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Trois pelés et un tondu and more French ‘three’ phrases

A clinic in Grenoble has seen the number of people requesting Covid tests triple in the last two weeks. We look at three French expressions using trois.

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

A doctor’s clinic in Grenoble has reportedly seen the number of patients looking to get Covid tests triple in the last two weeks.

A spokesperson for Médecins 7/7 told Franceblue that the clinic has also had to triple the team, is recruiting students to help out during the holidays and has recently hired more staff to help with the demand.

The spike in tests comes as pharmacies in the area are reportedly running out of self-testing kits.

Médecins 7/7 offer antigenic and PCR tests, as well as vaccines.

The government recommended on Friday (December 17) that people get tested before large end-of-year gatherings so the number of people requesting Covid tests is likely to increase even more.

Read more: Where and how can I take a Covid self-test before Christmas in France?

It comes equally as health advisors call for New Year Covid restrictions in France.

We look at three French expressions with trois:

Trois pelés et un tondu (literally ‘three peeled and one shorn’):

This expression is used to describe a poorly attended event or something that people do not give much importance to.

It is said to have derived from trois teigneux et un pelé, an expression used by the writer Rabelais in the 1532 novel Pantagruel. Teigneux would refer to somebody suffering from ringworm, la teigne, and pelé referred to a scoundrel. The adjective could have also referred to somebody suffering from la pelade – autoimmune alopecia – a disorder that causes hair to fall out.

Both adjectives thus had negative connotations, and referenced people who would be viewed as unclean and ostracised by society.

With time, the expression shifted from meaning ‘almost nobody’ in a derogatory sense (somebody of little value to society) to ‘almost nobody’ in a literal sense.

Haut comme trois pommes (literally ‘as tall as three apples’):

This expression refers to somebody who is short, especially children who are short for their age.

If you place three apples on top of each other, the resulting stack will not be very tall.

The expression began appearing in the early 20th century and was popularised by Belgian comics writer and artist Pierre Culliford, known as Peyo, who would say that his characters Les Schtroumpfs (The Smurfs) were ‘as tall as three apples’.

Ne pas casser trois pattes à un canard (literally ‘to not break three feet of a duck’):

This expression refers to something that is not out of the ordinary. An English expression with a similar meaning would be ‘nothing to write home about’.

Considering that ducks have only two legs, it would be miraculous to find a three-legged duck, and even more so to proceed to break all three legs.

One theory for the origins of the phrase says that canard was used to describe a lame horse. To break the remaining three legs would have required both extraordinary strength and courage, resulting in a remarkable feat.

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