proverb omitted a ; for qui— 
si on.] 

C'est un beau venir y voir = A pretty sight 

indeed ! 
Oil voulez-vous en venir 1 = What are you 

driving at ? What is your drift ? 
// se vante d'en venir a bout = He says he is 

sure to succeed. 

// fait un vent a decorner (or, ecorner) un 

^a^«/= There is a wind enough to blow 

one's head off. 
Autant en emporte le vent = That is but so 

much breath spent in vain ; It is not of 

the slightest consequence. 

* Vent au visage rendun homme sage — Adversity 

makes a man wise, not rich. 
Celui qui seme le vent ricolte la tempete = He 
who sows the wind reaps the whirlwind ; 
Those who live in glass houses should not 
throw stones. 

* Ventre affame prend tout en gre = 

" They that have no other meat, 
Bread and butter are glad to eat." 

* Ventre affame n'a point d'oreilles = A hungry 

man will not listen to reason ; A hungry 

man is an angry man. 
Cela luiremetdu coeurau ventre (fam.) = That 

gives him courage again. 
Savoir ce que quelqu^un a dans le ventre (fam.) 

= To know what a person is- worth, what 

he thinks ; To know the stuff a man is 

made of. 



230 



FRENCH IDIOMS AND PROVERBS 



Ventre . II n' a pas trois mois dans le venire (fam.) = He 
(continued) cannot livc three months. 

Le cheval courait ventre a terre = The 

horse was running as hard as he could tear. 

// ^fait a plat ventre = He was flat on his face. 

Ver . . . Nil comme un z'^/'= Stark naked; As naked 
as when one was born. 

V^rit6 . . *0n dit souvent la virite en riant = There is 
many a true word spoken in jest. 
Toute verite n^ est pas bonne a dire = AW truths 

are not to be spoken at all times. 
La viriti co?nme Vhuile vient au-dessus = Truth 
will out ; It takes a good many shovelfuls 
of earth to bury the Truth. 

[The Spaniards say : La verdad es hija de Dios = 
Truth is the daughter of God,] 

C'est une veriti de Monsieur de la Palisse = 
It is an evident truth. 

[M. de la Palisse is the hero of a lengthy poem, one 
of the verses of which runs as follows : 
" M. de la Palisse est mort 
Mort de maladie 
Un quart d'heure avant sa mort 
II 6tait encore en vie."] 

Verrier . 11 court comme un verrier decharge= He runs 
like a lamplighter. (See Chat.) 

[Glaziers, when carrying glass, have to walk carefully 
and slowly. When they have got rid of their load they 
make up for lost time.] 

Vers . . " Les plus beaux vers sont ceux qu'on ne peut 
pas dcrire" — (Lamartine, Voyage en 
Orient) = 

" Ah ! the best prayers that faith may 
ever think 
Are untranslatable by pen and ink." 
Bishop Alexander. 

Vert . . Vous ne le prendrez pas sans vert =Y on will 
not catch him napping. 

[An old game that used to be played in May was for 
two people to undertake to be able always to show a 
green twig : failure to do so lost the game.] 



i 



FRENCH IDIOMS AND PROVERBS 23 T 

Vert . . Unevertevieillesse = K\i2\Qo\di2i'gQ. 
{continued) lis sofit trop ver/s = The grapes are sour. 

[La Fontaine, Le Renard et les Raisins, iii. 11.] 

Mettre un cheval au vert=To send a horse 
to grass. 

Vessie . . // veut nous /aire prendre des vessies pour des 
lanternes = He wishes us to believe the 
moon is made of green cheese. 

[" Me voulez vous faire entendant 
De vecfes que ce sont lanternes?" 

Maisfre Pierre Pathelin, Sco.] 

Vie. . . Faire vie ^m dure = To live tempersLtely ; To 
husband one's resources. 
Avoir la vie dure= i. To have a hard time. 
2. To have nine Hves. 

Vieux . . yieux cofume les rues, com me le monde^ As 

old as the hills. 
C^est un ho7nnie de la vieille roche = He is a 

man of the old school ; he belongs to the 

good old stock. 
Un vieux de la vieille = A veteran of the 

old Imperial Guard ; One of the old 

brigade. 
Vieil ami et vieux vin sont vrai?neni deux bons 

vieux, mais vieux ecus sont encore mieux 

= Old friends and old wine are good, but 

old gold is better than both. 

[" Alonzo of Arragon was wont to say in commen- 
dation of Age, that Age appeared to be best in four 
things : Old wood best to burn, old wine to drink, old 
friends to trust, and old authors to read."— Bacon, 
Apophthegtns, loi,] 

Vif . . . Trancher (or, couper) dans le vif=(^\\..) To 
cut to the quick; (fig.) To set to work 
in earnest. 
Ce reproche Va pique au vif = T\\2X reproach 

stung him to the quick. 
// est vif comme la poudre= i. He is quick- 
tempered. 2. He is bustHng, quick at 
work. 



232 



FRENCH IDIOMS AND PROVERBS 



Vif . . , De vive voix = By word of mouth ; Orally. 
(continued) Ce sont des descriptions prises sur le vif = 
Those descriptions are life-like. 
Les pay sans dans ce tableau sont pris sur le vif 
= The peasants in that picture are life-like. 
Vigne . . // est dans les vignes du Seigneur = He is in 

his cups. 
Vin . . . -Du vin a faire danser les chhvres = Sour wine 
not fit to drink. 
*A bon vin point d'enseigne = Good wine needs 
no bush. 

