Tag Archives: Language

A delightful colloquialism

Now that we’ve been living at Les Terraces full-time for a little over 2 years I finally feel that I’m making progress with my French.  Not, I hasten to add, the “right” progress, as I don’t ever seem to find the time to do what I ought to and go back to school (particularly for the dreadful manner in which I massacre the conjugation of verbs).  But, in spite of this laxness, it has improved.  I find that keeping a pocket English-French dictionary in the loo is particularly useful in this regard – I’ll leave you to figure out how!

While our circle of friends is mostly English-speaking … something for which I often castigate myself …. we’ve plenty of only-French speaking friends too, and that circle continues to grow.  In January we were introduced to Elisabeth as a result of a request made to our GP for some help and advice.  Elisabeth is a lovely French lady who speaks English with an English accent, although she will very reluctantly resign herself to speaking English with a French accent if you insist. It amuses me to note that this is something that she does terribly!  She sounds like an English actor trying to play the part of a French person speaking English …. ‘Allo, ‘Allo style .

Anyway, the other day she dropped round to visit for a while.  While we were chatting, she related a story about of one of her neighbours.  She prefaced the story with a description of said lady with, “She’s even tinier than you [not that that’s saying much], she’s “haut comme trois pommes.”  What a delightful expression, I thought, “as tall as three apples.” One to file away, don’t you think.  Clearly, the English equivalent is “knee-high to a grasshopper,” although a little research suggests that, like it’s English partner, it is more often used to describe the young than it is to refer to someone’s height.

I will be keeping my ears open∗ for other such phrases in the future …. watch this space!

∗By the way, is there an informal phrase that’s more interesting than

  • Ouvre grand les oreilles, or
  • Restez a l’écoute, or
  • Reste aux aguets

for keeping your ears open?  Please let me know if there is!