La chair de poule and more French hen expressions

An association in Brittany is offering 20,000 hens for adoption. We look at French expressions related to the animal

Learn French words and expressions you may hear in the news today

An association in Morbihan is offering nearly 20,000 hens for adoption to save them from going to slaughter.

Les Caquetteuses was entrusted with the mission by the company PouleHouse, which sells organic and free-range eggs.

Due to a drop in productivity, many hens are sent to be slaughtered around the age of 18 months, although they can often live up to 10 years.

‘Don't wait any longer! Adopt and give a new life to one or more chickens!’ the appeal reads.

Around 2,000 hens have already been adopted.

The association organises collections in different locations in Brittany. To attend, potential adopters need to fill out a form indicating their details and how many hens they are looking to adopt.

We look at three expressions related to hens:

La chair de poule (literally ‘the flesh of a hen’):

To have la chair de poule means to have goosebumps.

The expression was originally a medical term in the 17th century but entered common language soon after.

The term chair referred to skin, which was thought to resemble that of a plucked chicken when someone is cold, afraid or moved and their hairs stand on end, creating little bumps on the skin.

Une poule n’y retrouverait pas ses poussins (literally ‘a hen wouldn’t find her chicks there’):

This expression is used to describe a state of disorder.

Hens are known to be very motherly and to always be in close proximity with their chicks. For a hen not to be able to find her chicks somewhere would therefore indicate a state of chaos.

Avoir la bouche en cul de poule (literally ‘to have your mouth like a hen’s arse’):

This expression means to pout. It is the equivalent of the English ‘duck face’.

When somebody presses their lips together to form a circle, it is thought to resemble a hen’s bottom.

The expression dates to at least the 19th century with the dictionary Trésor de la langue française noting that it was used in 1878 by Edmond Goncourt in the Goncourt Journal.

It likely derived from the 17th century expression faire le cul de poule (‘to do the hen’s ass’), which at the time meant to join all fingertips together, closing one’s hand.

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