[It was a Roman custom to hang out a branch of ivy 
at the doors of taverns in honour of Bacchus. Branches 
of green stuff may still be seen at the doors of wine- 
shops along the Loire and in Burgundy. Kelly traces 
the word " bosky " {i.e. drunk) to this bush.] 

Atre entre deux vins = To be half seas over 

(pop.). 
*Ze vm entre., la ratson sort = When ale is in, 

wit is out. 
On ne connatt pas le vin aux cercles = You 

can't judge cigars by the picture on the box. 
Tremper son vin = To water one's wine. 

\Tremper=tempdrer, not to wet, but to moderate.] 

Vous mouillez trop votre vin = You are drown- 
ing the miller. 
Violent . Cela est un pen violent = That is too bad. 
Violon . . Payer les violons = To pay the piper. 

Visi^re . /e lui ai rompu en visilre = I attacked (or, 
contradicted) him openly. 

[" Je n'y puis plus tenir, j'enrage ; et mon dessein 
Est de rompre en visiere a tout le genre humain." 
MOLIERE, Le Misanthrope, i. i. 
Literally the phrase meaps : to break one's lance 
against the visor of one's enemy.] 

Vite . . . Plus vite que fa (fam.) = Look sharp about it. 

Vivre . . Je n^ai pas trouve dme qui vive = I did not 
find a soul. 
*Qui vivra verra = 'ile who lives longest will 
see most ; Time will show (tell). 



FRENCH IDIOMS AND PROVERBS 



233 



Vivre . 

{continued) 



Voie 



Voila 



Voir 



Monsieur vit de ses rentes = The gentleman is 
independent (i.e. has an income of his 
own). 

Apprendre a vivre = To learn manners. 

Je lui apprendrai d vivre = I will teach him 
better manners (as a threat). 

Comme c'est vku ! = How true to life ! 

//s en sont venus aux votes de fait = They 

came to blows. 
// est toujours par votes et par chemins = He 

is always on the move, rambling. 
Zes affaires sont en voie de hausse = Things are 

looking up. 
^tre sur la voie = To be on the scent. 
Je suis en voie de le finir=\ am in a fair way 

to finish it. 

Comme le voild sale! = Just see how dirty 

he is! 
Ne voild-t-il pas quHl est revenu = Who should 

come back but he ? 
Voild comme vous ites = That is just like 

you. 
Voild comme je suis = You must take me as 

I am ; That's my way. 

On ny voit goutte = OnQ can see nothing. 
Jy vols trouble = 1 see dimly; My sight is 

dim. 
Vous n'avez rien d y voir = That is no busi- 
ness of yours. 
Au vu et au su de tout le village = Openly, 

before the whole village. 
Je vous vols venir = I see what you are 

driving at. 
Jai voulu voir par moi-meme = I wish to see 

with my own eyes. 
// nous en a fait voir de toutes les couleurs = 

He told us all sorts of tales ; He worried 

us beyond all bearing. 



234 
Voix . 

Vol6e . 



Voler , 

(to fly) 

Voler . 

(to steal) 

Voleur 



Volenti 
V6tre . 

Vouer . 
Vouloir 



FRENCH IDIOMS AND PROVERBS 

/e rHai pas voix au chapitre = {\\\..) I have no 
right to speak ; (fig.) My opinion is not 
listened to. 

// a obtenu cela entre bond et volee = He ob- 
tained that at a lucky moment. 

A toute volee = W. random ; At full swing. 

// est de la haute voUe= He is a tip-top swell, 
of the first water, of the upper ten. 

On pouvait entendre voler une ffiouche = One 
could hear a pin drop. 

'''Jlne ra pas voU=^ He richly deserves it. 

"^Quand les voleur s se battent, les larcins se 
de'couvrent=\VhQn thieves fall out, honest 
men get their own. 

*La bonne volonte est reputee pour le fait = The 
will is as good as (is taken for) the deed. 

/e serai des votres = I shall be one of your 

party ; I shall be on your side. 
Vous avez fait des votres = You have com- 
mitted follies yourself; You have played 
pranks too. 

Je ne sais a quel saint me vouer = I do not 
know which way to turn. 

^ Vouloir c'est pouvoir = Where there's a will 
there's a way. 

[Also : La volonU rend tout possible. 

"Impossible est un mot que je ne dis jamais." — 
Collin d'Harleville, Malice pour Malice, i. 8. 

Napoleon I., in a letter to Lemarois, 9th July 1813, 
wrote: " Ce n'est pas possible, m'dcrivez vous, cela 
n'est pas Fran^ais." 

" Mirabeau disait un jour a son secretaire : ' Impos- 
sible ! ne me dites jamais ce bete de mot.* " — Dumont, 
Vie de Mirabeau, quoted in Carlyle's French Revolu- 
tion, vol. ii. p. 118.] 

Que voulez-vous ? = i. What do you want ? 
What can I do for you? 2. What was to 
be done ? 3. What can you expect ? 



FRENCH IDIOMS AND PROVERBS 235 

Vouloir . * Vous Vavez voulu / = It is your own fault ; 

[continued) YoU WQuld havC it. 

[" Vous I'avez voulu, George Dandin ! " 

MOLI^RE, George Dandin, i. 9.] 

On ne pent lui en vouloir =OnQ cannot be 

angry with him, blame him. 
En veux-tu 1 efi voild I = h.^ much as ever 

you like. 
// y en avait a douche que veux-tu = There 

was an abundant supply of it ; There was 

plenty for every one. 
// sait ce que purler veut dire = H e understands 

the hidden meaning ; He takes the hint. 
Je le veux Men = With pleasure ! I have no 

objection. 

