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10 typical expressions in the language of Molière related to food

In France, gastronomy is sacred! Home to the Michelin guide, the baguette and the birthplace of nearly 1,200 cheeses (1), food is an integral part of France’s heritage. It is therefore not surprising that it is also present in many French idiomatic expressions. Here are 10 that will no longer hold any secrets for you…

1. En faire tout un fromage

This french idiomatic expression seems to have appeared in the 20th century. It means to unnecessarily complicate something that is simple, or to dramatise an absolutely ordinary situation.

Example: “He’s crying because his toy broke, I told him there’s no point in ‘making a fuss about it’ (en faire tout un fromage)! We’ll buy another one.”

2. Mettre son grain de sel

This means to interfere in a discussion or give our opinion on a subject that does not concern us. It is used in a rather unkind manner.

Example: “This story between Julien and me does not concern you! Why do you want to ‘interfere’ (mettre ton grain de sel) ?”

3. Être soupe au lait

This French idiomatic expressions refers to someone who gets irritated easily and needs to be handled carefully. It comes from the fact that milk, when heated, easily boils over from the pan… like a touchy person. 

Example: “I didn’t dare tell him I would be absent on Monday. He’s such a ‘hothead’ (soupe au lait) I’m afraid he’ll get furious.”

4. Rouler quelqu’un dans la farine

In French slang, ‘rouler’ means to fool. So when someone fools or deceives you with dubious claims, it means that they have tricked you.

For example: “That salesman really ‘tricked me’ (m’a bien roulé dans la farine) ! I paid twice as much for this car than it’s worth.”

5. Avoir un cœur d’artichaut

In French slang, ‘rouler’ means to fool. So when someone fools or deceives you with dubious claims, it means that they have tricked you.
The French words ‘cœur‘ and ‘artichaut‘ mean heart and artichoke. People who have an artichoke heart are hopeless romantics. This expression is often used in the negative sense to mean that it is love that is often ephemeral or superficial.

Example: “He’s a ‘hopeless romantic’, (avec son cœur d’artichaut), he falls in love with a different girl every month, but it never lasts.”

6. Être une bonne poire

This french idiomatic expressions is used to describe people who can be tricked easily because they are too nice or too naive. This comes from the fact that the pear (poire), falls off the tree by itself, when it is ripe. The same applies to gullible people, who can be taken advantage of (too) easily.

Example: “Why did you lend him money again? Can’t you see that he thinks you’re ‘gullible’ (une bonne poire)?”

8. Avoir du pain sur la planche

This expression means ‘to have a lot of work’ or ‘to have a lot of things to do to accomplish a task’. It is used to describe the work that you have to do as tedious or painful.

Example: “I ‘have a lot of work to do’ (J’ai beaucoup du pain sur la planche) before I can start my business. I have to do market research, search for funding…”.

9. Avoir la tête comme une citrouille

A ‘citrouille‘ is a pumpkin, in English, but this expression has nothing to do with Halloween 🎃 

In French, it simply means that you have a splitting headache. You then have the impression that it is swollen, like a pumpkin. It also works with other types of food: having a head like a watermelon or like a melon.

Example: “I’ve been working on this file for 8 hours, I can’t take it anymore, ‘I have a splitting headache’ (j’ai la tête comme une citrouille).”

10. Mettre du beurre dans les épinards

Épinard‘ here means spinach, which metaphorically symbolises your current financial situation. When you put ‘beurre‘ or butter in your spinach, it means to improve your financial situation by topping up your income. Spinach is often considered bland and unpalatable. When you add butter to it (which symbolises extra money) it immediately becomes tastier.

Example: “I finally got a raise at work: that’ll ‘top up my income’ (mettre un peu du beurre dans les épinards)!”

French idiomatic expressions : small bonus

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(1) Source : produits-laitiers.com