petite anglaise

November 17, 2004

losing my teeth

Filed under: Uncategorized — petiteanglaiseparis @ 4:25 pm

I seem to have teeth on the brain at the moment. Tadpole is simultaneously cutting a few molars, with the usual accompaniment of unpleasant nappies (why the two are connected I have never managed to establish) and puts up as good a fight as ever when I try to approach her with a baby toothbrush before bedtime. As for me, I keep having that recurring dream where all my teeth come loose and I spit copious amounts of blood and several teeth into the bathroom sink. A dream which is allegedly not related to anxiety about requiring a set of premature dentures, but in fact can be interpreted as relating to children. According to this website, dreams about losing teeth are actually quite common and tend to be triggererd by one of the following scenarios:

  • I’m approaching the menopause and will no longer be able to have children (unlikely at 32, and I’ve been having this dream since puberty);
  • I have a physical problem leading to an inability to have children (not that I know of, thank goodness, I wouldn’t mind another Tadpole at some stage);
  • I’m not feeling capable of raising a child (does anyone ever feel really confident in their ability as a parent?);
  • my child is ready to leave the nest (possibly a bit premature at 17 months, even if she is a bit precocious);
  • I want a child but my partner doesn’t (n/a unless the Frog is keeping something very important from me);
  • or, I am in a situation (at work, for example) where I cannot assert myself and am feeling frustrated. (I don’t think my boss would agree with that one. Not being assertive enough has never come up in my evaluations. Quite the opposite).

So, sorry to disappoint, but I remain convinced that my brain works in far less mysterious ways and this dream is in fact my unconscious mind’s way of reminding me that I really must get around to making an appointment for my annual dental check up.

In the French language, the word ‘tooth’ crops up in several rather colourful figures of speech, some of which I rather like because of the images they call to mind.

An ambitious person is said to have long teeth (avoir les dents longues), while an extremely ambitious person has teeth which scratch the floor (les dents qui rayent le parquet). Presumably ambitious people ought to look something like bugs bunny. I’d be interested to hear where this association between teeth and ambition comes from, andwhether it crops up in any other languages. I don’t think ambition is associated with any part of the human anatomy in English?

Negative uses of the word ‘tooth’ in French include the phrase ‘to bear a grudge’, which translates as to ‘have a tooth (against somebody)’. To ‘be scathing’ in French, you ‘are hard toothed’ (avoir la dent dure).

The Frog’s favourite threat when I do something naughty is: ‘je vais te faire voler les dents.’ What a charmer. No wonder I fell for him.


  1. speaking of teeth, have you given any thought (although you won’t really need it for another four years or so, so “no” is a perfectly fine answer heh) as to if the Tadpole will be visited by the tooth fairy or la petite souris?

    I must admit, the idea of a mouse stealing teeth from under one’s pillow creeps me out to no end. I don’t want to even think of a mouse in my apartment, not to mention like a mere inch away from my face. Of course, then if the kid goes to school saying “the fairy took my tooth” then there’s the risk of some kid responding with “it’s a mouse, STUPID.”

    yes, I think of these things already, and any hybrid children of ours are purely hypothetical at this point. I can only imagine the whirlpool of thoughts the day one may pop into existence…

    Comment by kim — November 17, 2004 @ 5:26 pm

  2. I used to have ambition, but now I’m too long in the tooth.

    Comment by Tim — November 17, 2004 @ 6:18 pm

  3. jolie menace de Mr Frog, j’ai ete habituee pendant longtemps a: “Si tu continue, j’te pete les dents”. Un peu similaire. Une variance: “J’te casse un doigt” a choisir je prefere la derniere.

    Comment by emilie [mimile] — November 17, 2004 @ 7:01 pm

  4. Long teeth refers to the fang like teeth (canine in french). So supposidely, ambitious people look more like wolves than bunnies

    Comment by Blaise — November 17, 2004 @ 8:24 pm

  5. Kim – conundrums like the toothmouse/fairy have me seriously worried. Good job I have five years to mull that one over. Maybe it depends where you are when you lose them?

    Tim – VERY clever boy

    Comment by petite — November 17, 2004 @ 8:41 pm

  6. I read this post and thought I was reading a mirror (or whatever the right phrase is). Our smallest, a month older than Tadpole, is also teething and she is stinking up the house with unholy bowel movements. But even freakier is that I had the “losing teeth” dream last week too – they were just falling out of my mouth – and it was driving me insane as to its meaning. Not sure any of the reasons you’ve found apply. My dream may have applied to our older kid – all of 30 months old – as he’s recently chipped a couple of molars and a dentist visit is pending for him.

