Elle m’a raconté une histoire à dormir debout.
el mah raa-kaw-tay ew nee-stwaa rah dore-meer duh-BOO. Click below to hear this.
She told me some cock-and-bull story.
Dormir debout means to sleep standing up, or in more figurative language, to fall asleep on one’s feet, which is another way of saying you’re exhausted. So you would be forgiven if you thought Elle m’a raconté une histoire à dormir debout meant that you were bored out of your gourd by her story.
You’d be forgiven, but you’d be wrong! An histoire à dormir debout is anything but boring. It could be the wildest tale you ever heard, but it’s not true. It’s a crazy, off-the-wall, completely implausible story, told as if it were true. The kind of story where an elephant and a kangaroo walk down the middle of the street, and the elephant reaches into the kangaroo’s pocket with his trunk and offers you a million dollars (or euros, or whatever). And then an eagle swoops down, grabs the money in its talons, and flies away. And that’s how you got this little scratch on your face, right here.
The only thing worse than that, as stories go, is a shaggy dog story. That’s a long complicated tale that ends in a terrible pun, a real groaner. But that’s a phrase for another day.
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