Pears, plums, peaches…
These are a few of France’s favorite things.
Apples, oranges, lemons and strawberries too—that’s a given, but pears, plums and peaches are of the utmost importance to any French native, especially plums.
Prune is the word for “plum” in French, and can be easily confused with pruneau, which in French is our version of a “prune” (as in a dried plum); these are false cognates.
“Pruning”—a French expertise held high, along with Dijon mustard, Cognac, Champagne (the list could go on)—is another famous process they’re very proud of. In fact, some of the best prunes in the world come from France. The plum fields are endless there, and so are the varieties. I mean, have you ever seen a yellow plum? They exist in France, they really do!
So how much do you love fruit—enough to go to France?
The French love their fruit too, in all forms: salty with andouille (sausage), sweet in desert tarts, dried up (potpourri), perfumed, and well, even in verbal expressions and idioms of speech.
15 Funny Fruit French Expressions You Gotta Start Using
1. Tomber dans les pommes !
This expression might be the oldest fruit in the French book. “To fall into apples” is the literal English translation, but it’s more than that. If you fell into a bunch of apples by slipping on a fallen crate of them, what might your outcome be?
Yep, that’s right, a serious “black out.” Tomber dans les pommes is the French way to say someone has passed out or fainted.
Elle est tombée dans les pommes ! (She fainted!)
2. Être haut comme trois pommes !
Here’s another apple idiom: A red, green or yellow apple? Doesn’t matter. “To be tall like three apples,” être haut comme trois pommes, is what the French are getting at.
How tall are three apples?
Eh, not tall at all if you truly think about it. And so, there you go! Être haut comme trois pommes is a nice French way to say, “You’re vertically challenged,” although it’s usually used to speak about children. Doesn’t sound so nice in English, does it?
The next time you feel like being sarcastic, try the funny, French way, like this:
Vous êtes haut comme trois pommes ! (You’re vertically challenged!)
3. Tu te payes ma poire ?
You’re at a market getting ready to pay for a baguette. Before saying anything, you utter, “Pardonnez mon accent, mais“ (Excuse my accent, but)—then the clerk interjects and says, “Non, non, vous parlez parfaitement le français, est-ce que vous êtes français ?” (No, no, you speak perfect French, are you French?).
Confused, you’ll think “he’s pulling your leg,” so that’s when you hit him with your best shot and say, “Vous vous payez ma poire ?”
Tu te payes ma poire literally means “Are you buying yourself my pear,” which is actually a French idiomatic expression for “Are you pulling my leg?” And the French also flaunt it when they think someone is “making fun,” “playing a trick” or trying to “fool” or “kid” them.
Je viens de gagner au loto ! (I just won the lotto!)
Tu te payes ma poire ? (Are you pulling my leg?)
4. Se fendre la poire
After a night out painting the town red, if it’s a special occasion, you conclude that you indeed had a blast, had a ball, laughed your head off or se fendre la poire.
“To split the pear” is the literal English translation, but it actually means “to split one’s sides,” as in, to laugh hard and have a really good time.
So if ever you find yourself laughing and giggling about your Franco-American accent among French friends, throw them a fastball by saying:
On se fend la poire là, non ? (We’re having a ball, aren’t we?).
5. Couper la poire en deux
What’s with the pears? I don’t know, but I told you the French love them. They even have a children’s storybook named after them. Not to mention, pears are really good too.
Couper la poire en deux, “to cut the pear in two,” is the French fashion for coming to a compromise, or the English equivalent of meeting halfway.
We know pears are tasty and we’d like to have them all to ourselves, causing fights and disputes, but remember that sharing is caring, so: couper la poire en deux ! “Cut the pear in two!,” “Agree to disagree” and “Meet halfway.”
Pierre et Jean ont su couper la poire en deux. (Pierre and Jean knew to come to a compromise.)
6. Peau d’orange
This next one is tough, kind of like an “orange skin,” which is what peau d’orange translates to. It might seem like oranges aren’t up to par with the rest of French fruits with this odd expression—maybe that explains why French children get them in their Christmas stockings.
The French have their peculiar ways, and no compassion when it comes to looks. After all, only the best cosmetics (Dior, Chanel, Yves Saint Laurent, etc.) come from la France.
So might you guess what peau d’ orange truly conveys? Probably not, but in essence, it’s a light, funny, French expression for saying someone has cellulite skin.
Elle a de la peau d’orange. (She has cellulite skin).
Terrible, I know, but true. At least the French have found a way not to be blunt about it. English equivalent? None that I know of, but if you can think of one, assure that a Frenchie learns it too!
7. J’ai la pêche/J’ai la banane
On a lighter note, it’s a bright, beautiful day. Are you feeling peachy?
J’ai la pêche/banane, literally “I have the peach/banana” is a popular French way to say time is on my side. It expresses extreme excitement, meaning that you’re full of energy because you know it’s going to be a good day.
T’as la pêche ? (Are you in the mood?).
Oui, j’ai la pêche ! (Yes, I’m excited!).