Vrai . . *"Z(? vrai peut quelquefois n^etre pas vrai- 
semblable " = Truth is stranger than fiction. 

[BoiLEAU, Art Poitique, iii. 48.] 



Z. 

Z^le . . Surtout^ messieurs^ pas de zUe I — Above all, 
gentlemen, don't be too anxious ! Don't 
try to hurry things on. 

[Words attributed to Talley/and on receiving the staff 
of ihe Minist^re des Affaires Etrang^res.] 



1 



" Trop gratter cuit^ 
Trap parler nuit^ 
Trop tnanger ii est pas sage. 
A barbon gris 
Jeune souris : 
V Amour est de tout age. 
Enfants de Paris., quel temps fait-il ? 
11 pleut Id-basj il neige ici 
Pendant la nuit 
Tous chats sont gris. 
Pour faire route sure 
Si r amour va 
Cahin-caha 
Menage ta inonture^ 

Charles Colle (1709- 1783). 



INDEX 



INDEX OF ENGLISH PROVERBS 



Absents always wrong, 2 

Ace, within an, 220 

Adam delved and Eve span, when, 

123, 219 
Adversity makes man wise, 229 
Against the grain, 201 
Akimbo, to put one's arms, 17 
Ale is in, wit is out, 232 
All is not gold that glitters, 49 
All men are not alike, 114 
All's well that ends well, 124, 172 
All work and no play, 220 
Almost and very nigh, 160 
Ambush, 8 
Among the blind, one-eyed is king, 

44 
And the rest ! 170 
Answer a fool according to his folly, 

214 
Appearances, for the sake of, 17 
Appetite, good, i8 
April fool, 191 
Arm in arm , 47 
As you make your bed, 41, 81 
At first sight, 2 
Average, on an, 15, 129 
Awkward fix, to get out of an, 180, 



B 



Background, to put in, 188 
Back made for burden, 181 
Bad day, bad night, 75 
Bad thing never dies, 152 
Bag and baggage, 106 
Band-box, come out of a, no 
Bark worse than bite, 69 
Bay, to be at, 2 
Beak and claw, 173 



Beat about the bush, to, 24, 33, 65, 

193 
Beat black and blue, 84, 99 
Beat hollow, to, 86 
Bedlam let loose, 207 
Bee in one's bonnet, 19 
Beer, no small, of oneself, 167 
Beggars cannot be choosers, 106 
Beginning not everything, 74 
Behind the scenes, 55 
Bell the cat, to, 22, 137 
Best cheapest in the end, 158 
Best of friends must part, 75 
Be the day short, 147 
Better dry bread at home, 38 
Better late than never, 218 
Better the day, better the deed, 42, 

148 
Between devil and deep sea, 107 
Between ourselves, 198 
Between two stools, 63 
B from a bull's foot, not to know, i 
Bigwig, 43 
Billingsgate, 140 

Bird fouls its own nest, an ill, 169 
Bird in hand, 220 
Birds flown, to find the, 51, 169 
Birds of a feather, 22, 140 
Bird that catches the worm, 150, 203 
Bird told me so, a little, 99 
Bit by bit, 9 
Biter bit, the, 139, 149 
Black eyes, a couple of, 170 
Blood from a stone, to get, 67 
Blow brains out, 50, 58, 209 
Blues, to have the, 169 
Boat, to be in same, 108 
Bone to pick, to have a, 154 
Bore, 201 
Born to be hanged, never drowned, 

94 
Borrowing sorrowing, 21 
Bow to circumstances, 32, 50 



239 



240 



INDEX 



Boycott, to, 144 

Boys will be boys, 147 

Brand new, 33 

Bread is buttered, which side, 176 

Bred in the bone, what is, 54, 63 

Broken reed, 19 

Broom sweeps clean, a new, 30, 96 

Bull by the horns, to seize the, 22 

Burn candle at both ends, 60 

Burnt child dreads the fire, 63 

Business, to mind one's own, 5 

Business is business, 7 

Butter would not melt in mouth, 169 

Bygones be bygones, to let, 174, 198 



Cake and eat it, to have one's, loi, 

112 
Cake, to take the, 19, 104, 175 
Candles away, all cats grey, 64 
Cap a story, 203 
Cap fits, wear it, if the, 134, 165 
Carpenter known by chips, 172 
Carry coals to Newcastle, 102 
Cart before horse, to put the, 62 
Cast in the teeth, to. 168 
Castles in the air, 64 
Cat after kind, 69 
Cat and dog life, to lead a, 3 
Catch it, to, 6, 28 
Cat may look at a king, 69 
Cat on hot bricks, 64 
Cat's away, mice will play, 64 
Caught a Tartar, to have, 152 
Chaff, to catch with, 17 
Chalk and cheese, 147 
Chalk it up, 66 
Change not a clout, 28 
Charity begins at home, 62 
Chatterbox, a regular, 36, 166 
Cheats never prosper, 4 
Chip of the old block, 63, 124 
Christmas comes but once a year^ 

121, 148 
Civility costs nothing, 104, 179 
Claw me, and I'll claw thee, 181 
Clean as a whistle, 196 
Clean sweep, 217 
Clear as noonday, 71 
Clear as crystal, 207 
Clockwork, like, 54 
Cloud and a silver lining, 189 



Clover, to be in, 78 

Coach - and - four through Act of 

Parliament, 148 
Coat does not make gentleman, 139 
Cobbler stick to last, let, 161 
Cock and bull story, 78 
Cock of the walk, 78 
Cold shoulder, 33 
Come off cheap, 199 
Come to blows, 233 
Come to the point, 117, 181 
Coming — like Christmas, 169 
Comparisons are odious, 72 
Confession good for soul, 26 
Cost what it may, 86 
Count chickens before hatched, 70, 