    Comment by Chris P. — November 17, 2004 @ 9:29 pm

  7. petite
    i think your recurring dream (loose teeth, spitting out copious amounts of blood) simply comes from your desire to find meaning in your life (mundane job) by joining your local FIGHT CLUB – Paris expat branch!

    But i’m not going to sign this cos I don’t want you to find me and give me a black eye or a knuckle sandwich (or a bunch of fives) or a chinese burn

    Comment by Anonymous — November 17, 2004 @ 10:48 pm

  8. I’ll take you on. Friday. Lunchtime. In front of the office. If. You. Dare.

    Comment by petite — November 17, 2004 @ 11:27 pm

  9. This doesn’t quite fit, but in American English at least, balls (male genitalia) can describe a brave/brash/ambitious person. As in “he/she’s got balls” for doing something. Or he/she is “ballsy”. Most often heard in a negative tone although it can be said in an admiring way too.

    Comment by Anna — November 18, 2004 @ 12:42 am

  10. The reason for the messy nappies is from the amount of post nasal drip that they get. I’ve had three kids go through the teething stages and it inevitably amounts to runny noses which then end up in messy nappies.

    Comment by Paul Hoch — November 18, 2004 @ 1:22 am

  11. that’s my only recurring dream! been having it on and off for years. sigh.

    Comment by Little Flower — November 18, 2004 @ 6:42 am

  12. Neither Dutch nor Italian link teeth with ambition. The Dutch do tie it to forwardness, however. If you have hairy teeth then you’re definitely not shy. On the other hand, if you have a mouth full of teeth, then you’re having trouble saying anything.

    If you were naughty in Dutch, I’d paste you up behind the wallpaper.

    Comment by Sierra — November 18, 2004 @ 12:56 pm

  13. I have the same dream… Perdre mes dents… :neutral:

    Comment by wiLLoØ — November 18, 2004 @ 1:11 pm

  14. Petite – I was wondering if maybe you could help me out. I know some french, but I am dying to learn the language. One small project in this learning process is: I want to be able to talk dirty to my fiance….would you be willing to sned me a few good phrases or sentences or anything (maybe with a few phonetics next to the words) so I can learn them and practice them on him? Please!!! My fiance has been asking me to cuss him out in french for soo long, but I can’t pronouce the words as beautifully as someone who knows the language. HELP!

    Comment by Faye — November 18, 2004 @ 5:24 pm

  15. “Avoir les dents longues” signifiait autrefois “avoir faim”. De là est venu le sens “faim d’argent ou de pouvoir”. “Un jeune loup” désigne aussi un ambitieux, surtout “un jeune loup aux dents longues” !
    Parmi les expressions imagées “quand les poules auront des dents” signifie “jamais”.

    Comment by Silence — November 18, 2004 @ 6:49 pm

  16. faye – a post on talking dirty in French is being drafted especially for you (with a pronunciation guide!)

    silence – ah yes, and pigs might fly and chicken might have teeth. I’ll probably do a post on the different sayings involving animals because I can think of loads of lovely examples of those..

    thanks guys, lots of new material and I didn’t even have to rack my brains

    Comment by petite — November 18, 2004 @ 7:59 pm

  17. “Avoir les dents longues”.
    I don’t know why but it evokes me former French President Mitterrand. He is supposed to have filed (?) his canines.

    Comment by Anonymous — November 19, 2004 @ 9:46 am

  18. More than once I have dreamt of waking up with a mouthful of gravel… To remember it still weirds me out actually…

    How is this relevant I hear you ask??

    Because both times it has happened it has been because the composite caps on my front teeth have cracked and broken in my sleep… Gah…

    Comment by deeleea — November 19, 2004 @ 12:47 pm

  19. Know the dream, know the poo as well. How uncanny. German has a phrase that goes “die Zähne ausbeissen” (to bite out the teeth) which means to have a go at something with utmost determination. However, my dream doesn’t seem to involve blood or teeth-gnashing in blind ambition. They just crumble and fall out in a “shit happens” kind of way, which brings us full circle to the poo problem.

    Comment by David — November 19, 2004 @ 12:48 pm

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