Wednesday, 21 January 2009

Expressions idiomatiques

The idiom to kill two birds with one stone got me thinking about les expressions idiomatiques and how often the literal meaning does not explain the sentence. I once heard a nurse talk to a Spanish doctor (in England) and she spoke about a patient with a nasty bug. The doctor may have understood the words but he certainly didn't understand what she was saying. Knowing the literal meaning can help but I'm afraid that with idioms very often you have to be told what they mean.

There are some expressions that you can work out like 'entre chien et loup'. Dogs are awake during the day and wolves are awake at night. So when you talk about between the two you are talking about dusk or twilight. If you call a cat a cat, it is like calling a spade a spade.

My favourite is 'ce n'est pas la mer à boire' which literally means it is not the sea to drink. Drinking the sea would be an impossible task so you are telling someone that it is not as bad as it seems. If you really want to sound French then just say c'est pas la mer à boire. Just like in English, there are shorter easier ways to communicate. If in doubt always give the full sentence, but nobody will have a problem losing the ne in this sentence.

If you want to kill two birds with one stone in French you have to faire d'une pierre deux coups, to hit twice with the same stone.

Finally for today, the expression 'sauter du coq à l’âne' means to jump from cock to donkey and this means to jump from one subject to another - sounds like this blog.

A bientôt

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