Traditions - General Info Section

Weather related expressions in Colloquial French

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Most common colloquial expressions about the Weather

Weather is a topic of conversation that keeps coming back, especially at this time when the whole world is concerned with global warming or climate change.

Nobody can forget the extreme weather conditions, which now too often cause misery and chaos across the globe; destructive tornadoes, unprecedented and recurrent floods, strong winds and snow ...

France generally enjoys a temperate climate with a wide array of local variations, and a neat disparity between the north and the south.

The French language is, therefore, rich in amusing colloquial expressions related to the weather, and it appears that many of them refer to animals.

1 - Therefore, French people who are the most sensitive to cold will tell you that ils ont la chair de poule (hen-bumps in French, but goosebumps in English), or ils ont les poils qui se hérissent - have hair that stands on end.

They also use the latter to mean that they are getting scared or repulsed.

2 - If it rains abundantly, they’ tell you that il pleut des cordes (it's pouring strings) in other words it’s raining cats and dogs or it rains in buckets.

The cheeky ones will say (with a mischievous smile) that il pleut comme vache qui pisse (It’s raining like a pissing cow), very similar to the English it’s pissing down!

A rotten, wet, gray, cold and cloudy day will be labelled as un temps de chien (dog weather)!

The origin of this expression is unknown, but I don’t think that nowadays many people would let their dog outside in the pouring rain!

The weather have also given rise to colloquial expressions related to relationship.

3 - Thus, by extrapolation, those who feel almighty and superior will tell you that ils peuvent faire la pluie ou le beau temps (they can make rain or shine) - call the shots.

4 - Thunder is also a good source of inspiration, and if vous vous attirez les foudres de quelqu’un (attract thunder and lightning), you simply attract someone's wrath.

5 - But if you have experience, you can tell your interlocutor that vous n’êtes pas né de la dernière pluie - (you have not dropped with the latest rain) in other words that you were not born yesterday.

Let’s go back to the weather!

6 - When the temperatures dip below zero, a lot of French will complain that il fait un froid de canard (duck cold) when they mean that it’s freezing cold.

Those with a dramatic sense of humour will assure you that il gèle à pierre fendre (the stones crack under the effect of cold).

I doubt anyone has ever witnessed such severe weather condition in France, but the expression is still very much in use!

6 - The wind is not left out, and also gave rise to a few amusing expressions.

French will tell you that il y a du vent dans les voiles (winds in the sails) meaning there is a roll.

This expression can be also used to tease people who had a glass too many and can’t walk in a straight line.

7 - One of my favourite expressions dates from the 19th century, il vente à décorner les boeufs (a wind strong enough to 'de-horn' oxen), and describes a howling wind/gale.

8 - And of course, don't forget that Qui sème le vent récolte la tempête - As you sow so you shall reap.

9 - But as it is always better to end on a positive note, I would say that après la pluie vient le beau temps (after the rain comes the sun), in particularly in the south of France where il fait (often) un soleil de plomb (a leaden sun) - or blazing sun - a scorcher day during summer.

10 - Finally I hope that vous avez le vent en poupe (have the wind aft), that you are on the rise and have every success you deserve!

Until next time, for a another French colloquial expression!

Have you read our article on How to say Stupid in colloquial French?

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