Secrets to sounding like a native: demystifying French expressions – Part 4

Coralie L'Enfant, 8/10/12

This article is in English. Click here to read it in French. 

So you don’t really understand classic French expressions? Not to worry, My French Life are here to dissect and help you understand the expressions anchored in the language of Molière.

Have fun discovering just how beautiful the French language is to speak and listen to. Get to know the richness of French vocabulary with its food-inspired expressions. You’ll be surprised to find that we don’t only find them in La Fontaine fables. Master these anecdotal sayings, their meanings and their origins so you can impress all your friends with your wisdom at dinner parties.

Mettre son grain de sel (literally ‘put in your grain of salt’)

You should know that this expression has a negative connotation. Here, the ‘grain of salt’ should be accepted as interfering, without invitation, in a discussion or situation. Its figurative meaning refers to giving, or imposing, even, one’s opinion. This twentieth century expression is related to the salt of the mind. Indeed, the salt of the mind spices up the conversation, just as table salt adds to the taste of food.

But why only one grain? In the Middle Ages salt was a luxury. As proof, there was a tax on salt known as the Salt Tax¹. Consequently, the French used it sparingly, hence the singular grain in this expression.

Equivalent English expression: ‘Put in your two cents worth’.

Translation by Emily Arbuckle.
References :
1. Gabelle du Sel, Wikipedia

Illustration by Coralie L’Enfant

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Coralie L'Enfant

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  1. Fitz Nov 29, 2012 at 9:22 AM - Reply

    En Australie, je crois que ceux de la génération de mon père (et peut-être moi aussi à qui l’expression avait été transmise,évidemment)disaient “Get in your two bobs’ worth” (un “bob” étant de l’ancienne monnaie [avant février 1966]et signifiant un “shilling” ou dix cents australiens. Donc, il semble qu’on offrît un peu plus qu’on offre aujourd’hui. MDR.

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