The combed giraffe sings like a saucepan

I came across a number of interesting French idioms today in this article in The Guardian, including peigner la giraffe (combing the giraffe), which means to waste time on a pointless task, and chanter comme une casserole (to sing like a saucepan) or to sing terribly. It also mentions a Dutch idiom, broodje aap verhaal (monkey sandwich story), which refers to persistent rumours or urban legends.

English equivalents of peigner la giraffe include idling, dossing (about), doing nothing (much), killing time, and so on. Do you have any others?

How about English or other language equivalents of chanter comme une casserole or broodje aap verhaal?

This entry was posted in Dutch, English, French, Idioms, Language.

7 Responses to The combed giraffe sings like a saucepan

  1. David Eger says:

    Flogging a dead horse.

  2. I have always heard the (not very politically correct) expression: Sing/sound like a bag of cats.

  3. David Eger says:

    So: A flogged dead horse sings like a bag of cats.

  4. Prussia says:

    This site is so absorbing.
    I love the giraffe example, it seems so sensible when you think about it.
    Not really an idiom perhaps but I learn Russian and one of my favourite expressions is, ‘Ёлки Палки’. This is the name of a restaurant chain but it is also an expression of surprise or irritation which roughly translates as ‘Christmas trees and sticks’.
    Maybe akin to English ‘fiddlesticks’.
    I used it once though and a Russian laughed and said I sounded like a child, so maybe it is more like ‘oops a daisy’!
    I like it all the same.

  5. Daniel Johnson says:

    A common expression among writers in discussions about writer’s block is “vacuuming the cat” for a pointless activity that lets one avoid writing.

  6. Kevin says:

    If I might be allowed to post here a link to an excellent site dealing in great (sometimes quite “close to the knuckle”!) detail with giraffe-combing — among other expressions françaises décortiquées — I would heartily recommend a look at

  7. Adrienne says:

    I’d really like to know the story that inspired the phrase “Monkey sandwich story”! I keep thinking of the phrase “shaggy dog story”, tho that means a long and pointless story, not an urban legend/rumor.

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