76, 182 
Cram, 43 

Cramming-shop, 227 
Creaking door hangs long, 47, 192 
Cream of the army, 125 
Crown his misfortune, to, 74, 156 
Crumb and crust, 10 
Cry out before hurt, 16 
Cry over spilt milk, 115 
Curses come home to roost, 20, 155 
Cut coat according to cloth, 45 
Cut ground under feet, 141 
Cut long story short, 165 



Daggers drawn, at, 86 

Dance attendance to, 88, 138 

Dark as pitch, 130 

Dark side of picture, 159, 205 

Daub yourself with honey, 48 

Day after the fair, 167 

Dead man, he is a, 6 

Dead men's shoes, 165 

Dead men tell no tales, 37 

Deaf as a post, as, 215 

Death's door, at, 22, 99 

Devil and deep sea, between, 107, 

158 
Devil not so black as painted, 96 
Devil's own luck, 79 
Devil was sick, 96 
Diamond cut diamond, 63, 92, 125 
Die in the gutter, 175 
Die is cast, 213 

Dine with Duke Humphrey, 73 
Dirt cheap, 3 



INDEX 



241 



Discretion better part of valour, 43 

Disgorge ill-gotten gains, 136 

Distance lends enchantment, 99 

Do a thing yourself, 5 

Dog at a wedding, 69 

Dog bad name and hang, 68 

Dog better than dead lion, a living, 

90 
Dog does not eat dog, 80, 153 
Dog has his day, every, 224 
Dog in manger, 69 
Dog's-ear a book, 80 
Dog will learn no tricks, an old, 146 
Done cannot be undone, 117 
Doomsday, to wait till, 174 
Door with creaking hinge, 120 
Down in the mouth, 191 
Down to the ground, 4 
Do your duty, 95 
Dover Court, 207 
Draught, to be in a, 11 
Draught, to drink at a, 225 
Dra\^' in one's horns, to, 78 
Dreams go by contraries, 213 
Drink at one gulp, 225 
Drink cup to dregs, 41 
Drink like a fish, 40 
Drop in the ocean, 136 
Drop too much, to have a, 82 
Dropping water wears away a 

stone, 103 
Drowning man catches at a straw, 3 
Drown the miller, 232 
Ducks and drakes, to play, 145 
Dull as ditchwater, 44, 133 



Early to bed and early to rise, 23 
Easier said than done, 39 
East, west, home best, 68 
Edged tools, to play with, 122 
Edge off one's appetite, to take, iii 
Eel, as slippery as an, i6 
Elbow one's way, 66 
Elbow-room, 81 
End crowns all, 124, 172 
End justifies the means, 42 
End to everything, 46, 221 
English, in plain, 221 
Englishman's house his castle, 61 
Enough is as good as a feast, 78 
Errors excepted, 75 



Even money, 76 

Ever drunk ever dry, 40 

Everybody's business, 16 

Every dog has his day, 58 

Every inch a republican, 88 

Every Jack must have his Jill, 192 

Every little helps, 170 

Every man for himself, 58, 210 

Everything comes man who waits , 23 

Extempore, to speak, 2 . 

Extremes meet, 113 

Eye to main chance, 213 



Face the music, 193 

Face is her fortune, 27 

Faint heart never won fair lady, 143 

Fair and softly goes far, 12 

Fair words butter no parsnips, 149 

Fair words never did harm , 179 

Fall between two stools, to, 59 

Familiarity breeds contempt , 3 

Far fetched, 13 

Fault confessed, half redressed , 182 

Feather one's nest, to, 44, 126 

Findings keepings, 195 

Fine clothes do not fill stomach, 52 

Fine feathers make fine birds, 35 

Finishing stroke, 83 

Finger in every pie, 168 

First catch your hare, 182 

First come, first served, 95, 194 

First in the field, 95 

Fish, flesh, nor fowl, 58 

Fish in troubled waters, 102 

Fish out of water, like a, 191 

Fish to fry, other, 63 

Fit to a T, 134 

Fits and starts, to work by, 33, 43, 

209 
Fix, to be in a, loi, 185 
Flash in the pan, 122 
Flesh and blood, in, 58 
Flesh creep, to make one's, 58 
Fool's bolt is soon shot, a, 148 
Fools have the best luck, 129 
Foot foremost, to put one'sbest, 186 
Foot in it, to put one's, 189 
Forewarned, forearmed, 26 
Fortune knocks once, 129 
Fox to keep the geese, to set, 153 
Free and easy, 3, 135 

