Dictionary of Animal Names and Expressions Used Figuratively by Modern Francophone Authors: The French Bestiary

Author: Foley, Keith
The French language abounds in animal imagery and symbolism. No student of French vocabulary can fail to be struck by the extent to which animal names occur in its idioms, metaphors, proverbs and designations of entities belonging to other conceptual fields. From the leviathan whale to the humble earthworm and the majestic eagle to the irritant louse, a broad spectrum of creatures are pressed into service to lend expressiveness and colour to French written and spoken. A French Bestiary provides in an easily accessible dictionary format an exhaustive repertory of the figurative use of French animal names and exemplifies the expressions inventoried by quoting French and Francophone authors. The body of the text provides a conspectus of 325 headwords and 2255 meanings and expressions, arranged according to rigorous lexicographical principles and illustrated by nearly 4,500 citations. Each animal name forms the basis of an article. The headword is followed by a number of subdivisions, starting with zoological designation and ending with etymology. Some of all of the following intermediate subdivisions also appear: product and colour, human reference, non-human reference, idiom, proverb, compound. An index in English and scientific animal names is provided to facilitate cross reference.


“[This work is] invaluable not only as source material for language study, but as a spur to cultural thought … The present work goes well beyond ... to describe the ways human beings have mentally colonized the animal kingdom, to find there metaphors for noble characteristics they themselves aspire to have, or for degrading aspects the personalities of their fellow men and women demonstrate. This is the sort of book which some cultured human being will pick up on a book barrow a hundred years from now ... Keith Foley’s work on language has many uses and multiple applications, and certainly is based on a wide reading and a rich culture of his own ... It is a kind of guide book which will appeal to those who are happy to indulge in the curios of culture ... He helps unveil language as a repository of beliefs and habits of mind of other times and a coded reference to a culture which we assign to the past ... .At one level, it is an excellent lexicon, with lists of usages, and will be indispensable to anyone who wishes to deepen his knowledge of French ... .It is a reference work which is also a splendidly enlightening book for leisure reading.” – (from the Commendatory Preface) Professor Joseph Farrell, Department of Modern Languages, University of Strathclyde, Glasgow

“This work seeks to go well beyond existing more generalized works of reference for the English speaker in the categorization, explanation and exemplification of French linguistic usage relating to animals. ... All relevant technical terms are clearly explained. The reader, sampling the entries at random, has three responses. Firstly, there is admiration for the rigorous scholarship with which the entries have been complied and the firm, detailed guidance which they provide. Secondly, the enthusiasm of the compiler for French as a living language and his appreciation of its aptness and humour are transmitted and motivate to better acquaintance and further study. Thirdly, this study creates an awareness of the immense wealth of this particular aspect of French and of the importance for it of this relationship to the animal world and also, in a wider dimension, of the extra-ordinary suppleness and inventiveness of language as a human response to the perceived world. Thus, for the user seeking guidance, French Bestiary provides reliable and accurate information, for the browser there is endless pleasure and, such is the fascination exercised by this compilation, that the former will tarry and the latter will learn ... .” – Emeritus Professor Malcolm Pender, Department of Modern Languages, University of Strathclyde

“ ... Keith Foley’s guide to animal imagery as found in proverbs, popular sayings and works of literature fulfils admirably Horace’s dictum that a work should provide the reader with both instruction and pleasure. It is more than a vocabulary book, a specialist dictionary, it is a voyage of discovery along the high-ways and by-ways of French usage, learned, literary, popular, old and new. It will provide hours of pleasure to all those who appreciate the French language in its enviable richness.” – Professor Michael Freeman, Department of French, University of Bristol

Table of Contents

Abbreviations and Symbols
Appendix 1
Appendix 2
Summary Bibliography