French Idioms: What do they mean?

French language is full of idioms that seem to be coming from nowhere. Indeed, we do love to embellish our way of speaking! Below is the origin of some common idioms:

“To fall into the apples” means to faint. This idiom is believed to be invented by George Sand, a contemporary writer who used to write “I’m in the cooked apples” when she was feeling very tired.

“To roll someone into the flour” means to cheat someone, to lie to somebody. This expression was created during the nineteenth century, when actors were using flour as a make up on their face. The word “flour” was often used to describe a sneaky or distrustful speech.

“To tell salads” means to lie, to make up stories. The lie is perceived as a mixture of many different ingredients that we swallow easily, like a salad.

“To set up a rabbit” means to have someone waiting forever at an appointment with you which you never show up to. This goes back to a tradition where the owner of a merry-go-round would hold a rabbit (usually a puppet) on a cord or stick over the children’s heads at fun fairs for them to catch. The first child to catch it would win a free ride! This seemed easy to do, but due to the owner making it very difficult you would rarely win the prize…but it was a lot of fun (unlike being stood up).

“To smoke as a fireman” means to smoke a lot of tobacco. The origin of this idiom is from the time fireproof clothing was not in existence. During this time the firemen, geared in regular cotton, had to soak their clothing with water before entering a burning building. Once inside, the water would turn in to steam, which would produce a huge amount of smoke when the fireman was would return outside.

“Making a full cheese out of it” means a much-ado-about-nothing. It means making something that is not that difficult an extremely big deal. It’s supposed to be comparable to taking a raw ingredient like milk and transforming it into something that is much more elaborate, such as cheese.

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