Q 



242 



INDEX 



French leave, to take, 123 

Friend at court, 14 

Friend in need is a friend indeed, 

13. 37 
Frying-pan into the fire, to fall from, 

47, 64, 122 
Fuel to the fire, to add, 146 
Funky, to be, 224 



Game not worth candle, 60 

Gentlemanly, 11 

Get blood from a stone, 144 

Get out of bed the wrong side, 43 

Gift-horse in the mouth, to look at, 
49, 66 

Gift of the gab, 149 

Gild the pill, 187 

Give any one the slip, 75 

Give him an inch, 48 

Give the devil his due, 95 

Give fmce who gives quickly, 99 

Glass houses throw stones, 229 

God helps those who help them- 
selves, 9 

God sends thread for begun web, 
123 

God tempers the wind, 48 

Go halves, 76 

Golden mean, 162 

Good as done, 6, 23 

Good as gold, as, 144 

Good books, to be in one's, 177 

Good breeding always tells, 209 

Good name better than riches, 57 

Good wine needs no bush, 42, 232 

Gordian knot, to cut, 226 

Gospel, to take anything for, 21 

Go to Jericho, 196 

Grandmother to suck eggs, 18, 203 

Grapes are sour, 231 

Grasp all, lose all, 106 

Great cry, little wool, 50 

Great wits jump together, in 

Greek to him, it is, 11 

Grey mare the better horse, 109, 
192 

Grist to the mill, 103 

Grudge the food he eats, 76 

Grudge, to have a, 28 

Guilty conscience needs no accuser, 
113. 199 



H 



Habit is second nature, 40 

Hackneyed, 79 

Hail-fellow-well-met, 75, 176 

Hairs, to split, 9 

Hale and hearty, 42 

Half a loaf is better than no bread, 

138, 182 
Half in jest, half in earnest, 123 
Half seas over, 232 
Hall marked, 78 
Hand and glove together, 44, 99, 

116 
Hands make light work, many, 9 
Hand to hand, 80 
Hand to mouth, to live from, 147 
Hanged for a sheep as a lamb, 34, 

69. 134 
Happen what may, 4, 133 
Hard up, 21, 210 
Harm watch, harm catch, 155 
Harp on same string, 60, 107 
Haste makes waste, 141 
Haul over the coals, 211 
Hawk from handsaw, not to know, 

178 
Heads or tails, 113 
Hear both sides, 71 
Helping hand, to give a, 84, 154 
Helve after hatchet, 19 
He who will not when he may, 202 
Hiding, to give a good, 3 
High winds blow on high hills, 137 
Hint, to take a, 108 
Hit the mark, 122 
Hit with a vengeance, 154 
Holloa before out of wood, 69 
Home, no place like, 68, 172 
Home, to make oneself at, 3 
Honest man's word, 143, 179 
Honesty is the best policy, 126 
Honour among thieves, 153 
Honour to whom honour is due, 59, 

211 

Hook or crook, 43 

Hooligan, 17 

Hope, the last, 188 

Horse of another colour, 25, 156 

Horse to g^ass, to send a, 231 

Horse, to ride the high, 66 

Host, to reckon without, 76, 143 

House nor home, 121 

H's, to drop one's, 89 

Hue and cry, 78 



INDEX 



243 



Hunger is the best sauce, 18 
Hunger tames the lion, 115 
Hungry as a hunter, iii 
Hungry man is an angry man, 7 
Hurry the less speed, the more, 50 



Idle brain the devil's workshop, 

123 
If wishes were horses, 212, 215 
111 bird fouls its own nest, 169 
lU-lIcked cub, 174 
111 news flies fast, 18 
111 weeds g^ow apace, 141 
111 wind blows no one good, 42, 156 
Image of his mother, the very, 87, 

107 
Improve upon acquaintance, to, t] 
Indian file, 199 
In for a penny, in for a pound, 34, 

40 
Ins and outs, to know, 129, 226 
In vino Veritas, 40 
Irishman's gun, 86 
Irons in fire, too many, 63, 151 



Jack has his Jill, every, 192 

Jack of all trades, 196, 224 

Jerry-built house, 55 

Joke, to be beyond a, 146, 200 

Joker, a dry, 207 

Judge by appearances, 163 

Justice no respecter of persons, 148 



K 



Keep a dog and bark thyself, 228 

Keep open house, 217 

Keep the ball rolling, 139 

Keep the pot boiling, 158 

Key of the street, 59 

Kick the bucket, 187 

Kill by inches, to, 121 

Killed on the spot, 55 

Kill two birds, to, 82" 187 

Know from Adam, not to, "jj 



Know, in the, 55 
Knowledge is power, 210 
Know nothing, doubt nothing, 210 
Knuckle under, to, 215 



Lady, a great, 89 

Last straw breaks camel's back, 46, 

103 
Laugh best who laugh last, 206 
Laugh in forced manner, 46 
Laughing-stock, 207 
Laugh in one's sleeve, 31, 53 
Laugh on wrong side of face, 207 
Laugh to-day, cry to-morrow, 206 
Lazy people take most pains, 178 
Least said soonest mended, 179 
Leave no stone unturned, 71, 

106 
Leave well alone, 38, 162 
Leave without beat of drum, 92 
Legal tender, 86 
Let cat out of the bag, 159 
Let sleeping dogs lie, 64 
Let those laugh who win, 206 
Lie unblushingly, 21 
Life and soul of party, 47 
Life in the old dog yet, 43 
Light as air, 106 
Lightly come, lightly go, 126 
Like as two peas, as, 102 
Like master, like man, 155, 218 
Like sire, like son, 69, 209 
Like will to like, 58 
Lion had need of the mouse, 129 
Lion's mouth, to rush into, 153 
Little fellows are often great wits, 

209 
Little pitchers have long ears, 64 
Little pot soon hot, 185 
Little rain lays much dust, i 
Little strokes fell great oaks, 184 
Loan loses self and friend, 13 
Lock stable door, 105 
Long lane without turning, 176 
Long looked for comes at last, 169 
Look before you leap, 124 
Look gift horse in mouth, 49, 66 
Look sharp about it ! 232 
Lose nothing for want of asking, 

206 
Lose one's head, 45 



244 



INDEX 



Lot of good that will do, 145 
Love dies hard, true, 10 
Love laughs at locksmiths, 14 
Love me, love my dog, 10 
Lurch, to leave in the, 188 



