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French phrase of the day: Ca me fait une belle jambe

The French phrase of the day is 'ça me fait une belle jambe'.
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond
When a French person says their leg looks beautiful, they’re not trying to show off.

Why do I need to know ça me fait une belle jambe?

It’s important to know that this is not an invitation to judge your friends’ legs.

What does it mean?

It’s literally, “That makes my leg look beautiful”, but there is more than a little irony in the way it’s used today. It’s an idiom used to describe something that serves no purpose, where in English we might say, “A fat lot of good that does me”.

It’s usually a response to a statement – which could be a piece of information, or a compliment – that doesn’t interest you in the slightest, or has no practical impact.

You can also replace me with another pronoun, such as ça lui fait une belle jambe – fat lot of good that does him/her.

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The expression supposedly owes its existence to male fashion trends in 16th-century Europe, when men began adopting clothes that hugged their legs and showed off their shape. Hence the wearers displayed their belle jambe, and were free to strut their stuff.

In the 17th century, the expression “çela ne me rendra pas la jambe mieux faite” – that won’t make my leg any prettier – appeared to describe unflattering clothes, and by extension anything that was of no use.

The negative form was later dropped, perhaps in a bout of sarcasm, or maybe it simply reflected the fact that men were no longer bothered about showing off their legs.

Use it like this

Après mon entretien ils m’ont dit que j’étais deuxième sur la liste d’attente. Ca me fait une belle jambe – After my interview they told me I was second on the waiting list. A fat lot of good that does me

La chanteuse a présenté ses excuses après avoir annulé le concert, ce qui fait une belle jambe aux fans qui se sont déplacés pour la voir – The singer apologised after cancelling the concert, which does nothing for the fans who came out to see her


Member comments

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  1. Bonjour
    Cela n’est pas bien écrit : cela no cédille (ç) needed. C + e = ce. C + a = ça (pronunciation sa)

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