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Body language: what does it mean?

When far-fetched expressions become "pulled by the hair" 


In the description of daily situations, the French may have their "heart on the hand" to be open-handed or have a "hard tooth" to be scathing, but they often put the body under a lot of stress. Here are a few evocative French expressions. Read them, but don't run off by "taking your legs around your neck" afterwards! 


Hollow nose or swollen ankles?expressions_imagees_corps_400 

In winter time, you might easily catch a cold and everybody knows it's better to keep your nose unclogged. When your nose is clear, you have a "hollow nose", and all chances to sniff out a good deal, a good opportunity. In a professional context, you'll be considered as a winner.

But beware, don't let success go to your head and get "swollen ankles". That's what happened to courtesans of Louis XIV, who gave birth to the expression. Some of them had the right to add red heels to their shoes, just like the king had. The proudest modified their shoes by themselves so this distinction could be easily seen. This painful process was a real bend to good taste.


Rather "break sugar"... 

Gaining Louis XIV favours rose jealousies: in Versailles, atmosphere was not friendly. Everybody was "adding sugar" to each other, i.e. taking their peers for fools. The expression changed. Sugar, a rare and costly merchandise, was sold in loafs that one had to break before using. "Breaking sugar on one's back" gradually meant smirching somebody.


... than have "whistling ears" 

Though smirching may be created with taste, there's nothing good in tasting it. You may keep deaf to the critic, you may still get "whistling ears", which means somebody is trash-talking about you. You may get comfort in the fact that in the 15th century, the expression was "having callusing ears", which sounds even more painful.

If you hear slander, keep steel nerves. When revenge will come, they will not only kick themselves, but also "bite off their fingers". This is how the wor(l)d goes...


Photo credit: Sami Taipale