Watching French television the other night, a woman wore a t-shirt that said:
40 balais, la frite
This directly translates to “forty brooms, the chip”. Any idea what that means? It sounds as though it’s related to a long session of sweeping a single thin slice of fried potato.
It means something entirely different.
In French “balais” officially means “broom”, but it can also be used as a slang word for “years” for reasons that I’m sure I’ll never discover. Meanwhile, “la frite” can be used like some other food substances to convey feelings. For example, “J’ai la pêche” means “I have the peach” or, as we’d say it in English, “I’m peachy”, which actually means “I have lots of energy” when the French use it. Other food substitutions include “J’ai la banane” (“I have the banana” or “I’m smiling”) and “J’ai la patate” (“I have the potato” or “I’m happy”). Okay, the banana makes sense, but a potato? Really? Anyway, it’s also possible to say “J’ai la frite” to say “I’m happy”.
So, if you put it all together, “40 balais, la frite” actually means “Forty years old and happy”.
And the French wonder why it takes us foreigners so long to learn the language…