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FRENCH WORD OF THE DAY

French expression of the day: Les jambes en compote

Why, in France, having your body parts full of fruit mush could mean you're pumping iron at the gym.

French expression of the day: Les jambes en compote
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

Why do I need to know les jambes en compote?

Because it’s arguably the best way to sneakily brag about your workout in French.

What does it mean? 

Avoir les jambes en compote translates to ‘having legs of compote’, which is a cute way of saying that you have wobbly legs ('jelly legs').

Compote is the French fruit mush that is stuffed into small cups or soft plastic bottles, often given to children as a goûter (afternoon snack) or dessert. It’s soft like a yoghurt and having legs that feel like this means it’s definitely not the day to embark on a marathon.

Avoir les jambes en compote is a great way of secretly bragging about your workout routine. Let’s say someone asks you ça te dit qu’on aille courir ce soir après le boulot? – Do you want to go for a run this evening after work?

A great excuse would be Ah, non, j’ai les jambes en compote, j’ai fait une grosse séance de jambes à la salle de sport hier. – Oh, no, I have jelly legs, I did a major leg session yesterday at the gym.

If you are practicing social distancing or are in a coronavirus lockdown and decide to try the do-it-at-home French Foreign Legion workout, c'est sûr que tu auras les jambes en compote demain – you're sure to have jelly legs tomorrow.

Legs aren’t the only body part that can be filled with compote, avoir les bras en compote means having jelly arms.

Nor are les jambes en compote necessarily something that follows an intense workout. You can use it when you're feeling extremely tired, for example as you get home from work.

Je suis crevé, j'ai les jambes en compote. – I'm exhausted, I have jelly legs.

Synonyms?

While there are many other ways to say that you're exhausted in France, none are as telling as avoir les jambes en compote when you want to specifically direct the attention towards your legs.

Je suis crevé (I'm exhausted) or je suis mort (I'm dead) are good ways of expressing that you're really tired, but it doesn't refer to the specific body part.

 

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FRENCH WORD OF THE DAY

French phrase of the Day: Ne me prends pas pour un lapin de six semaines

Being patronised by a Frenchman? Roll out this phrase.

French phrase of the Day: Ne me prends pas pour un lapin de six semaines

Why do I need to know ne me prends pas pour un lapin de six semaines?

Because someone might be trying to take you for a fool.

What does it mean?

Ne me prends pas pour un lapin de six semaines – pronounced ne me pren pah pour un lapan de see sem-enn – translates as ‘don’t take me for a six-week-old rabbit’, and is a go-to phrase to warn people not to mistake you for a fool, someone who doesn’t understand what’s going on.

The podcast Hit West from French regional newspaper Ouest-France suggests that the ‘six weeks’ comes from the age a rabbit is weaned at, and must therefore be ready to survive on its own.

And why a rabbit at all? Well no-one really seems very sure. Rabbits don’t get a good rap in the French language though, to stand someone up is poser un lapin in French.

English-language metaphor equivalents may be, “I didn’t come down in the last shower”, “I wasn’t born yesterday”, or, as Line of Duty’s DCI Hastings might say, “I didn’t float up the Lagan in a bubble”.

Use it like this

Honestly, keep it simple. If someone’s speaking to you in a patronising manner, simply say: Ne me prends pas pour un lapin de six semaines.

Ouest France suggests that this is the ‘more elegant’ way to request that people don’t take you for a fool. It’s not offensive, but it might be a little old-fashioned. 

Alternatives

You can use the more basic version of this phrase – Ne me prends pas pour une idiote (don’t take me for a fool) or the slightly more punchy Ne me prends pas pour un con (don’t take me for a moron).

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