To be in the perfume

Yesterday I discovered that one way to say that you’re familiar with something in French is être au parfum, or literally “to be in the perfume of”. Anyone know why perfume is involved in this expression?

English equivalents include ‘to be in the know’, ‘to be clued up’, ‘to be on the ball’, ‘to be in the loop’ – can you think of any others?

Another way to say this in French is être au courant (‘to be in the current’).

Some related expressions in other languages.

A related expression in French is mettre au parfum (‘to put in the perfume’), which means to provide all the necessary information, to put sb in the know.

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This entry was posted in English, French, Language, Words and phrases.

3 Responses to To be in the perfume

  1. Yenlit says:

    The figurative use of ‘parfum’ here in this French idiom is proabably alluding to a ‘smell of’, ‘scent of something’ that one is so familiar with, in this case ‘knowledge’?

    In English we have ’cognizant of’ which is a bit dated now, or ‘au fait (with)’ which we’ve borrowed and modified from its original French meaning ‘by the way’.
    In Welsh au fait is ‘gwybod am..’ eg. ‘cânt wybod yn gyson am…’ – they are au fait with…

  2. Petréa Mitchell says:

    In American English, there’s “to be hip” or “to be hip to”.

  3. Yenlit says:

    Quick look through the thesaurus gives you:

    kept abreast
    acquainted with
    apprised
    at home with
    au courant
    au fait
    aware
    cognizant
    conversant
    down with
    in on
    in the know
    in the loop
    informed
    kept posted
    mindful of
    no stranger to
    plugged in
    savvy
    tuned in
    up on
    up to snuff
    versant
    versed in
    well up in
    with it

    All of which have overlapping shades of meaning which would probably be glossed in Welsh with ‘cael gwybod am’ but I did see in the dictionary:
    ‘heb fod yn rhan o’r drafodaeth bellach’ for English ‘out of the loop’ but nothing for ‘in the loop’?