This one goes to the greedy ones. No, we’re just kidding! Welcome to “Expressions bien de chez nous” and get ready for this new ride! Like every week, we’ll give you the tools to understand this expression and its origins!
How did this expression originate?
A car that rolls on a golden road? This is the image that can come to one’s mind since in French “rouler” has multiple meanings and one of them is “to drive”. However, this doesn’t correspond to the history of this expression.
“Rouler sur l’or” comes from the evolution of a XVII century expression that became popular in the XVIII century: “ se rouler sur l’or”. Imagine you roll over the grass. This is the intention the expression has. Gold (l’or) used to be (and still is) a symbol of wealthyness, so the person who can roll from left to right in a lot of gold is someone considered as very rich.
What does this expression mean?
We already mentioned the word wealthiness, so you can now imagine what it means. Exactly! If people have the chance to roll in money it means they don’t lack money, they don’t have financial issues.
Some examples of its use
You’re hanging out with your friends but you notice one of them has not been present at the last gatherings. You start asking about him and nobody gives you any information, except for one of them who says “il roule dans l’or maintenant” and “that’s why we don’t see him very often”. You start doubting your friend until you see him the next day in a very luxurious car.
This expression can be used to indicate the possession of a lot of money, but also to comment on the situation of someone who’s not having a great time, financially. Imagine you have a cousin who has been struggling because she no longer lives with her parents and hasn’t found a job yet. She calls you and asks you if you can lend her some money and since you know her situation you don’t doubt it one second. The next day you tell this to one of your friends and you say “I couldn’t leave her like that, especially since now “elle ne roule pas sur l’or”. Here we express the lack of money when using the phrase in its negative form.
Let’s take the example of the book Pot bouille d’Emile Zola, when he says “je l’ai rencontrée et je n’ai pas pu lui refuser la main… d’autant plus qu’elle ne roule pas sur l’or la pauvre fille.” (E. Zola : Pot bouille)
Let us know if you know an equivalent expression in other languages! Thanks for reading!
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