Uses of a peach or banana depend on age difference (banana for an older crown), but these days j’ai la pêche is the favored fruit. Not that there’s anything wrong with bananas, but you know how the French love their nectarines!
8. Se prendre une pêche
Like pears, the French fancy peaches, so much so that they even associate them with negative instances of life.
Ever been in a bar fight? Not likely in France, well who knows, but se prendre une pêche dans la gueule, “to take a peach in the face,” is the French equivalent to getting busted in the chops.
If you’re a woman and don’t have “chops,” or are a man without a beard, it’s basically taking a punch in the face. (Do, however, avoid use of the word gueule in polite company.)
Je me suis pris une pêche dans la gueule. (I got socked in the face.) or (I got punched in the face.)
9. Ramener sa fraise
You’re having a sincere debate with a friend and your mom butts in, always giving her two cents. Yes it’s annoying and “no one asked her.”
If you ever find yourself in a French cafe exchanging languages lessons, and the waiter or a friend interrupts trying to give opinion on your session, stare your learning partner straight in the eye and say:
Pourquoi il ramène sa fraise ? (Why is he butting in?)
Ramener sa fraise is nice French way to say “no one asked you,” though I wouldn’t mind if someone “brings their strawberry,” which is what it literally translates to.
Il ramène toujours sa fraise ! (He’s always butting in!)
10. Sucrer les fraises
Ever have a “sugared strawberry?”
Absolutely delicious, and let’s not get into whipped cream and chocolate covered…
Hold up. What are the results of too much sugar?
Sucrer les fraises
, “to sugar the strawberries,” gives you a sugar rush of course! So “sugar rush” or “to have the jitters/shakes” is the English idiomatic equivalent of sucrer les fraises, kind of like that feeling after you put too much sugar in your coffee. This is often used to refer to the shakes that old folks have, in a more soft and endearing way.
Elle sucrait les fraises. (She had the jitters).
11. Prendre une prune
And we have finally arrived to the plums part. Remember: prune is the French word for “plum” and pruneau is the French word for “prune;” these are false cognates.
Prendre une prune, literally “to take a plum” or “get a plum” is what you’d tell your French friends if you were late to class because of a parking ticket, a traffic violation or any fine.
Désolé d’être arrivé en retard, mais j’ai pris une prune ! (Sorry for arriving late, but I got a ticket!).
It’s too bad we don’t have an expression like this in English, because anyone can arrive late, but the point of the “plum” is to get a “ticket.” The “ticket” is the prune, “plum,” so it’ll only work if you get a fine.
12. Faire quelque chose pour des prunes
Faire quelque chose pour des prunes literally means “to do something for plums,” which is a funny French expression to say it’s not worth it, or “to do something for nothing.”
Since plums are an abundant fruit of France, and pruning is a piece of cake for them (plus a low-paying job), you can see why doing something for plums is the French equivalent of doing something for nothing.
J’en ai marre, je travaille pour des prunes. (I’m annoyed, I’m working for nothing).
13. Se presser le citron
It shouldn’t take much to “squeeze a lemon,” which is exactly what se presser le citron means, but even in this day and age we’ve invented lemon-squeezing machines and methods to obtain its juice.
Squeezing a lemon is a no brainer—ah ha! So what does it mean? The complete opposite. Se presser le citron is the French idiomatic expression meaning to pick one’s brain, brainstorm or to rack one’s brain.
Je me suis pressé le citron. (I’ve picked my brain).
The citron (lemon) is your brain!
14. Presser quelqu’un comme un citron
All right, so not only can we squeeze lemons in France, but we can also “squeeze someone like a lemon,” presser quelqu’un comme un citron. And when we squeeze someone like a lemon, what do we get? Are we taking them for all they’ve got? Kind of.
Presser quelqu’un comme un citron is a funny French way to say “push someone’s buttons,” as in, exploit them to the maximum until they pop or freak out. In this case the “lemon” is a person’s level of patience.
Arrête de me presser comme un citron ! (Stop pushing my buttons!).
Note: If you like pushing buttons, watch out for lemon juice in your eye!
15. Mi-figue mi-raisin
What’s tastier? A fig or a grape? If you can’t choose, that’s okay, because the French have an expression for that too.
Mi-figue mi-raisin, literally “half fig, half grape,” is a French phrase for having mixed feelings, saying yes and no, or how English speakers would idiomatically say, “neither fish nor fowl.”
By the way, raisin is another false cognate. Though it sounds like our version of a raisin, as in “A Raisin in the Sun,” raisin [ra-san] is actually the word for “grape” in French. It’s similar to the plum and prune mix-up. A raisin is a “grape” while raisin sec means “dried grape,” which is what a raisin technically is.
Que penses-tu de notre nouveau patron ? (What do you think about our new boss?).
Mi-figue mi-raisin. (So, so).
You’ve made it through all this fruit talk! as I’m sure you’re hungry by now—your stomach probably started grumbling at the intro.
These are just a few idiomatic expressions of the tons the French have with food. As you might know, France is famous for food. It’s one of their staples, so if you thought this was hard on your appetite, just wait ’til you get to the entrees!
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