French people love using idiomatic expressions to express their ideas. Especially when it refers to emotions such as irritation or agitation.
That’s why when someone is turning something really simple into something complicated, we gently remind them that at 2 pm, noon is gone.
Example: Je te dis que c’est bien, pourquoi tu cherches midi à 14h?!
I’m telling you it’s fine, why are you overcomplicating things?
This expression emerged around the XVIth century under the form “chercher midi à onze heures” (look for noon at 11 am). Since noon is easily identifiable during the day, we use this reference to show the nonsense of looking for something where it is surely not.
2. The expression J’en ai ras-le-bol
To express their discontent, French people commonly use a handful of expressions. Among the informal “J’en ai assez” or “J’en ai marre”, you can also find “J’en ai ras le bol”.Although the literal translation doesn’t mean so much in English, the meaning would be “I’m fed up!” or “I’m sick of it!”.
Example: Il n’arrête pas de pleuvoir, j’en ai ras le bol! It never stops raining, I’m sick of it!
The origin of the expression would find its roots in the early XXth century. It would be associated to the Renaissance former meaning of “bol” which was “anus”… Who said that French was the most poetic language?
3. The expression Être dans de beaux draps
Although this expression sounds lovely at first, the meaning actually differs. It relies on a figure of speech called “antiphrase” which implies the use of irony to understand it properly. When someone uses this expression, it doesn’t indicate anything good but that you are in trouble or in an unpleasant situation.
Example: J’ai oublié mes clés. On est vraiment dans de beaux draps !
I forgot my keys. Now we’re really in trouble.
In the Middle Ages, “sheets” would refer to “clothes” and we would say “to be in beautiful white bedsheets”. It used to describe a shameful situation. Back at that time, people found guilty of adultery would wear this color to bring their darkness out. Today the white aspect disappeared from the expression but the meaning stays the same.
4. The expression En faire tout un fromage
This expression is the equivalent of: “to make a mountain out of a molehill” with a little bit of French touch. We use it when someone is exaggerating the importance of something trivial. When they are blowing something out of proportion.
Example: N’en fais pas tout un fromage, je pense que tu prends son commentaire trop à coeur!
Don’t make a mountain out of a molehill, I think you’re taking his comment too personally.
To understand this locution we need to set up the context. Born in the early XXth century, this idiom relies on the process of doing cheese. Starting from an element as plain as animal’s milk, we are able to create something as sophisticated and complex as cheese.