In making this Speak Easy puzzle I very much enjoyed learning the origin of « Avoir les portugaises ensablées » via the wonderful website Expressio. The expression means to be deaf, so indeed I was intrigued to know how deafness and Portugal are related. The origin goes back to the a slang term for ear (oreille) from the middle of the 20th century which was « portugaise ». Portugaise simply refers to a type of oyster called portuguese which is shaped like an ear. From there to the idea of the oyster full of sand making you hard of hearing is just a short stretch.
Next obvious question then is why do we call huitres creuses « portuguese » oysters? 1868 – the ship called The Morlaisien, was delivering oysters from Portugal to France (some stories say to northern France some say to the Arcachon bassin) when the ship was forced to hold over in the Gironde Estuary. The oysters spoiled and the captain decided to dump them overboard. Apparently not all of them had expired, some even thrived beginning a new « wild » colony of oysters which gradually replaced the native flat oyster.
Enjoy this puzzle of other national and regional name expressions and prick up your Portugaises to the colorful expressions of the French language.