Haut comme trois pommes

French expressions analyzed and explained

Expression: Haut comme trois pommes

Pronunciation: [ o kuhm trwa puhm]

Meaning: knee-high to a grasshopper, only this tall, very young

Literal translation: high like three apples

Register: informal

Notes: The French expression haut comme trois pommes always makes me think of the Smurfs, comic book characters introduced in Le Journal de Spirou in 1958, by the Belgian artist Peyo. Known as Schtroumpfs in French, Smurfs were exported to the US in the 80s, and my little brother adored the cartoons and figurines.

One thing I've always remembered about Smurfs (other than that they were blue), was that they were described as "three apples tall" - Peyo obviously said that they were hauts comme trois pommes, and the literal translation was used in the American adaptation to describe their height.

The idiomatic English equivalent, however, can only be used figuratively: "knee-high to a grasshopper" can't literally describe a person's height, but rather means "(when I was) a young child."

    La dernière fois que je l'ai vu, j'étais haut comme trois pommes.
   The last time I saw him, I was knee-high to a grasshopper.

    Le père de Sandrine a déménagé à Paris quand elle était haute comme trois pommes.
   Sandrine's father moved to Paris when she was knee-high to a grasshopper.

    Grand comme trois pommes à genoux
    Haut comme trois pommes à genoux
    Haut comme trois pommes couchées
    Haut comme deux pommes (expression québécoise)