ANIMAL EXPRESSIONS: French, an animal language?

Jean d'Ormesson spoke of French as an "animal language". Many expressions of the French language refer to animals, to what characterizes them wrongly or rightly. Short metaphorical formulas, they are not lacking in humor, self-derision or impertinence.

Expression / meaning
rooster crowing : at the break of day
advance like a snail : move slowly
have rooster calves : have flattened, thin calves
to have dog : have charm, attractiveness
have goosebumps : be cold
have eaten a lion : to be combative, energetic
have a sparrow appetite : eat little, like a frail sparrow
have a dog character : to have bad character
have a frog in one's throat to be hoarse
have an ostrich stomach : digest anything
to have a dog's ache : have a lot of difficulties
to be as hungry as a wolf : to be very hungry
have an elephant memory : have an exceptional memory
run like a zebra : running fast
run two hares at a time : simultaneously pursue two objectives
cry to the wolf : warn of a danger, often by exaggerating its importance
shout haro on the donkey: denounce to the indignation of all
to look at yourself in faience dog : look at each other without saying anything, with a little suspicion
have eagle eyes : have piercing eyes
become goat  : being stressed and paralyzed by repeated and contradictory demands
give bird names : insult
be sweet as a lamb : said of a person showing no violence or aggression, ready to sacrifice himself
listen to the sirens' song : to be charmed, to seduce
between dog and wolf : at this indefinite moment when it is already day and not yet night
to be loaded like a donkey : be very busy
to be like a cock in a paw : to be pampered, pampered
to be like a bird on its branch : to be in a fragile and unstable position
to be like a fish in water : be very comfortable and feel in your element
to be known as the white wolf : to have stood out
be sweet as a lamb : to be wise, to be kind, to be very soft like wool
to be excited like a flea : move everywhere, jump, run
to be proud as a peacock : to be proud in an ostentatious and laughable way
to be strong as an ox : to be very strong
be fat like a pork : being fat, all round, with a big belly
to be the scapegoat : to be the person on whom all the wrongs of the community are put down and who must repair on behalf of all the others
be smart like a monkey : be very smart
to be short-sighted like a mole : do not see anything from afar
to be naked as a worm : to be naked like the worm that has nothing on it
to be cunning like a fox : be very cunning
to be tight like sardines : to be like sardines in the box, we can not move anymore
to be stubborn like a mule : to be very stubborn
to be a sissy : tremble with fear as the wet hen trembles with cold
to be a thin fly : be cunning, subtle
to be a tongue of a viper : be slanderous
to bury one's head in the sand : to veil the truth like the ostrich which hides its head thinking it will not be seen
to do the crane foot : wait a long time
to go crazy : to annoy, to enrage
scream with the wolves : to be cruel, unfair, so as not to displease others, out of baseness, out of conformism
to make a cold duck : very cold
the five-legged sheep : person or thing extremely rare 
letter of a crow : a raven is an author of anonymous letters
eat like a pig : eat badly
walk like one or crab : move forward on the side, not right
pussyfoot : spare both sides and not take sides
put the cart before the horse : skip the steps
get on his high horse : get upset and get carried away, look down on
a black sheep : an annoying or unwanted person in a group
pay in monkey money : reward or pay with fine words, empty promises
rain like cow piss  : rain a lot
To stand someone up : do not come to a meeting that we have fixed for someone
take the fly  : take offense
take the bull by the horns : take the lead, tackle a subject
stink like a goat : smell bad 
bring back the lost sheep : make those who deviate from the common rule listen to reason and bring them back to the right path
warm a snake in its bosom to help a traitor, an ungrateful
repeat like a parrot : mechanically repeat without reflection or intelligence
return to his sheep : return to the main subject of his conversation
get along like cat and dog : to argue constantly
jump from one subject to another : move from one topic of conversation to another without transition or reason
lie down with the hens : go to bed very early
to throw in the mouth of the wolf : fall in a trap
carve out the lion's share : take the biggest share
have a bird's appetite : have a small appetite
a workhorse : a subject to defend, a field of predilection
a funny bird : a strange individual
a big horse : a tall, masculine-looking woman
a badly licked bear : rude, ill-bred, boorish
bad weather : a detestable time
a bird's brain : a weak, unstable spirit
an old owl : a cantankerous woman


Shed crocodile tears:  to cry easily and in abundance, to shed hypocritical tears to move and deceive

Leave a comment