There are plenty of French expressions that we use every day without really knowing where they come from and some origins are downright creepy. From horrific murder stories to yucky sexual illusions, there’s something for everyone.
1. Bless you!
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There are several origins and meanings for the expression “Bless you” but the most interesting dates from the Middle Ages. At that time, sneezing was a sign of impending death. This is quite logical when you know that the plague killed between 30 and 50% of the European population in the 14th century. Sneezing, the sign of a potential infection, was therefore rather frowned upon and we said “bless you” to wish health and ward off a moderately fun destiny.
In English, deadline means “death line” which inspires moderate confidence. Originally, this word meant the limit not to be exceeded for prisoners so as not to risk being shot by prison guards. Super aggressive to talk about a job to be completed on time.
3. Throw the baby out with the bathwater
There are two explanations for this expression and both are downright disgusting.
The first explanation concerns hygiene because this expression would have appeared at the end of the 19th century, a time when access to drinking water was still restricted. Taking a bath at home was still a luxury and therefore a tub was planned for the whole family. The head of the family washed first and then the whole family washed in the same water. At the end, when it was the baby’s turn, the water was already black with filth and we had to remember to find the baby in the float before throwing the water.
For the second explanation, a little trashier and more modern, some say that “throwing the baby out with the bathwater” means getting rid of the sperm left in the vagina using the water from the shower. Class.
4. The habit does not make the monk
At the time when the expression appeared (I don’t know when exactly but I’m pretty sure it was before 2012), the monks had the reputation of not being exemplary. But then not at all. They didn’t hesitate to accumulate goods, to drink like holes, to have sex right and left and even to kill a lot of people in battles. Super spiritual. They therefore had a behavior far removed from what their outfit suggested.
5. Be a sheep of Panurge
It is not very complicated to understand what it means to be a sheep, we are talking about the animal which stupidly follows its herd without thinking. On the other hand, not everyone knows who this famous Panurge is. It is one of the characters of the novel “Pantagruel” by Rabelais who was not super nice with our friends the sheep. In the novel, Panurge is on a boat and wants revenge on a shepherd with whom he had an altercation. He offers to buy one of his sheep and chooses the leader of the herd. After the transaction, he throws his sheep overboard and, of course, the whole herd jumps into the water to follow the leader. It’s not cool to kill animals for fun.
6. Being in the hot seat
In the 13th century, the bolster was a seat intended for the accused in the courts. It was very low compared to the other seats of the assembly to be able to question the accused while humiliating them properly. Super healthy as a concept.
7. Lying like a tooth-puller
Someone is said to lie like a tooth-puller in reference to the 19th century dentists who promised people that they weren’t going to suffer when in truth, they were lining their race well. These doctors, not necessarily very competent, practiced in the street and sometimes hired musicians to drown out the cries of patients who were having their teeth pulled out alive. It would not be a question of scaring away the passer-by…
8. Raising an uproar
Have you ever heard of Jesus? The guy who was doing miracles there. Well during his trial, the crowd was eager for him to die and some shouted at Pontius Pilate “Tolle, tolle et crucifige eum! » which could be translated as « To death, to death, crucify him! “. From this sentence was later born the expression “raise an outcry”.
9. We’re not here to string pearls
Stringing beads is considered a futile activity, a waste of time and saying “we’re not here to string beads” therefore means “we have work to finish Stéphane so stop talking in front of the coffee machine”. According to a book quoted below, stringing pearls would also mean practicing sex and pearls would therefore be the pretty name given to women.
10. Don’t shoot the pianist
This expression comes straight from the Wild West and was brought to Europe by Oscar Wilde. In the 19th century, there were sometimes signs at the entrance to saloons that said in English “Please don’t shoot the pianist, he’s doing his best”. When fights broke out in these bars, the musician was sometimes shot when he had done nothing, poor thing. The nice owners of saloons therefore tried to protect their pianists with these panels.