French Idioms

Around the World in 30 Food Expressions

"Just blueberries", a Norwegian expression illustrated by Melina Josserand.

"Just blueberries", a Norwegian expression illustrated by Melina Josserand.

Whenever I host a giveaway, I strive to craft a question that will encourage creative and thoughtful responses: this is both so you’ll feel engaged in the conversation and, more selfishly, so I get to read through your entries and learn and smile and be inspired.

When my latest book Edible French came out last fall and I gave away copies, you were entered by submitting your favorite food-related expression in any language you liked.

I know you share my love of languages so I wasn’t surprised to see you come through with dozens of curious and delicious expressions. Since then I’ve been meaning to draw a short selection to highlight in a post, and this is it! Many thanks to all who contributed, and feel free to share more in the comments!

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Edible French

Poland: Letting someone in the raspberry bushes (Wpuścić kogoś w maliny) means that you knowingly set someone up for difficulties, getting lost and confused, losing their way, etc.

Korea: Someone is described as chicken skin (느끼해) when they’re super cheesy. The expression refers to super oily and greasy bland foods that make you feel gross.

Poland: Being served duck blood soup (Czarna polewka) means being rejected romantically. Duck blood soup was served by the parents of the young woman to the man whose proposal was being turned down.

Holland: Having an apple to peel with someone (Hij heeft een appeltje met hem te schillen) means having a bone to pick with someone, i.e. bringing a complaint against someone.

Germany: Having raisins in one’s head (Rosinen im Kopf haben) means having big ideas.

Germany: A freshly baked mom (Frisch gebackene mama) is used for a woman who’s just had a baby.

Spain: Being even in the soup (Estar hasta en la sopa) is said of someone who’s overly present, such as a celebrity appearing in every talk show.

Pakistan/India (Punjabi): You are like a blob of soft butter, a bowl of fresh cream and a crystal of sweet sugar (Makkhan de pedeo, malaai de duneo, mishri di dali) is a flirtatious expression for a pretty village belle.

"One day honey, one day onion"

“One day honey, one day onion”

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Edible French Comes Out Today!

EDIBLE FRENCH, my new book of food-related French idioms, is released today.

EDIBLE FRENCH explores fifty of the most evocative French expressions related to food with cultural notes, recipes, and whimsical watercolors by my talented friend Mélina Josserand.

It’s a project that has been brewing in my mind for years and years, and as a lover of both food and language, I am thrilled to be able to share it with you now.

I am also incredibly pleased with how the physical object turned out; the production team has done a wonderful job of it. It’s a book that feels very loveable, and the quality of the paper — thick, matte, with a bit of texture — really brings out the beauty of Melina’s watercolors, almost as if they were originals. I can tell that the people I show it to don’t really want to let go once they have it in their hands, and I hope you feel that way too.

I have set up a companion site for the book where you can view excerpts and listen to the expressions and example sentences featured in the book.

And if you plan to be in Paris in the coming weeks, I have two book events lined up on October 14 and November 29 (all details here).

EDIBLE FRENCH is now available in the US and Canada, in France, and in the UK.

See below for an animated sneak peek of the book, and details about the giveaway.

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Haut comme trois pommes

Haut comme trois pommes

Illustration by MelinArt.

This is part of a series on French idiomatic expressions that relate to food. Browse the list of idioms featured so far.

This week’s expression is, “Haut comme trois pommes.”

Literally translated as, “high as three apples,” it is used to point out that someone — often a child — is small or very short. I’ve seen it translated to “knee-high to a grasshopper,” although I’ve never heard that cute English expression myself.

Example: “Il était haut comme trois pommes et devait courir pour rattraper ses soeurs.” (He was high as three apples and had to run to catch up with his sisters.)

Listen to the idiom and example read aloud:

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Cheveux poivre et sel

Cheveux poivre et sel

Illustration by MelinArt.

This is part of a series on French idiomatic expressions that relate to food. Browse the list of idioms featured so far.

This week’s expression is, “Cheveux poivre et sel.”

Literally translated as, “pepper and salt hair,” it is used to describe graying hair. It is also — though less often — used to describe someone’s beard (barbe) or sideburns (favoris).

Example: “C’était un monsieur d’un certain âge, aux cheveux poivre et sel.” “It was a man of a certain age, with pepper and salt hair.”

Listen to the idiom and example read aloud:

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Coeur d’artichaut

Coeur d'artichaut

Illustration by MelinArt.

This is part of a series on French idiomatic expressions that relate to food. Browse the list of idioms featured so far.

This week’s expression is, “Cœur d’artichaut.”

Literally translated as, “artichoke heart,” it is used to describe someone who falls in love easily and frequently, possibly with several people at the same time — or at least in rapid succession. It can be used either as avoir un cœur d’artichaut (having an artichoke heart) or être un cœur d’artichaut (being an artichoke heart).

Example: “Elle était très amoureuse de lui, mais elle s’est vite rendu compte que c’était un cœur d’artichaut.” “She was very much in love with him, but she soon realized he was an artichoke heart.”

Listen to the idiom and example read aloud:

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