French expression of the Day: Pris pour un pigeon

French expression of the Day: Pris pour un pigeon
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond
One for the less streetwise among us.

Why do I need to know pris pour un pigeon? 

Because if you pay €8 for an espresso on the Champs-Elysées, this phrase likely applies to you.

What does it mean?

Pris pour un pigeon literally means ‘taken for a pigeon’ but its usage is the same as being scammed, duped, conned or taken for a fool.

If you have just been ripped off, the correct usage would be: on m’a pris pour un pigeon.

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According to several online dictionaries, the phrase comes from the 15th century and is also the root of the English word ‘duped’.

The story goes that a species of bird called the hoopoe (huppe) with magnificent crest feathers was common in Europe. When these beautiful feathers were plucked, the bird would be considered dé-huppé – which is where the French word dupé and the English duped come from.

Pigeons eventually became a symbol for the easily duped in France because they were far more common than huppes and did not possess the beautiful crest.

It is worth mentioning that being ‘taken for a pigeon’ is not the only bird-based insult in French. If you are the ‘le dindon de la farce’, it means you are the butt of the joke – or literally speaking, ‘the turkey of the farce’.

Use it like this

On m’a pris pour un pigeon – They have scammed me

Je me suis fait prendre pour un pigeon I have been scammed

Other alternatives

Je me suis fait roulé dans la farine – I have been fooled (literally, I have been rolled in flour)

Je me suis fait arnaqué – I have been ripped off

Je me suis fait escroqué – I have been scammed

Je me suis fait dupé – I have been duped 

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