M 



Mackerel sky, 120 

Mad as a March hare, 59, 85 

Make a cat laugh, 187 

Make best of bad job, 42, 129, 146 

Make hay while sun shines, 30 

Make mouth water, 103 

Man in the street, 194 

Man proposes, 142 

Manners change, 25 

Many a little makes a mickle, 136, 

154, 184, 208 
Many a true word spoken in jest, 

230 
March winds and April showers, 158 
Mare better horse, the grey, 109, 192 
Mare's nest, to find a, 185 
Marines, to tell to, 25 
Mar -joy, 227 

Match for a person, no, 67 
Matter of course, 12 
Measure other's peck, 23 
Men die as they live, 218 
Mess, to get into a, 25, loi, 185 
Mess, to make a pretty, 6 
Might is right, 127, 129 
Milk and honey, flowing with, 72 
Milksop, 227 

Mince matters, not to, 65, 166 
Mincemeat of, to make, 139 
Miserly father, spendthrift son, 26 
Misfortunes never come singly, 21, 

156 
Miss the mark, 81 
Money makes money, 103 
Money, to be made of, 20 
Money, ready, 20 
Moon made of green cheese, 149 
More frightened than hurt, 185 
More haste, less speed, 50, 65, 141, 

19s 
More the merrier, the, 130 
Mountain out of molehill, 166, 171 
Move on, 71 
Mow what you sow, 176 
Much ado about nothing, 35 



Much coin, much care, 138 
Much would have more, 16, 189 
Murder king's English, to, 214 



N 



Nail right on head, to hit, 99, 107 

Narrow shave, 35 

Nearer chvirch, 105, 161 

Necessity, mother of invention, 176 

Needle in bundle of hay, 9 

Nice goings on, 34 

Nick of time, to come in, 21, 54, 190 

Nine days' wonder, 7 

No admittance, 92 

Noble to ninepence, to bring, 214 

No danger, no glory, 2'28 

No fear of that , 90 

No living man all things can, 144 

Nod is as good as wink to blind 

horse, 57 
None so deaf, 109, 215 
No pay, no piper, 20 
No sooner said than done, 23 
Not at home, iii 
Nothing ask, nothing have, 143 
Nothing for nothing, 205 
Nothing succeeds like success, 184 
Nothing like leather, 174 
Nothing new, that is, 77 
Nothing venture, nothing win, 206 
No thoroughfare, 181 
No use my talking, 28, 35 
Not in my line, 204 
Not up to date, 225 
Now or never, 55 



O 



Oath, to take the, 195 

Ogre, to eat like an, 157 

Old as the hills, 163, 191, 231 

Old birds not caught with chaff, 161 

Old dog will learn no tricks, 146 

Old-fashioned, quite, 146 

Old maid, 74 

Old wives' tales, 78 

Once and for all, 42, 58 

Once bit, twice shy, 63, 201 

Once in a blue moon, 163 

One door shuts, another opens, 184 



INDEX 



245 



One good turn deserves another, 
62, 146 

One man can take horse to water, 
213 

One man may steal a horse, 166 

One man's meat, 170 

One scabby sheep, 134 

One swallow does not make a sum- 
mer, 86 

Only this once, 86 

Open confession good for soul, 26 

Opportunity makes the thief, 150 

Out-HerodHerod, 208 

Out of debt, out of danger, 95 

Out of print, no 

Out of sight, out of mind, 73 

Out of sorts, 22, 210 

Out of the frying-pan, 47 

Out of world as out of fashion, 130 

Over head and ears, 87 



P's AND Q's, to mind one's, 38 
Pack becomes small pedlar, a small, 

18s 
Pay back in own coin, to, 164 
Pay, no piper, no, 20 
Pay the piper, to, 182 
Pay with promises, 212 
Pearls before swine, to cast, 184 
Penniless, to be, 46, 96 
Penny saved is a penny earned, 104, 

133 
Penny wise and pound foolish, 46, 

60 
Peril proves who dearly loves, 10 
Pet aversion, 37 

Pickle, to be in a pretty, 35, loi 
Pigeon-holed, to be, 55 
Pig in a poke, to buy a, 3 
Pin a day, groat a year, no 
Pinch of salt, 36 
Pin drop, to hear a, 216 
Pins and needles, to be on, 215 
Piper, to pay the, 182, 232 
Pitch and toss, 187 
Pitch, to touch, 38 
Pitcher that often goes to the well, 

18 
Plain as a pikestaff, 71 
Plain English, in, 131, 165 
Play the prude, 190 



Please the eye, fill the purse, 229 
Plenty makes dainty, 215 
Poaches on my preserves, 49 
Pocket an insult, to, 8 
Point-blank, 46, 50 
Point, not to the, 8, 117 
Point, to come to the, 117, 181 
Poor as a church mouse, 105 
Possession nine points of law, 192 
Pot calls kettle black, 131, 183 
Pot-luck, 129 
Pqt soon hot, a little, 185 
Poverty in at door love out at win- 
dow, 126 
Povery is no crime, 181 
Practice makes perfect, 115, 128 
Practise what one preaches, to, 113 
Precepts lead, 113 
Precious near it, ii8 
Precious pair, a, 87 
Prefer advice to praise, 78 
Prettiness makes no pottage, 35 
Prig, 192 

Promises are like pie-crust, 39 
Proud as a peacock, 122 
Put shoulder to wheel, 172 



Quarrel about nothing, to, 11 
Queen Anne is dead, 191 
Queer fish, 80, 102 
Quite between ourselves, 98 



Racket, to stand the, 56, 193 
Rage, to be the, 21, 133 
Rap, not worth a, 121 
Reach-me-down, a, 91 
Receiver as bad as thief, 24, 208 
Red at night the shepherd's delight, 

