A direct translation of an English phrase won't always cut the mustard in French.
In fact, if you translated the previous sentence with “couper la moutarde”, you'll only get blank looks from a French person. It's better to say c'est pas à la hauteur, (which literally means “it's not high enough”).
Anyway, in the interests of helping you sound more French, here are the French equivalents of 14 standard English phrases. Good luck using them.
The straw that broke the camel's back
C'est la goutte d'eau qui fait déborder le vase
Forget the camel, the French talk about “the drop of water that made the vase overflow” when they're at their final straw.
Photo: The Rohit/Flickr
I fell head over heels in love
C'était le coup de foudre.
Falling in love happens with a lightning bolt, at least in the French language. “When I met Fabienne it was a lightning bolt,” they'll say.
He stood me up!
Il m'a posé un lapin!
Literally: “He put a rabbit on me.” Paying for something with a rabbit was a sign of poverty hundreds of years ago, or at least that's how the story goes. Leaving a rabbit for someone was initially a sign of not being able to pay, and later became a sign of not showing up at all.
An apple a day keeps the doctor away
Une pomme par jour, en forme toujours
The French version of this also rhymes like its English cousin and literally means: “An apple a day and you're always in fine form”. There's another more sinister version:
La pomme du matin tue le médecin or “The morning apple kills the doctor”. Blimey.
To call a spade a spade
Il faut appeler un chat un chat
In French you don't call a spade a spade, you call a cat a cat. Obviously.
It cost me an arm and a leg!
Coûter les yeux de la tête
Not sure which version is the goriest here, but while something expensive costs the English speakers an arm and a leg, it costs the French “the eyes from my head”.
I've put my foot in it!
Se mettre le doigt dans l'œil
Yikes, the French really have a thing for eye injuries. This saying translates to “to put your finger in your eye”.
Photo: Mr Seb/Flickr
To get on someone's nerves
Casser les pieds à quelqu'un
You don't get on a French person's nerves, you break their feet.
Can we just meet halfway?
Couper la poire en deux
When the English might suggest a fairer divide of something, they might say “meet me halfway”. The French say “let's cut the pear in half.”
Going round in circles.
Pédaler dans la semoule
Ever get the feeling that you're just treading water? Well in French you might say that you're “pedaling in the semolina”.
He has one foot in the grave
Sentir le sapin
When someone hasn't got long left in this world, you might say they “smell of fir trees”, a saying that comes from the fact that many coffins are made of fir tree wood.
To drink like a fish
Boire comme un trou
To be fair this doesn't make sense in English or French really. While the English speakers drink like a fish, the French drink like a hole.
I could do it “with my eyes closed”
Avec les doigts dans le nez
The French don't do simple things with their eyes closed, they do it with their fingers in their nose.
I'm down in the dumps
J'ai le cafard
If you're down or depressed you can say “you have the cockroach”.
Photo: tom spinker/Flickr