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French Expression of the Day: Avoir des oursins dans les poches

French Expression of the Day: Avoir des oursins dans les poches
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond
This painful-sounding expression is both comic, poetic and useful. Stick it in your phrasebook!

Why do I need to know avoir un oursin dans sa poche?

Because we all know someone with short arms and deep pockets.

What does it mean?

Literally, avoir un oursin dans sa poche (pronounced “av-wah un or-san don sah posh”), means “to have a sea urchin in your pocket”. 

It is used to describe someone who is unwilling to spend money – particularly on others. The idea is that if you had a spiky sea urchin in your pocket, you would be unlikely to reach inside to take out your wallet. 

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See also on The Local:

It is unclear exactly where the expression comes from. 

Sea urchins are also known by two other charming names in French: hérisson de mer (sea hedgehog)  and châtaigne de mer (sea chestnut) 

Use it like this 

Michel ne m’a pas acheté un cadeaux de noël. Il a des oursins dans les poches – Michel did not buy me a Christmas present. He is stingy. 

Tu n’as jamais payer ton tour au bar. T’as des oursins dans les poches – You never paid your round at the bar. You are tight with money. 

Synonyms

Être avare

Être une pince 

Être pingre


Member comments

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  1. Oh please Check the grammar mistakes

    1- Michel ne m’a pas acheté un cadeaux mon dieu! Un cadeau. No X. Plural des cadeaux de noël.

    
2- Non non ! Tu n’as jamais payer not l’infinitif !
    Tu as payé. Passé composé. Exemples: ‘Tu as terminé’ l’article dans The Local?
    http://www.frenchwithsimone.com

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