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Avoir un poil dans la main and more French hand phrases

With the French women’s handball team beating Angola and Slovenia this weekend at the World Championships games, we look at three French expressions related to hands

Learn French words and expressions you may hear in the news today Pic: The Connexion

The French women’s handball team beat Angola and Slovenia in the World Championships preliminary round matches this weekend.

The match against Angola on Friday ended with a 30-20 win to the French.

The team then went on to beat Slovenia 29-18 on Sunday December 5.

They are due to play the remaining team in Group A, Montenegro, on December 7.

However, having won their first two matches in the preliminary round, they have already qualified for the main round, which will commence on December 9.

The World Championships this year are taking place in Spain.

The blues women’s team won a gold medal this year at the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games, which were postponed a year due to the coronavirus pandemic.

We look at three French expressions related to hands:

Avoir un poil dans la main (literally ‘to have a hair in your hand’):

This expression means to be very lazy.

It was coined in the 19th century and presents the idea that when somebody is lazy and does not use their hands very much, hair begins to grow on the palm as there is no friction to prevent it.

Mettre la main à la pâte (literally ‘to put your hand in the dough’):

This expression means to act, intervene or get involved personally.

In the 13th century, this expression was coined in the form of mettre la main (‘to put the hand’), the hand symbolising action.

The addition of the reference to dough, which came in the 14th or 15th century, is said to be an allusion to bakers, who must knead dough for a long time in order to get bread. It thus represents a significant effort.

The English equivalent of this expression might be ‘to get your hands dirty’.

Une main de fer dans un gant de velours (literally ‘an iron hand in a velvet glove’):

This expression presents the idea of something strong and harsh under a soft appearance. It is often used in relation to governments or people in positions of power.

Here, the iron represents harshness or coldness whereas the velvet represents softness and warmth.

The expression is often attributed to Jean-Baptiste Bernadotte, Marshal of the French Empire under Napoleon and later King of Sweden and Norway. During a meeting with the Count of Artois, he reportedly said “Il faut pour gouverner les Français une main de fer recouverte d’un gant de velours” (‘It is necessary to govern the French with an iron hand covered with a velvet glove’).

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