French slang

Since I have arrived in Paris, I have discovered the massive amount of expressions in this beautiful (and, I’ve found, quite poetic) language. Some of my French friends use them so much that they have to stop and explain what they are saying to me every other sentence. Others admit to me that because I don’t understand all their expressions, they have realized how many they actually use in daily conversation. Today, I give you some of my favorite French expressions (and with it, a small taste of French culture).

J’ai les fourmis dans ma jambe. The first time my foot fell asleep, I tried (and failed) to explain what was happening with a direct translation of the English expression. After a few laughs and some shakes of the head, my host family explained to me the expression in French, which literally translates to “I have ants on my leg,” because when your foot falls asleep, it feels like ants are crawling all around it. I found this very appropriate and much more interesting than my foot just falling asleep.

Quand les poules auront des dents… Translated directly as “When hens have teeth,” this is the equivalent of English’s “when pigs fly.” This imagery made me laugh

Je crève la dalle. This expression is very casual and should only be used with family and friends, since it is extremely colloquial and essentially means “I’m f*ing starving.” And it’s super interesting, because I don’t know a lot of French people who can tell me a lot about where “la dalle” comes from, but there is an expression, “que dalle” that is a replacement for “nothing.” So, this expression essentially translates to “I’m dying from lack of food.”

Verlan. This isn’t an expression but a way of turning words around. For example, «femme» is the word for «woman,» but many people will say “meuf” instead. This also applies for guy (mec): keum, and many other words.

And just like in English, there is an endless amount of slang, filler words and expressions and it’s impossible to know them all. But I’m certainly trying!