Came across an article with some amusing examples of how the French language has integrated animals into its colloquial expressions, which when translated are interesting, funny, or occasionally gross.
Avoir la chair de poule = To have hen’s flesh.
This is goose bumps for us, making the two expressions quite similar. I once famously screwed up this saying by telling Charlotte I had la peau de poulet, or “chicken skin”. Her laughter was heard throughout our apartment building.
Avoir une taille de guêpe = To have the waist of a wasp
This implies a woman’s small or thin frame, as compared to the insect’s thorax. I guess if you look like a bug here, you’re looking good. An English equivalent? I’ve heard American women being called “W.A.S.P.-y”, but I don’t think flattery is the goal there.
Être excité comme une puce = To be excited as a flea
Being a rather jumpy creature this one seems logical. Just like our flea markets, Parisians say les puces to refer to their second-hand commerce on the weekends. But surprisingly it’s also common to call a loved one ma puce, or “my flea”. In fact being the language of love, French is awfully liberal with its cutsie nicknames, where an adored spouse can be called ma biche (my doe), mon canard (my duck), or my personal favorite: mon chou (my cabbage). Oh yeah…sweet, sexy, romantic cabbage.
Quand les poules auront des dents = When hens have teeth
Again with the hens, this is their version of “When pigs fly”. I can’t help wondering what the world would look like if these two anomalies kicked in at the same time. Chickens eating bacon comes to mind.
Payer en monnaie de singe = To pay with monkey money
Tough to think of an English equivalent here, probably because this expression is tied to something specific in Parisian history. In the 1200’s if you were a street performer and wanted to cross the Petit Pont (the bridge leading to the place of Notre Dame), you’d have to pay a toll — unless you were an entertainer with monkeys, in which case there was no charge. From then on the idea of paying with something other than real currency became known as paying with monkey money.
Pleurer des larmes de crocodile = To cry crocodile tears
Finally, an expression both cultures use. According to this article the idea is based on an Egyptian legend that crocs would employ fake crying and moaning to attract prey. Since then it’s shown up in many languages including Latin and Greek, to symbolize fake tears used to get attention.
Pleuvoir comme vache qui pisse = To rain like a pissing cow
Not only is this the best one of the article but I feel a bit of extra connection to it, as one of my first blog posts ever was about how often cows are used in the French language. This new addition serves as further proof that livestock was a major part of life here. Incidentally, now that you have the translation if you take another look at the article’s picture it might take on a slightly different (and gross) meaning. I tell ya, there isn’t an umbrella waterproof enough for that kind of jazz.