Joyeuses Pâques: 10 French sayings with bells and eggs

Easter traditions vary between countries and in France, like everywhere, a lot of chocolate is eaten. 

18 April 2019
By Selma Daddi

The traditional meal is leg of lamb (gigot d’agneau).

Easter egg hunts are popular on Sunday after the church bells ring. One nice French tradition is that of the ‘flying bells’ (cloches volantes) – meaning church bells do not ring between Good Friday and Easter Sunday. It is said they fly off to the Vatican to be blessed by the Pope - and come back with presents, usually chocolate.   

Not necessarily directly related to Easter but we thought fun – we look at 10 expressions in French using the words oeuf, cloche or poule

1/ Quelle cloche! (literally what a bell!)

It may sound funny but this is not something you want to hear. It generally refers to someone who is an idiot.

2/ Quelque chose qui cloche (literally something that bells)

This means something does not feel right. It comes from the verb clocher derived from the latin verb claudicare meaning to limp. If you limp, there is something wrong.

3/ Sonner les cloches de quelqu’un (to ring someone’s bells)

It means to tell off someone. You can also say ‘je me suis fait sonner les cloches’ if you are the person concerned. The expression comes from the fact bells are very loud. It is a metaphor for anger.

4/ Donner le même son de cloche (to give the same bell sound)

This means telling the same story as someone else. However, you can hear deux sons de cloches différents which mean you hear two different parts of a story.

Other similar expressions are ‘qui n’entend qu’une cloche n’entend qu’un son’ (whoever hears only one bell hears one sound) meaning a part of the story has not been told.

5/ Se taper la cloche (to hit someone’s bell)

It means to have a feast where you eat so much your head (the cloche) is full.

6/ Qui vole un oeuf vole un boeuf (who steals an egg steals a cow)

This means if someone can steal a small thing he can also steal more important things.

7/ On ne peut pas faire d’omelette sans casser des oeufs (we cannot make an omelette without breaking eggs)

This means you cannot accomplish something without making a sacrifice. This expression was introduced by French author Balzac in the 19th century.

8/ Se coucher avec les poules (to go to sleep with the chickens)

Chickens are known to sleep when the sun goes down so if someone sleeps with the chickens it means they go to sleep early. Sometimes you can also hear ‘se lever avec les poules’ (to get up with the chickens) which means to get up early.

9/ Maman poule or papa poule (mummy chicken or daddy chicken)

A mother or a father can be described like this when they are protective of their children.

10/ Nid de poule (chicken’s nest)

In French this can mean a chicken’s nest or…a pothole. In the city of Pau (Pyrénées-Atlantiques), the association Pau à Vélo is organising a photography contest of nids de poule (potholes) for Easter to highlight the bad state of the roads there. The best picture will be rewarded with a box of chocolates.

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