The way we describe the world is a reflection of the way we see it. As a result, we often glean a clearer picture of a culture from the way the natives describe their world. It’s because language mirrors society – expressions reveal what’s important to the people who say them. This simple fact explains why the Tamilese tongue has over fifty words for love while the Chinese language doesn’t conjugate its verbs – one culture is obsessed with the subtleties of emotion and the other values efficiency.
Coming out of the season of romance, we were brought back to the culture known for love and the language that conveys it – French. There is an airiness infused into the rise and fall in every word and a blunt humor in every idiom. Visualizing these colloquial sentiments creates whimsical imagery in ways both good and bad. But even in the profanities there is beauty.
So what if we spoke like that – translated their expressions into English and used them to describe our world? We picked out our favorite French idioms, illustrated them, and depicted their direct translation below. Can we take that French je ne sais quoi with us, oui ou non?
To throw plans on a comet
To make plans on something uncertain
To arrive like a hair on a soup
To arrive at the most awkward moment possible
To have a spider on the ceiling
To have a screw loose
To call a cat a cat
To call it how it is
To not know which foot to dance on
To not know what to do
A strike of lightning
Love at first sight
To look for a little beast
Doodles by Anna Weidman.