Tuesday, 18 December 2012

A Few Sheepish Expressions

One of Understanding Frenchman's favourite things to do as we chat over the dinner table is to drop idiomatic French expressions into the conversation to see whether I continue the discussion without batting an eyelid or interrupt with my (far more usual) Ça veut dire quoi, ______ ?” At which point he always indulges in a little chuckle before giving in and telling me what the saying means.

And so it was last Saturday that I discovered that not only do the French count sheep, just as we do, when they can't get to sleep, but that their name for leapfrog is saute-mouton, or jump-the-sheep. (Perhaps this is because all the frogs in France have had their back legs cut off and fried in oil and garlic ... bwahhahaha)*

This caused me to reflect that there are quite a lot of expressions involving sheep in French. Moutons de Panurge are the equivalent of lemmings, meaning people who mindlessly copy others, and revenir à nos moutons means “let's get back to the subject in hand.” A quick search in my handy Dictionnaire des expressions et locutions also threw up un mouton enragé (someone who rarely gets angry who has just got angry) and le mouton à cinq pattes – the five-footed sheep which is of course extremely difficult to find. (If you want to say that an action is nothing out of the ordinary, however, it's not a sheep that's involved, but a duck, because the expression is ça ne cassera pas quatre pattes d'un canard ... (or trois pattes) depending on where you come from.))

I was going to look up sheep-based sayings in English too, to find out if there were just as many, but then I thought it would be more fun to see how many you can all think of – ideas in the comments box please!

* Actually, as anyone who has lived in France can tell you, French people hardly ever eat frogs' legs and, when I looked it up, I discovered that per capita consumption is only 60g per year, so there must be another explanation for the sheep.

Sunday, 2 December 2012

Promenade Photos

A week or so ago, I commented over one of Gwan, Blog Queen of Tours' posts, that while there is plenty to see and do in Paris, it's a hard place to write about, because they chances are that whatever I've done recently, some other expat blogger has got there first and written about it much more stylishly and with greater wit than I ever could. And what is true of writing is even more true of photography. So many beautiful pictures have been taken of this city that sometimes, walking around, it's hard to remember that you're looking at the real thing and not through someone else's lens.

The struggle for originality in a city where every photo is a cliché (in more ways than one) has prevented me from posting photos in the past, but today, as autumn slid into winter and cool blue skies and sunshine provided a backdrop to the end-of-November haze, I couldn't resist getting out my (phone) camera. The results might not be quite Elliot Erwitt standard, but they are at least 100 percent mine:

Not for the first time, it was the Place de la Bastille and the Arsenal that enticed me to get my camera out and get snapping.

Victory and Boats

Must remember this next time I get my iron out !

Bikes and Boat at Bastille

Playing with the light - the Ile Saint Louis and the Pantheon

Rue des Barres - one of the prettiest streets in Paris

This shop entirely devoted to articles produced in monasteries is just behind the church. Could be a good source of Christmas presents!

You aren't allowed sell Parisian wine, but you can grow grapes here in December.

I spent ages waiting for a gap in the traffic and the pedestrians to take this picture. Then the woman moved and a post got in the way. Another frustration of Parisian photography.

I liked the shadow shape of this street lamp in the  Marais

Back near Bastille, in a street where everything was grey.

Can you see Victory now? Getting close enough to take this picture and remain alive was something of a challenge!