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peigner la girafe

“Peigner la girafe” is a fun little French expression that has the literal translation “to comb the giraffe”. This is an expression that has a meaning that’s impossible to guess. Here are some translations:

  • to twiddle your thumbs
  • to fiddle about doing nothing
  • to do busy work
  • to do a pointless task

Two English expressions which come close to peigner la girafe are:

  • chasing fireflies, and
  • flogging a dead horse

A French-to-French definition is “faire des choses inutiles“, to do useless things.

Here’s sample sentence:

  • Qu’est-ce que je fais aujourd’hui? Je suis occupé à ne rien faire! Je peigner la girafe. What am I doing today? I’m busy doing nothing. I’m twiddling my thumbs.

Another French expression is “faire ça ou peigner la girafe”, which means “we might as well be whistling in the wind”.

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David Issokson

David Issokson is a lifelong language enthusiast. His head is swimming with words and sounds as he speaks over six languages. Of all the languages he speaks, he's the most passionate about French! David has helped hundreds of students to improve their French in his private online lessons. When procrastinating working on his site,, David enjoys his time skiing and hiking in Teton Valley, Idaho.

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