We moved to France six years ago. Six years is enough time to get a censorious glimpse of your new home country, experience a fully blown culture shock and as a consequence start lamenting (which is something typical of the French, so I guess we’re ultimately assimilated now).
An integral part of the naturalization process is gaining mastery of the national language. While speaking French was something we’ve grasped before embarking on the intercontinental adventure, getting hold of the colloquial vocabulary posed another set of dejecting challenges.
Communicating with the locals on a day-to-day basis turned out more complicated than the Parisian roundabout system (the rule of thumb is: when you’re driving on the small ones, it’s the person in it, who has priority; but when it’s the bigger ones, it’s the person getting in – the trick is to know which one is which, and that even the French don’t master).
Double guessing the meaning of most idiomatic expressions meant constantly getting into trouble and stupefying the hell out of petrified Parisians. I dare you to grin at this point unless you experienced personally the crusade of being buttered while having mustard coming up your nose, if you know what I mean.
The French language in particular is as rich in vernacular phrasing as French buttercream (pâte à bombe). Ahead of the German and Italian complexity, or pardon me, butter creaming, it guarantees you getting a short end of the stick without participating in drawing straws altogether.
Here are a few examples of French tongue entanglements.
As it turns out the French have many ways to question somebody’s genius. While they won’t necessary call you an idiot, they’re likely to say you’re as dumb as a broom (Être con comme un balai) or a child who’s cradle rocked too close to the wall (On t’a bercé trop près du mur?). Not to mention that you have a brain of a cheese sandwich (Vous avez le cervau d’un sandwich au fromage) or simply have a quite low ceiling (Il est un peu bas de plafond). As a result they’ll never offend you directly but in a very eloquent French kind of way.
When it comes to refreshment the French have their own fashion of drinking like fish. They’ll booze like a hole (Boire comme un trou) or lift the elbow (Lever le coude). And after having wind in the sails (Avoir du vent dans les voiles), or throwing behind the tie (S’en jeter un derrière la cravat) they’ll have a wooden face (Avoir la gueule de bois) or be completely buttered (Être beurré).
As we all know food has a special place in the heart of French people. They’ll use every possible excuse to include it in daily language, even if dipping your biscuit may be more naughty than the moral code allows.
They won’t say they’re annoyed but that mustard is coming up their nose (La moutarde me monte au nez). They won’t lie to you but rather tell you salads (Raconter des salades). And they won’t tell you to mind your own business but to take care of your own onions (Occupe-toi de tes oignons). And when it’s all finished and done they won’t say it’s definite but that the carrots are cooked (Les carottes sont cuites).
Another peculiarity when it comes to French judgment is that French men don’t sleep around, they just dip their biscuit (Tremper son biscuit). I think that sums it up fittingly and as a matter of fact explains a lot. What do you think?