No. 127: French Body Language
Lately I have been spending more time with a couple of French women. We try to speak French, but invariably we end up in English as they are far more fluent in my native tongue than I am in theirs. But it is still wonderful, and I feel like I am finally getting a small insiders view to what makes the French woman tick.
I have been secretly studying them, and trying to learn how to be a little more French, at least in my gestures, sounds and facial expressions. I find it very interesting because sometimes their gestures have completely different meanings from the same gesture in America, and sometimes they are gestures I’d never seen before moving to France.
Here are a few of my favorites that I am practicing en ce moment. I’m pretty sure most of these should only be used among friends.
*Ce n’est pas ma faute / Je n’en sais rien.
These phrases usually accompanies the good old Gallic shrug—raised shoulders, raised eyebrows, lower lip thrust out, hands held up like you are being robbed. Meaning: It’s not my fault / I don’t know (how that happened).
This one might confuse Americans because for us it’s the A-OK gesture—as in making a circle with your index finger and thumb while your other three fingers stay up. In French body language this actually means zero, zip, nothing, and, I’m guessing, irrelevant.
J’ai du nez.*
This is a saying I don’t hear very often, but I see this gesture a lot when French women are talking together. They tap their nose with their index finger and look mischievously in your eyes. This, I believe, means they are cunning and quick and have seen the truth faster than anyone else in the conversation. I adore this gesture. It always makes me smile.
Il a un verre dans le nez.
This saying and gesture is for when someone you’re hanging out with has had a bit too much to drink. For comedic relief (or behind the drinkers back), you make a fist and hold it up in front of your nose, tilt your head and twist your hand. Try it out at your next party.
Chut! / Silence!
When you want some one to shut up or fermez-la, you can hold up your index finger in the air (not in front of your lips), and give a severe look to the people disturbing you. French teachers use this gesture frequently.
If you are out shopping with your French girlfriends or even talking about shopping or buying something, you will hear this expression. It accompanies the holding out of your hand and rubbing your thumb across you fingertips. This specifies that something is too expensive for you, or you need the money to buy it.
I never actually hear women say, “Victoire!”, but I see this symbol all the time. This, of course, in America is the “peace sign” or is used to signifies the number 2, when ordering something, but in France it means victory or success in accomplishing something.
* Please see the comment section for a reader’s different interpretation of some of these gestures. I am very grateful for all your feedback and corrections. French, it isn’t easy for me!
en ce moment: at the moment
Et enfin…And finally…
fermez-la: shut it, or shut up