“Good foot good eye”
In the Middle Ages, the expression “de bon œil” was used, which meant “with frankness”. Then, from the 16th to the 17th century, we used “go on the right foot” to say that we were walking at a good pace. At the end of the 17th century, it was necessary to “have a good foot and a good eye” to be vigilant, not to be surprised, an expression in which the “good foot” symbolizes stability and speed and the “good eye”, the piercing sight. .
Today, having “good feet and good eyes” therefore means that one is in good health and that one remains lively, despite age.
“To have your back full”
” I’m fed up ! This expression, often used in a figurative sense, translates the fatigue, even the fed up that one experiences in such and such a situation. Its origins go back to the beginning of the 19th century, based on a euphemism where the term back replaces the term “ass” to make the expression less obscene. Indeed, “seeing your ass full” dates back to the 16th century and is used as a means of expressing one’s fed up in a vulgar way.
We find the expression in Émile Zola, in “Pot-Bouille” (1882): “Look, is this a life? Never a farthing, always remain in affront about the slightest nonsense. Oh my back is full! »
” Mouth watering “
“Mouth-watering” means “salivating over food” and, by extension, being tempted by something. Attested as early as the 16th century, the original expression was “to make your mouth water”. It was based on the simple fact that talking about a good dish was enough to trigger salivation.
From the 18th century, Diderot’s “Encyclopédie” evokes the fact that fever considerably kills the horse. The expression has been applied to humans since the 19th century, to characterize a high fever. But that’s totally unfounded. The horse does not have a more spectacular fever than the man. The expression is rather probably born of the fear of losing his horse, then his main work companion in the fields. A real disaster for peasant families with very modest resources.
“Ants in the legs”
The expression could have been inspired by the surgeon Ambroise Paré who, in the 16th century, had described parts of the body that swarm and itch, as if there were ants. Since the 19th century, it has also been used by extension when referring to someone impatient to act, to move…
“The spleen in court-bouillon”
“No need to put your spleen in court-bouillon! The sentence is outdated, but says what it means. Recent compared to the expressions of this anthology, it has been used since the beginning of the 20th century to evoke worry or anxiety. On the other hand, it draws its origin from the origins of medicine. According to Hippocrates, the spleen emitted black bile, a source of melancholy and depression. It’s wrong. On the other hand, what is true is that anxiety disrupts the proper functioning of the digestive system, of which the spleen is a part. Anyway, we prefer to say today: “No need to take the lead”.
” Take to one’s heels “
Born in the 17th century in the form of “taking your legs on your collar”, this expression meant that you decided to go on a trip. It actually refers to what you took with you, such as your toiletries, clothes or foodstuffs, and which you carried in luggage, often worn over the shoulder at the time (and whose strap goes therefore near the neck). The custom was to say, in a colorful and humorous way, that you should not forget to take your legs, especially if you had to leave in a hurry and run. No need to draw a picture: nowadays, “running around” indicates a race where these two parts of the body would be aligned thanks to the speed with which one would run away.
The expression was attested in its current form by the novelist and lexicographer Antoine Furetière (1619-1688), member of the French Academy.
The origins of the expression which means to have a coquard, the hematoma that one has after having taken a blow in the eye, are not obvious.
Appearing in its current formulation in the 19th century, the initial expression was “to have a black eye poached”. We then called “black butter” the butter which had browned during cooking and which at the same time colored the white of an egg cooked on the dish. The eye would therefore be compared to yellow, and the hematoma to white. We find this very evocative expression in the “Quart Livre” by Rabelais, the humanist writer of the Renaissance, in 1552: “He remained dazed and bruised, one eye poached in black butter. »
“Skinny as a nail”
This is what is commonly said of a person who is extremely thin, which may be the consequence of a pathology. In the 18th century, people were said to be “as fat as a hundred nails”. The nails were then sold in packs of one hundred. It was in the 19th century that the expression intended to be humorous evolved, comparing the body to a single nail.
It is also said to be “skinny as a cuckoo”. On the other hand, the 19th century expression, “thin as a pickled herring”, is no longer really used.