Archive for the Category: French

No holds barred

I came across the phrase no holds barred today and wondered where it came from. I probably have seen it written down before, but didn’t pay any particular attention to it and thought it was written no holes barred. According The Phrase Finder, this phrase comes from wrestling and refers to wrestling matches in which […]

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Put the kettle on!

I discovered last night that although there is a French word for kettle – bouilloire – kettles are not common in French kitchens. More or less every kitchen in the UK, and Ireland, has a kettle, and a toaster (grille-pain) – they are considered essential equipment. However, according to a friend who used to live […]

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Gleann Cholm Cille

This week and next week I am in Gleann Cholm Cille (Glencolmcille) in Donegal in the north west of Ireland. I’m doing courses at Oideas Gael, an Irish language and cultural centre: a harp playing course this week, and an Irish language and culture course next week. This is my 11th visit to Gleann Cholm […]

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Coasts and competitors

Sometimes when I see new words in English or other languages I can immediately break them down into their component parts and work out their roots, but other times I just accept words as whole entities without trying to work out their derivation. One such word in Welsh is arfordir, which I hadn’t tried to […]

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Marmosets, cheese and gargoyles

When French-speaking photographers want people to smile, they might say Le petit oiseau va sortir (The little bird is going to come out) or Souriez! (smile), or might ask them to say pepsi! or ouistiti! (marmoset), just as English-speaking photographer get people to smile by asking them to say “Cheese!” The word ouistiti [ˈwistiti] means […]

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Fosses and Sextons

At the French Conversation Group last night one of the people had an old French language textbook from the 1950s which contains lots of stories in French. One of them contains the word “Le Fossoyeur” in the title, which is translated as “The Sexton”. As this wasn’t a word I’d come across before, I thought […]

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As pretty as a truck

An interesting French expression I learnt last week is beau comme un camion, which literally means “pretty as a truck/lorry”, and actually means pretty, cute or beautiful. Apparently this idiom appeared around the middle of the 20th century and was at first ironic, as few people find trucks pretty. However it came to mean graceful […]

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French adventures

My trip to France last week with members of Bangor Community Choir and Coastal Voices choir from Abergele was fantastic, and though it was only five days, it felt much longer as we fitted so much into our time there. We left Bangor at 6am on Wednesday morning and travelled to Birmingham airport by coach, […]

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Oloron-Sainte-Maire

Tomorrow I’m going to Oloron-Sainte-Maire in the south west of France with members of the Bangor Community Choir, and the Coastal Voices choir from Abergele. We’ll travel by coach to Birmingham aiport, fly to Bordeaux, and then continue by coach to Oloron. While we’re there we will visit interesting places around the area, such as […]

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Take the frog and run!

Yesterday I came across the interesting French word grenouiller, which literally means “to frog” and actually means “to indulge in shady dealings”, and seems to refer specifically to political intrigues, according to Le Dictionnaire. A related expression is manger / bouffer la grenouille (literally, “to eat the frog”) = to scoop the till; to clean […]

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