May 19, 2008


A particularly delightful aspect of interacting with French people all the time is watching them gesticulate. These gestures are not scarce - most conversations are peppered with them. The Joly family demonstrates a few:

1. Attention: To communicate that someone is going to get it if they keep it up. Louise, Paule and Vincent give us various versions of this one.

2. Une vraie barbe: Used when someone is extremely tiresome, boring or irksome. Fabien does this well.

3. Avoir peur: This one is used to express when someone is scared.

4. Passer sous le nez: To describe how someone missed something entirely - that it passed right under their nose. Featuring Marie.

5. Voler: To steal or hide something away. Starring the lovely Xavier.

6. ...basically "Yeah right."

7. Verre dans le nez: Used to convey that someone has had too much to drink.

8. Barrons-nous | On se tire: let's get out of here...or used in the middle of a story to communicate that whoever is being spoken about left speedily.

9. J'en ai ras le bol: Used to communicate that you've had enough.

10. Qu'est-ce qu'il chante, là ?: Singing falsities...or another "Yeah right" sort-of gesture.


Julie said...


I should be sleeping, everyone else here is, but I was waiting for bread to finishing baking and was completely delighted by this post. It made me a bit giddy actually. The strange part about it: as I was watching all these lovely French people in your life demonstrate their French-ness, it was so clear to me what a winsome and wonderful person you are in their life. I'll explain more in an email but just know that I love you.

kell-bell said...

I am a sometimes visitor to your blog. I found it through Jared Stanley, a friend of my brother, Tom. Anyway...I loved this post, it explained so much! I watch old french movies by Marcel Pagnol, and this explains all the strange gestures. Your blog is so fun, thanks for sharing your experiences!

Emilie said...

kell-bell - i love jared stanley - we have many teenage memories together...and your brother isn't tom mildenhall, is he? well. in any case, i am very pleased that you read this from time to time. it makes me glad. like pollyanna.

Emilie said...

jules - thanks and i love you so bad.

Anonymous said...

What an awesome use of a blog. To share these gestures with others. My mom is French-Canadian (American), My dad is Italian-American.

So, you can imagine the peculiar mix of arm, face, shoulder, neck, and hand flailing that I was exposed to as a child. Lots of finger pinching and wrist action, to say the least. I’d be interested to see some of the more “colorful” gestures that the French displayed when I was there. Seems more pronounced in the urban areas, no?

This was very interesting. Thanks for sharing!

Emilie said...

indeed...this is the more toned-down version of french gestures... ;)

Anonymous said...

Just an added comment on the last one. My father would have said: "pisser dans un violon". To piss in a violin... admitedly useless gesture...
So fun to see all this.
Julie B.
This is my first time leaving a comment but I read your blog with great pleasure from time to time.

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