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FRENCH WORD OF THE DAY

French Expression of the Day: Par-dessus la jambe

Feeling uninspired, under motivated and definitely not looking forward to going back to work? We have just the phrase for you!

French Expression of the Day: Par-dessus la jambe

Why do I need to know par-dessus la jambe?

If you're not really bothered about something, then 'par-dessus la jambe' is an expression that may come in handy for you.

So what does it mean?

Par-dessus la jambe, literally translating to 'above the leg', means off-handedly or in a slipshod fashion. When French people complete a task a bit too carelessly, they would say they did it par-dessus la jambe.

Le plombier a vraiment réparé cette fuite par-dessus la jambe! – The plumber really fixed this in a slipshold way!

This can also describe the way a person is considered, but it less widespread than the first use.

Ce médecin traite ses patients par-dessus la jambe. – This practitioner takes care of his patients off-handedly.

But where does it come from?

In the 1600s, games called le jeu du volant and le jeu de paume, basically ancestors of badminton, were widespread in France. Some players used a serving technique which consisted in throwing the shuttlecock by hitting it from under your leg, par-dessous la jambe.

 


Picture: WikiCommons

If a player tried his luck with this unorthodox technique, this usually indicated that he considered his adversary was so bad he could play however he wanted and still win the game.

Over time and because of phonetic distortions, par-dessous la jambe – under – became par-dessus la jambe – above.

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FRENCH WORD OF THE DAY

French phrase of the Day: Ne me prends pas pour un lapin de six semaines

Being patronised by a Frenchman? Roll out this phrase.

French phrase of the Day: Ne me prends pas pour un lapin de six semaines

Why do I need to know ne me prends pas pour un lapin de six semaines?

Because someone might be trying to take you for a fool.

What does it mean?

Ne me prends pas pour un lapin de six semaines – pronounced ne me pren pah pour un lapan de see sem-enn – translates as ‘don’t take me for a six-week-old rabbit’, and is a go-to phrase to warn people not to mistake you for a fool, someone who doesn’t understand what’s going on.

The podcast Hit West from French regional newspaper Ouest-France suggests that the ‘six weeks’ comes from the age a rabbit is weaned at, and must therefore be ready to survive on its own.

And why a rabbit at all? Well no-one really seems very sure. Rabbits don’t get a good rap in the French language though, to stand someone up is poser un lapin in French.

English-language metaphor equivalents may be, “I didn’t come down in the last shower”, “I wasn’t born yesterday”, or, as Line of Duty’s DCI Hastings might say, “I didn’t float up the Lagan in a bubble”.

Use it like this

Honestly, keep it simple. If someone’s speaking to you in a patronising manner, simply say: Ne me prends pas pour un lapin de six semaines.

Ouest France suggests that this is the ‘more elegant’ way to request that people don’t take you for a fool. It’s not offensive, but it might be a little old-fashioned. 

Alternatives

You can use the more basic version of this phrase – Ne me prends pas pour une idiote (don’t take me for a fool) or the slightly more punchy Ne me prends pas pour un con (don’t take me for a moron).

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