You know those people who win the lottery twice? The colourful French expression avoir le cul bordé de nouilles definitely applies to them! Find out what it means, how and when to use it, and most importantly, when NOT to use it! Here’s the ultimate guide!
To have the ass lined with noodles.
To be very lucky.
Avoir beaucoup de chance.
The Story Behind It
There are no two ways about it: this expression is a shocker. And unless you have the a** lined with noodles yourself, it’d be pretty tough to guess what this idiom means! Now, who invented it, why would they, and frankly, did they ever recover? These are but a few of the questions I asked myself when I first encountered avoir le cul bordé de nouilles.
Let’s begin with the word cul, the French argot (slang) for “ass.” Though it’s unclear why, the French have long associated rear ends with luck. In fact, avoir le cul bordé de nouilles is based on the snappier avoir du cul (literally, “to have some ass”), which also links bottoms to good fortune.
Funnily enough, cul spelled backwards is luc(k) in English. How’s that for a coincidence?
But I suppose the burning question is: what’s up with the noodles?! ?
There are several theories, all of which remain speculative, and at least one of which would raise eyebrows and possibly put you off pasta for life. (You’ve been warned!)
- The first story brings us to the French city of Marseille, “Pays d’exagération” (Land of Exaggeration) and just a short drive from Italy, “Pays des pâtes” (Land of Pasta). Legend goes that, in the 1930s, a marseillais jokester put an Italian spin on avoir du cul by adding pasta to the mix, and voilà!
- There’s also the less palatable, R-rated theory involving sodomy, hemorrhoids, and power plays between men. The belief was that performing homosexual acts as favours bought one a certain degree of power necessary for surviving in tough, male-only environments (for example, prison). Autrement dit, they made you seem lucky. However, when sodomy was involved, they could also lead to piles, which some very imaginative minds then likened to noodles. (If you’re an advanced student and insatiably curious, I’ll let you do your own supplementary reading here.)
Now, in case you didn’t catch it from the presence of the word cul, the expression avoir le cul bordé de nouilles is very informal. Like “ass” in English, cul is used in daily language. But make no mistake, it remains vulgar. So this is an expression you should leave off your French exam paper, perhaps spare Mamie (grandma) from hearing, and instead reserve for very casual conversations. In a formal or semi-formal environment, stick to something like être chanceux or avoir de la chance.
- To be born under a lucky star. * This suggests being lucky one’s whole life.
- To have all the luck in the world. l.
- To be a lucky devil. * Familier
- To be a lucky bastard / a lucky bitch. * Vulgaire
- Être chanceux.
- Avoir de la veine. * Familier
- Être veinard. * Familier
- Avoir du bol / du pot / du cul. * Argotique (Bol, pot, and cul all mean “ass” in French slang.)
- Avoir la baraka. * Familier
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