The French phrase "J'ai une mémoire de poisson rouge"

You are in the right place to learn all the things you want to know about the basic idiom “J’ai une mémoire de poisson rouge”.

Including a complete definition of what it mean and how to use it in a dialogue with an audio example. Not to mention the cool things we sprinkled like synonym, dialogue example, slow pronunciation audio and more!

Finally, on this page you can find our others idioms guides and all our tutorials about French words on this page. Ready to learn? C’est parti ! (Let’s go!)

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Translation in English

Pronunciation

Slow pronunciation

Normal pronunciation

What does it mean?

Definition

The literal meaning is:

  • J’ai → I have
  • une → a
  • mémoire → memory
  • de → of
  • poisson rouge → goldfish

 

This popular expression basically means “To have a bad memory“. But why the goldfish comparison?

Because a common cliché says they have only a few seconds of memory, which had been proved false, but the cliché remains… what an injustice!

How to use

If you want to apologize for your bad memory, use: “Désolé, j’ai une mémoire de poisson rouge” (Sorry, I have a goldfish’s memory). But if you want to taunt someone with a terrible memory, use instead: “Tu as une mémoire de poisson rouge !” (You have a goldfish memory!).

Fun facts

Looking for the antonym of this expression? We have it too! And it’s: “Avoir une mémoire d’éléphant” → To have an elephant’s memory.

It refers to elephants because they are known to have an excellent memory. They can travel very long distances and then remember them. They can also recognize human beings and remember years later people who mistreat them.

Synonyms and similarities

  • Avoir une mémoire de poisson rouge → To have a goldfish’s memory (Infinitive)
  • Tu as une mémoire de poisson rouge → You have a goldfish’s memory
  • Vous avez une mémoire de poisson rouge → You have a goldfish’s memory (Formal and/or plural)
  • Nous avons une mémoire de poisson rouge → We have a goldfish’s memory
  • Il a une mémoire de poisson rouge → He has a goldfish’s memory
  • Elle a une mémoire de poisson rouge → She has a goldfish’s memory
  • Ils ont une mémoire de poisson rouge → They have a goldfish’s memory (Masculine and neutral)
  • Elles ont une mémoire de poisson rouge → They have a goldfish’s memory (Feminine)

Antonyms:

  • Avoir une mémoire d’éléphant → To have an elephant’s memory (Infinitive)
  • Tu as une mémoire d’éléphant → You have an elephant’s memory
  • Vous avez une mémoire d’éléphant → You have an elephant’s memory (Formal and/or plural)
  • Nous avons une mémoire d’éléphant → We have an elephant’s memory
  • Il a une mémoire d’éléphant → He has an elephant’s memory
  • Elle a une mémoire d’éléphant → She has an elephant’s memory
  • Ils ont une mémoire d’éléphant → They have an elephant’s memory (Masculine and neutral)
  • Elles ont une mémoire d’éléphant → They have an elephant’s memory (Feminine)

Example in a story with slow French audio

Now, let’s see a complete example of this expression in a story with slow French audio and the English translation below.
Loading...
Rencontrer un voisin
Meet a neighbor
___
Un jour, quelqu’un frappa à la porte de Joe.
One day, someone knocked on Joe’s door.
Il ouvrit et vit une jeune femme.
He opened and saw a young woman.
Isabelle:   Bonjour ! Je suis désolée de vous déranger…
Hello! I’m sorry to bother you…
Joe:   Bonjour… Hmm, on se connaît ?
Hello… Hmm, do we know each other?
Isabelle:   Oui, je suis la voisine d’en bas, on s’est rencontrés deux fois.
Yes, I’m the neighbor from downstairs, we met twice.
Joe:   Ah oui c’est vrai… hmm…tu es…
Oh that’s right… hmm… you’re…
Joe fronça les sourcils en essayant de se souvenir de son prénom…
Joe frowned, trying to remember her name…
Elle dit doucement :
She said softly:
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