39 
Red-handed, 92 
Reed, to trust to a broken, 19 
Refuse point-blank, 168 
Regular as clockwork, 167, 202 
Repent at leisure, 203 
Return of post, 85 
Return to our subject, 167 
Riches, a good name better than , 203 



246 



INDEX 



Ride rough-shod over, 186 
Ring down the curtain, 223 
Rob a church, he would, 24 
Rob Peter to pay Paul, 91 
Rod in pickle, to keep a, 134 
Roland for an Oliver, 63, 195 
Rolling stone gathers no moss, 187 
Rome was not built in a day, 20, 

117 
Room for improvement, 94 
Room to swing a cat in, not, 154 
Rose has its thorn, every, 207 
Rough tools for rough work, 135 
Rough with smooth, to take, 36 
Rough with the smooth, to take, 138 
Routine, return to old, 74 
Row in same boat, 85 
Rub, there's the, 97, 135, 151 
Rule men with rod of iron, 29 
Rule of thumb, 168 
Ruling passion strong in death, 8 
Run for your lives, 210 
Run headlong into trap, 30 
Run with hare and hunt with hounds, 

67, 103 



Sack, to give any one the, 30 

Safe bind, safe find, 160 

Saintly look, to put on a, 17 

Saint Swithin's Day, 159 

Salt, not worth his, 176 

Salt on bird's tail, to put, 211 

Same old story, 203 

Satan finds mischief still, 173 

Save appearances, to, 92 

Sea-legs, to have one's, 186 

Secret, an open, 191 

Secret of two, 211 

See stars, to, 59, m 

Self-praise no recommendation, 152 

Sell like wildfire, 108 

Send about one's business, 109 

Serves you right, it, 23,38, 117, 176 

Set a beggar on horseback, 174 

Set a thief to catch a thief, 80 

Set fox to keep geese, 153 

Seven-league boots, 180 

Shakes, no great, 219 

Shanks' nag, 97 

Sharp as a needle, as, 13 

Sheep, the black, 49 

Shelf, to be put on the, 201 



Shilly-shallying, 65 

Shine at wrong end, to, 217 

Shirk work, never, 74 

Shoe lost for want of nail, 16 

Shoemaker's wife the worst shod, 65 

Shoe pinches, where th^, 32 

Shoot the moon, 71, 153, 227 

Short life and merry, 19, 42 

Short reckonings make long friends, 

42 
Shoulder, the cold, 33 
Show the white feather, 53 
Sick and tired of anything, loi 
Silence gives consent, 78, 165 
Silent sow sucks wash, 48 
Silk purse out of sow's ear, 51 
Silks and satins put out the kitchen 

fire, 228 
Silver spoon in one's mouth, 74 
Sin, as ugly as, 182 
Six of one and half-a-dozen of 

another, 43 
Sixes and sevens, i, 90 
Skeleton in the cupboard, 79 
Skin a flint, to, 144 
Sleep like a top, to, loo 
Sleep upon it, to, 'jj 
Slippery as an eel, 16 
Slow and sure wins the race, 12, 65 
Sly dog, 75, 125, 166 
Small parcels, fine wares, 173, 209 
Smart for it, 89 
Smell of the lamp, 143 
Smoke, to end in, 2 
Smoke without fire, no, 132 
Snake in the grass, 17 
So many men, 24 
So much to the good, 194 
Song, to buy for a mere, 3 
Sooner the better, 224 
So-so, 74 

Sowing wild oats, 136 
Sow by wrong ear, 152 
Spade a spade, to call a, 18, 63 
Spare the rod, spoil the child, 10 
Speak ill in absence, 216 
Speak of angels, 152 
Speech silvern, silence golden, 179 
Split difference, to, 190 
Split hairs, 85 

Split sides with laughter, 44 
Spoil ship for ha'porth of tar, 60 
Spoke in wheel, to put, 33 
Sprat to catch a herring, 122, 171 
Stand the racket, 56 



INDEX 



247 



Stake, your life is at, 8, 12 

Stale news, 191 

Stare in the face, to, 87, 171 

Stick no bills, 7, 91 

Stick, to get hold of wrong end of, 16 

Still tongue, wise head, 210 

Still waters run deep, 102 

Sting is in the tail, 199 

Stirrup-cup, 112 

Stitch in time saves nine, 190 

Stolen joys are sweet, 18, 176 

Stone unturned, to leave no, 106 

Store is no sore, 2 

Strain at a gnat, 59 

Strain every nerve, to, 122, 209 

Straw breaks camel's back, the last, 

46 
Straw, not to care a, 15, 171 
Stretch one's legs, 92 
Strike while iron is hot, 121 
Stringtobow, more than one, 201, 216 
Struck all of a heap, 121 
Stuck pigs, to look like, 69 
Stuff and nonsense, all, 29, 142 
Style man himself, 142 
Success justifies the means, 124 
Sufficient to the day is the evil 

thereof, 147 
Sunday-best, 107 
Sweep, to make a clean, 217 



Tail between legs, 32 
Take after a person, to, 11 
Take care of the pence, 104 
Take it or leave it, 149, 158 
lake law into own hands, 200 
Take the wall, 181 
Take time by forelock, 30, 67 
Take a wise man to be a fool, 130 
Tale never loses in telling, 152 
Talking to the air, 61 
Tastes differ, 136 
Tell that to the marines, 25 
Tender-handed stroke a nettle, 172 
Tether, to be at end of, 79 
Thames on fire, to set the, 193 
That crowns all, 157 
That's the way of the world, 156 
There is many a slip, 84 
Thick as thieves, 150 
Things, where are my, 5 
Thorns, to be on, 51 



