Riviera Reporter
Riviera Reporter

French expressions pop up in the park


We’ve had a home in Nice, France for six years now and for six years we’ve been meaning to go to Parc Phoenix. But something always came up and we just never made it. Now we can finally say that we went, we saw, and we loved it! It’s a beautiful park with lots of plants, small animals and an aquarium. It would make a great day out with children.

Today, I thought I would share some animal and plant related French sayings and use photos from our day in the park to illustrate them.

Blue Fish

The park has a large central lake, several water features (including a musical fountain), and an aquarium. So let’s start with a fish expression or two:

To drown the fish
French: Noyer le poisson
Meaning: Drowning a fish? Now that could take some doing. It means to create confusion or a diversion to keep from answering a question. This is a good description of the way politicians sometimes respond to questions. You could think of it as drowning the question in a river of words. A close English expression might be to “beat around the bush” but the idea with “drowning the fish” is to make the other person forget all about the original question.

Fish and Rabbit

Marriage of the carp and rabbit (Yes, I know the fish in the photo is not a carp – but he’s cute.)
French: Mariage de la carpe et du lapin
Meaning: Since a fish and a rabbit are very different, this marriage is probably not going to work. This expression is used to describe putting two incompatible things together. It’s similar to the British expression, “like chalk and cheese” or maybe the American, “as different as night and day”.

To stand a rabbit up (to someone)
French: Poser un lapin à quelqu’un
Meaning: To not arrive for a date or appointment you have made with someone. In English we simply stand the person up and leave the little rabbit out of it.

BirdThe park started with the idea of just showcasing plants from around the world, but it has evolved to include a nice assortment of small animals and birds.

Beautiful feathers make beautiful birds
French: Les belles plumes font les beaux oiseaux
Meaning: Don’t judge by the outward appearance. This bird is quite handsome, decked out in his best feathers but he might have a nasty personality. We just can’t tell.

Read your duck this morning?
French: Un canard
Meaning: Canard is French for duck, but it’s also slang for newspaper. Similar to the English term, “rag”.

Insects are important too
When we visited the garden, there was an exhibition of “insect art” scattered around throughout the park. The metallic sculptures were mostly red and blue ladybugs, called les coccinelles in French. They looked to me like they were dancing along with the “Happy” song by Pharrell Williams. You know, the one that people have been making videos of in every city. (If you haven’t seen the one for Nice, see the link at the bottom of the post.) They were dancing so gleefully, I couldn’t help but join in.


God’s insect
Just a little bit of trivia about the coccinelle (ladybug):

In France the coccinelle is considered lucky (as it is in many countries) and is known as la bête à bon Dieu or “God’s insect”. One story to explain why this bug is thought to be lucky tells of a man who was condemned to death during the Middle Ages. Just as he was about to lose his head on the chopping block, a ladybug landed on his neck. The king believed it was a divine sign and pardoned him. In this particular case, the coccinelle certainly was lucky for him.

Ladybugs predict the weather
French: Coccinelle qui va de fleur en fleur apporte avec elle la chaleur
Meaning: A ladybug that goes from flower to flower brings with her the heat. So when you see a ladybug flitting from flower to flower, a heat wave is on the way.


And what is a garden without flowers?

Are you a blue flower?
French: Être fleur bleue
Meaning: To be a blue flower is to be very (overly) romantic and sentimental, naive even. A person who falls in love at every turn.

Cover someone with flowers
French: Couvrir quelqu’un de fleurs
Meaning: To give someone lots of compliments. In English we heap compliments or praise on someone. In France they cover them with flowers. That’s such a nice image.

Vegetable Garden

Of course, the fruit and veggies have their sayings too:

To fall into the apples
French: Tomber dans les pommes
Meaning: To pass out, lose consciousness. Be careful not to overexert yourself when you visit the park or you might just “fall into the apples”.

To have the banana
French: Avoir la banane
Meaning: To “have the banana” is to be happy, to have a big banana-shaped smile on your face.

Take care of your own onions!
French: Occupes-toi de tes oignons
Meaning: Mind your own business (and stay out of mine). It’s not a very nice thing to say which is a shame because it is so cute.

The carrots are cooked
French: Les carottes sont cuites
Meaning: It’s finished, nothing else can be done. There is no hope of salvaging the situation. A similar English expression might be, “that’s all she wrote”.

Telling salads
French: Raconter des salades
Meaning: “Telling salads” means telling stories that are not true.

A few other animals that you might see in the park:
Porcupines (porc-épics), otters (loutres), macaws (aras), iguanas (iguanes), kangaroos (kangourous), turtles (tortues), ostriches (autruches), turkeys (dindes), flamingos (flamants), and much more.


The park has a picnic area or you can buy food on site. Parc Phoenix is next door to the Museum of Asiatic Arts and you can enter directly from the park. Museum entrance is free.

After a day in this lovely park, you are sure to “have the banana” (avoir la banane = be smiling).

Website for Parc Phoenix: http://www.parc-phoenix.org/
Website for Musée des Arts Asiatique: http://www.arts-asiatiques.com/
Happy in Nice video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FGW_YsW0olc

For more, see www.curiousrambler.com

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