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French expression of the Day: Pris pour un pigeon

One for the less streetwise among us.

French expression of the Day: Pris pour un pigeon
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

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.

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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French Expression of the Day: Découvrir le pot aux roses

You might do this while gardening or while reading the tabloids.

French Expression of the Day: Découvrir le pot aux roses

Why do I need to know découvrir le pot aux roses?

Because if you enjoy celebrity gossip, then you probably will find good use for this phrase

What does it mean?

Découvrir le pot aux roses – pronounced day-coov-rear le pot-oh rose – literally translates to ‘to discover the pot of roses.’ 

You might use this expression when finding out about some exciting gossip or maybe when discovering what your partner secretly planned for your anniversary, as this phrase in actuality is what you would say when you learn something secret or hidden. 

In English, when discussing secrets, you might say someone has ‘spilled the beans’ or ‘let the cat out of the bag,’ but the French phrase is more about the person who has found out about the hidden item or truth, not the person who told it, as it ‘spill the beans’.

The origins of this French expression are not what you might expect, historically, the phrase has little to do with the flowers.

During the Middle Ages, the verb ‘découvrir’ had the meaning of ‘to lift a lid’ and at the time the phrase ‘pot aux roses’ referred to a small box that wealthy women used to store their perfumes, as well as their makeup. They often used these boxes to keep secrets, letters, or notes that they did not want others to stumble upon.

Use it like this

Pendant l’afterwork, Sarah a raconté à tout le monde les secrets les plus fous sur la vie privée du patron. Je ne comprends pas comment elle a réussi à découvrir le pot aux roses. – During the work happy hour, Sarah told us all about the wildest secrets of our boss’ personal life. I don’t understand how she managed to unearth that gossip.

Il a découvert le pot aux roses lorsqu’il s’est connecté à l’ordinateur de son colocataire pour regarder simplement son mail. – He discovered the secret when he logged onto his roommate’s laptop to just check his email.