C’est une vraie serpillière!
say tewn vray sair-pee-YAIR! Click below to hear this.
She’s a real doormat!
Here’s another of those wonderful convoluted sayings, where one meaning leads to another. If we follow the French, une serpillière is a mop, the kind you wash the floor with. But a mop (of hair) is une tignasse.
On the other hand, if we follow the English, a doormat–specifically, the welcome mat on your front porch–is un paillasson or un essuie-pieds. The first suggests that it is made of straw, since la paille is straw (not to be confused with hay, which is le foin and gets fed to the horses). The second literally means a wipe-feet, which is what a doormat is for, after all.
But a person who is une serpillière only figuratively gets feet wiped on him or her. It’s a person who gives in to everything, who allows him or herself to be pushed around, who never stands up for him or herself. The word can also mean a dishrag or floor rag. Can you imagine anything more limp or lowlier than that?
It’s a slang word, so you won’t want to bandy it about indiscriminately, but then we shouldn’t be calling people names indiscriminately, either. Maybe we need to help her acquire some self-respect.
Alternate audio file link: cest_une_vraie_serpilliere