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Posts tagged ‘Donner sa langue au chat’

No. 165: Idioms/Expressions with our Second Favorite Furry Four-footed French Friend

I’m not a cat person. I never have been. I’m highly allergic to cats, so that doesn’t help matters. I’m also a very sensitive soul, which means, when a cat snubs me, I take it personally. Never a big fan of aloofness, felines aren’t generally my cup of tea…

…except maybe this gorgeous Parisian cat, who could possibly steal a petite corner of my heart if I spent enough time with her.


For Lily’s sake and for all you cat lovers, as promised, I’ve uncovered a few French expressions which incorporate your favorite furry four-footed friend. As my morning has been packed, I’ve only had a wee bit of time to devote to les chats, but my initial observation is that cats could use a little more respect en France, at least linguistically.

There seems to be some greed and gluttony and whipping and scalding associated with our French feline friends. Par exemple:

  • il n’y a pas de quoi fouetter un chat: literally, there’s nothing to whip a cat about, or, it’s not worth worrying about.
  • avoir d’autres chats à fouetter: to have other cats to whip, or as we might say, to have other fish to fry.
  • chat échaudé craint l’eau froide: literally, (a) scalded cat fears cold water, or en anglais, once bitten, twice shy.

In regards to behavior, one can be:

  • gourmande comme un chat: greedy or gluttonous like a cat

While some things can be:

  • C’est du pipi de chat: literally, this is cat’s pee, or it’s pathetic, a waste of time, or tastes terrible or weak (referring to coffee or other drinks)…please do not use this phrase, it’s not very polite.

Cats have also found their way to the mouths and throats of the French, as in:

  • Donner sa langue au chat: to give one’s tongue to the cat, or to give up, stop guessing, (as when you can’t think of anything else or what the right answer might be).
  • While we have a frog in our throats when we’ve lost our voice and it’s croaky, the French have un chat dans la gorge, which really must be hard to talk through.

If you are super busy, one can:

  • faire une toilette de chat: wash oneself quickly, or give oneself a lick and a promise.

But thankfully, you can also be (like Lily):

  • amoureuse comme une chatte: very affectionate

Donc, I think we better ne réveillez pas le chat qui dortlet sleeping dogs lie, or as the French say, not wake the sleeping cat.