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FRENCH WORD OF THE DAY

French phrase of the day: Sous cloche

We’re all feeling a bit disconnected from the outside world. Here's a useful expression to describe the current situation.

French phrase of the day: Sous cloche
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

Why do I need to know sous cloche?

You might have noticed it being used a lot during the pandemic.

What does it mean?

Sous cloche literally means “under the bell” (cloche means bell). But this expression has nothing to do with church bells, if that's what you're imagining. It actually refers to the cloche used in agriculture and gardening: a bell-shaped glass covering for protecting plants from cold temperatures.

It can be used in a literal sense: to cover something, or put a cover over something to keep it safe. Food like fruit or cheese can be placed sous cloche to protect it from flies, for example.

But mettre sous cloche is often also used to talk about people, to say they are being protected or kept out of danger. It could be translated into English as “to keep safe” or “shield”. It has been used a lot during the pandemic to refer to the way we have had to be isolated from the outside world.

Use it like this

Mettre le pays sous cloche pendant des mois aura des conséquences économiques et sociales – Shielding the population for months will have social and economic consequences

Les personnes âgées ont été mises sous cloche pendant la pandémie – The elderly have been shielded during the pandemic

Synonyms

Mettre à l’abri – to shelter

 

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FRENCH WORD OF THE DAY

French Expression of the Day: Découvrir le pot aux roses

You might do this while gardening or while reading the tabloids.

French Expression of the Day: Découvrir le pot aux roses

Why do I need to know découvrir le pot aux roses?

Because if you enjoy celebrity gossip, then you probably will find good use for this phrase

What does it mean?

Découvrir le pot aux roses – pronounced day-coov-rear le pot-oh rose – literally translates to ‘to discover the pot of roses.’ 

You might use this expression when finding out about some exciting gossip or maybe when discovering what your partner secretly planned for your anniversary, as this phrase in actuality is what you would say when you learn something secret or hidden. 

In English, when discussing secrets, you might say someone has ‘spilled the beans’ or ‘let the cat out of the bag,’ but the French phrase is more about the person who has found out about the hidden item or truth, not the person who told it, as it ‘spill the beans’.

The origins of this French expression are not what you might expect, historically, the phrase has little to do with the flowers.

During the Middle Ages, the verb ‘découvrir’ had the meaning of ‘to lift a lid’ and at the time the phrase ‘pot aux roses’ referred to a small box that wealthy women used to store their perfumes, as well as their makeup. They often used these boxes to keep secrets, letters, or notes that they did not want others to stumble upon.

Use it like this

Pendant l’afterwork, Sarah a raconté à tout le monde les secrets les plus fous sur la vie privée du patron. Je ne comprends pas comment elle a réussi à découvrir le pot aux roses. – During the work happy hour, Sarah told us all about the wildest secrets of our boss’ personal life. I don’t understand how she managed to unearth that gossip.

Il a découvert le pot aux roses lorsqu’il s’est connecté à l’ordinateur de son colocataire pour regarder simplement son mail. – He discovered the secret when he logged onto his roommate’s laptop to just check his email. 

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