Those who lose pay, 34 

Threats light as air, 106 

Time is money, 221 

Tip the porter, 158 

Tip-top, 234 

Tit-bit, 45 

Tit for tat, 63 

Tom, Dick, and Harry, 223 

Too many cooks spoil broth, 209 

Too much of a good thing, 146 

Topsy-turvy, 94, 211 

Travellers tell fine tales, 160 

Trespassers will be prosecuted, 92 

Tricks, to be at one's old, 116 

Truth stranger than fiction, 234 

Truth will out, 147, 230 

Turn in all standing, 81 

Turn over new leaf, 182 

Turn to play, 27 

Two can play at that game, 146 

Two heads better than one, 26 

Two of a trade, 163 

Two's company, 95 



Up to date, 124 

Up to-day, down to-morrow, 58 



Vengeance, to rain with a, 18 
Verbum sap., 26, 108, 165 
Very man, the, 118 



W 

Watched pot never boils, 94 

Water off duck's back, 89 

Water one's wine, to, 232 

Weakest go to the wall, 34 

Week of Sundays, 211 

Well begun is half done, 75 

Well, I never ! 192 

Wet blanket, 147 ' 

Wet to the skin, 215 

What a to-do, 6 

What cannot be cured, 82 

What is done cannot be undone, 

203 
What is one man's meat, 170 



248 



INDEX 



When at Rome do as Rome does, 

152 
When Greeks joined Greeks, 125 
When in doubt, loi 
When thieves fall out, 234 
When world was young, 219 
Where there's a will, 124, 234 
While there's Hfe, 219 
Whip-hand, 32, 47 
Whistling woman, ]^o 
White elephant, 105 
Wholesale and retail, 138 
Whole show, 47 

Who lives longest sees most, 232 
Wild horses would not make him 

speak, 223 
Wilful waste makes woeful want, 93 
Will is as good as deed, 145, 234 



Willy-nilly, 137 

Wind and weather permitting, 219 

Wishes were horses, if, 212, 215 

Wish is father to thought, 88 

Woman's instinct, 120 

Word to the wise, a, 26, 108, 209 

Work like a nigger, 198 

Workman blames tools, a bad, 175 

Worst come to worst, 12 

Worst wheel makes most noise, 50 

Worth his weight in gold, 184 

Worth a brass farthing, not, 92 

Wrong end of stick, 16 



Yellow as a guinea, 145 



THE END 



Printed by Ballantvne, Hanson &* Co. 
Edinburgh dr* London 



DESHUM BERT'S 
DICTIONARY OF DIFFICULTIES 

Met with in Reading, Writing, Translating, and 
Speaking French. 

Seventh Edition {Sixth and Seventh 7'housand). Price is. 6d. 



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"Admirable." — The Westminster Review. 

"We commend it very heartily. ... It furnishes, in a convenient 
form, explanations of many peculiar difficulties." — The Literary 
World. 

" A useful idea. . . . This practical little provision appears to be 
of universal application. " — The School Boaxd Chronicle. 

"A useful book." — The Educational Times. 

"The real distinctions are very clearly pointed out." — The School- 
master. 

"A useful little book. . . . All that he (the Author) does give is 
good and accurate." — The Journal of Education. 

" In it are to be found differences and distinctions which in common 
French and English dictionaries are mostly not to be discovered at 
all. ... Is singularly free from errors of commission . . . should 
fulfil the purpose for which it is intended." — The Daily News. 

"Is an ingeniously written little treatise. . . . Those who are not 
averse from rounding off corners would do well to profit by the oppor- 
tunity he (the Author) affords them of accomplishing this object." — 
The Liverpool Daily Post. 

" A very excellent little work. . . . Cheap and carefully arranged 
work. . . . Will prove a valuable auxiliary to the library of every 
student of French." — The Worcester Herald. 

" This little work will be found of much use in preventing mis- 
translations." — Literary Intelligencer (Tasmania). 



LONDON: DAVID NUTT, 57-59 LONG ACRE 



NUTT'S SERIES OF SHORT 
FRENCH READERS. 

Limp Green Cloth. Fcap. 8vo, price 6d. each. 

UNDER THE GENERAL EDITORSHIP OF 

De V. PAYEN-PAYNE, 

Principal of Kensi?igton Coaching College, and Author of 
"French Idioms and Proverbs." 

1. ALEXANDRE DUMAS : JACOMO. Edited by F. 

W. Walton, M.A., Librarian of King's College, London. 

2. ANTOINE GALLAND: SINDBAD LE MARIN. 

Edited by Charles Penney, B.A., Principal of Kensington 
Coaching College. 

3. ALPHONSE DAUDET : CONTES CHOISIS. 

Edited by W. Rolleston, M.A., Assistant Master at Repton 
School. 

4. JULES SANDEAU: Episodes from LA ROCHE 

AUX MOUETTES. Edited by de V. Payen-Payne, Prin- 
cipal of Kensington Coaching College, and General Editor of 
the Series. 

5. ALPHONSE DAUDET: CONTES HISTORIQUES. 

Edited by W. Rolleston, M.A., Assistant Master at Repton 
School, 

6. ERCKMANN-CHATRIAN: LA PECHE MIRA= 

CULEUSE, and LE TALION. Edited by R. H. Allpress, 
M.A., Assistant Master at the City of London School. 

7. LOUIS QARNERAY: VOYAGES, ADVEN = 

TURES ET COMBATS. Edited by A. W. Dennis, M.A., 
Assistant Master at Manchester Grammar School. 

Other Works are in active preparation. 




511 



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